Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bruno Pontecorvo...neutrinos and a defector to Russia

Nature has the most recent article on $32?

Bruno Pontecorvo [Wikipedia]

"Bruno Pontecorvo Is Dead at 80; Physicist Defected to Soviet Union"


Randy Kennedy

September 28th, 1993

The New York Times

Bruno Pontecorvo, an Italian-born physicist who was a pioneer in the study of the elusive subatomic particles called neutrinos and who defected to the Soviet Union in 1950, died Friday in Dubna, outside Moscow. He was 80.

The cause was pneumonia, according to reports in Italian newspapers. He had suffered from Parkinson's disease for several years.

Mr. Pontecorvo was one of a group of talented young physicists who worked with Enrico Fermi in Rome in the early 1930's on experiments that proved radioactive isotopes of a number of elements can be produced by exposing the elements to neutrons that have been slowed down.

After Mussolini passed laws that discriminated against Jews, Mr. Pontecorvo, who was Jewish, moved to Paris to continue his work. He left for the United States in 1940 after the Nazi invasion. He worked briefly for an American oil company and then moved to Canada, where he applied to become a British citizen.

In 1948, after he completed his naturalization, he moved to England to join the Atomic Energy Research Laboratory at Harwell, near Oxford. Disappearance in Rome

But in the late summer of 1950, Mr. Pontecorvo and his family disappeared during a vacation in Rome. They were last seen in Helsinki on Sept. 2, 1950, and were believed to have taken a ship to the Soviet Union with the help of Soviet diplomats in the Finnish capital. It was not until 1955, when Mr. Pontecorvo published articles in Pravda and Izvestia, that officials were certain he was working in the Soviet Union.

His defection, which came the same year that one of his colleagues, Klaus Fuchs, was convicted of espionage in Britain, raised fears that the Italian scientist had fled with secrets that could be used to help build a hydrogen bomb. Another colleague, Alan Nunn May, was convicted of espionage charges in Canada in 1946.

But in frequent statements to the press in the Soviet Union, and during his first trip back to Italy in 1978, he maintained that his research in Canada and England had no military applications. He said he had defected to pursue nuclear research for peaceful purposes because investigations into scientific espionage had made it too difficult for him to work.

"In 1950, the atmosphere was such that I could no longer breathe," he wrote in the 1955 article in Pravda. In the article, he also said that he had signed a petition along with several other nuclear scientists calling for a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons.

His British citizenship was revoked because it was believed he defected with military secrets, but he was never charged with espionage.

He is known in his field for being one of the first physicists to suggest using a solution containing chlorine to detect neutrinos.

"Confessions of an atom spy: Forty years after Bruno Pontecorvo, a British scientist, went to work for Moscow, he tells Charles Richards in Rome why he changed sides"


Charles Richards

August 2nd, 1992

The Independent

He stepped out of the lift on the third floor, entered the room, and smiled. Now 78 and a victim of Parkinson's disease, Bruno Pontecorvo is short and spare, with an old tweed jacket hanging off his drooping shoulders. His pale green eyes, however, still gleam with mischief.

He spends most of his time in Italy these days, but for a year he had fobbed me off, saying over the phone that he was too sick and did not give interviews about the past. Now at last we were meeting at the home of Miriam Mafai, a columnist on the daily La Repubblica who has just published a book about him.

A physicist, Pontecorvo was deeply involved in the British nuclear research programme when, in 1950, he decided during a holiday in Italy that he would abandon the West and make a new life in the Soviet Union. His defection, following closely on the unmasking of the atom spy Klaus Fuchs, a colleague at the government atomic research centre at Harwell, deeply embarrassed the Attlee government. Had Pontecorvo taken with him more atomic bomb secrets? Had he been spying for the Russians all along? He was vilified for treachery and stripped of his adopted British nationality.

Now, for the first time, he is prepared to talk about the choice he made. But, with most Communist countries having changed their colours, how does he feel about the dedication of his life to the Communist cause?

'The simple explanation is this: I was a cretin,' he said. 'The fact that I could be so stupid, and many people close to me should have been quite so stupid . . .' The sentence was left unfinished.

Communism, he went on, was 'like a religion, a revealed religion . . . with myths or rites to explain it. It was the absolute absence of logic.' He stuck by his faith, even after the invasion of Hungary in 1956. When Andrei Sakharov, a fellow physicist, turned against the system, it made no difference. 'I had always admired him as a great scientist and a man of integrity. However, my idea was that he was naive . . . it was I who was naive.'

It was only after Czechoslovakia that his views began to change. 'After 1968 I would say, I will not talk of such things. Then, after a few years, I understood what an idiot I was.'

He speaks clear, idiomatic English. He is a man of immense charm and elegance of language, quoting from Dante, which he read in the Soviet Union to remind himself of Italy.

Born in Pisa in 1913, Pontecorvo was the fourth of eight children of a textile merchant. He showed early academic promise, and in 1934 went to Rome to join an extraordinary circle of world- class physicists led by Enrico Fermi, later to become one of the fathers of the atomic bomb. When Mussolini passed racial laws that discriminated against Jews, four of the Pontecorvos went to Britain. (The eldest, Guido, a distinguished geneticist, remained in Britain and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.)

Bruno went to France and then, in 1940, to the United States. Three years later he was asked to join an Anglo-Canadian team conducting secret research at Montreal. This was Britain's wartime nuclear reactor programme, which was separate from the American-led Manhattan Project working on the first atomic bombs. In 1948, while still working in Canada, Pontecorvo became a British subject. In January 1949 he left with his family to take up a senior post in the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, near Oxford. It was not a nuclear weapons plant, although such was the secrecy surrounding its work that it was popularly believed to be.

In the late summer of 1950, Pontecorvo went on holiday to Italy with his family, and disappeared. It was widely assumed that the Pontecorvos flew to Stockholm, spent the night in a building belonging to the Soviet Union, and flew on to Helsinki. Then a Soviet vessel left the city's harbour shortly afterwards.

Two weeks passed before the alarm was raised in Britain, and another sensational security scandal broke over the government's head. How much did Pontecorvo know? Had he been vetted? Had he been in league with Fuchs? As always with these matters, the principal casualty was Britain's standing in Washington, where once again it was exposed as a soft touch for Soviet subversion. Very soon the relevant minister was forced to admit: 'I have no doubt that he is in Russia.'

It was not until 1955 that Pontecorvo surfaced in Moscow, giving a press conference at which he said he had defected to correct the balance between East and West and that he had only ever worked on the peaceful uses of atomic energy. 'I became convinced,' he said, 'that in the Soviet Union the people wanted peace, and that their government was doing everything possible that there should be no war.'

What had prompted him to defect at that moment, who had helped him through the Iron Curtain and how exactly he made that journey, remained a mystery. Now, the first new evidence is emerging. A week ago, an old Italian Communist Party hardliner, Giulio Seniga, said that he had been a member of an underground party network that arranged Pontecorvo's flight to Moscow. And Pontecorvo himself revealed to Miriam Mafai how he crossed the Soviet border. 'We did not go by ship,' he said. 'We went straight to the Soviet embassy, and then we left in two cars, with me locked in the boot.'

But had he spied for Moscow before then? He still does not talk about it. Fuchs himself told the British that he believed someone else, probably at Harwell, was talking to the Russians, and spy writers Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky are in no doubt that it was Pontecorvo. 'KGB officers,' they have written, 'said that they rated Pontecorvo's work as an atom spy almost as highly as that of Fuchs.'

In 1950, certainly, the press was quick to denounce him, but today the available evidence does not appear to support the suggestion that he was an important atom spy. His research at Harwell had no military application and in Canada he had worked on reactors rather than weapons.

At any rate, Pontecorvo today is not a wanted man. He has been visiting Italy regularly since 1978, although his home remains in Dubna, the research centre outside Moscow where he has been living with his wife and children. He has, he says, a lingering nostalgia for the country whose citizenship he held for a dozen years in the middle of his life, and to which he insists he did no harm. 'I love England, the cathedrals. It is also the least corrupt country.'

For a verdict on the life of Bruno Pontecorvo, there may be no better judge than his brother Gillo, the director who won international acclaim for his film, The Battle of Algiers. 'The case of Bruno was very simple,' he told me. 'Forget all the lies told about it. We were living at a period of great change. There was this belief in a city of the future. The belief was almost irrational, but was held by a whole generation of men, above all intellectuals . . . He had that religion, that sense of capitalism equalling war and recurrent crisis and racism. All that had to be overthrown to go towards the new world. They were like the early Christians, who believed in something beautiful, which did not exist.

'We bet on something which turned out to be false. It is like stepping out of a window, and hoping to descend slowly without taking the boring route of the stairs or the lift. We ignored the problem of the law of gravity.'

Christmas and the science geek in your life

Do you have a budding scientist in your family?...well, below are listed a variety of business that sell science oriented merchandise.

Microphysics and Cosmophysics in the 1930s


By 1930, at a time when the new physics based on relativity and quantum theory had reached a state of consolidation, problems of a foundational kind began to abound. Physicists began to speak of a new “crisis” and envisage a forthcoming “revolution” of a scale similar to the one in the mid-1920s. The perceived crisis was an issue not only in microphysics but also in cosmology, where it resulted in ambitious cosmophysical theories that transcended the ordinary methods of physics. The uncertain cognitive situation was, in some circles, associated to the uncertain political and moral situation. Did the problems of foundational physics demand a revolution in thinking that somehow paralleled the political revolutions of the time? I argue that although such ideas were indeed discussed in the 1930s, they were more rhetoric than reality. With the benefit of hindsight one can see that the perceived crisis was only temporary and not significantly related to social or ideological developments in the decade.

"Visions of Revolutions: Microphysics and Cosmophysics in the 1930s" by Helge Kragh

Allan Sandage...a new paper by Lynden-Bell and Schweizer

Allan Sandage was an observational astronomer who was happiest at a telescope. On Hubble’s sudden death Allan Sandage inherited the programmes using the world’s largest optical telescope at Palomar to determine the distances and number counts of galaxies. Over many years he greatly revised the distance scale and, on re-working Hubble’s analysis, discovered the error that had led Hubble to doubt the interpretation of the galaxies’ redshifts as an expansion of the universe. Sandage showed that there was a consistent age of Creation for the stars, the elements and the Cosmos. Through work with Baade and Schwarzschild he discovered the key to the interpretation of the colour–magnitude diagrams of star clusters in terms of stellar evolution. With others he founded Galactic Archaeology, interpreting the motions and elemental abundances of the oldest stars in terms of a model for the Galaxy’s formation. He published several fine atlasses and catalogues of galaxies and a definitive history of the Mount Wilson Observatory.

"ALLAN R. SANDAGE" by Donald Lynden-Bell and Francois Schweizer

Deceased--Allan Sandage

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Anne Ford...hippie generation...something went wrong

Daughter Laurel Saville has written a book on her mother and her tragic death. Below is an excerpted narrative. Anne Ford was a citizen of the counter revolution and wild days of the 1960s who met a tragic end. This is a story of a woman attempting to grasp her mother's essence.

"Unraveling Anne"

An ignominious end can befall anyone—even a mother who twinkled among the bright lights of L.A.’s hippie heyday


Laurel Saville

November 2011

L A Times Magazine


The word always gets repeated—sometimes the whole sentence. “Your mother was murdered?”

As if I could get something like that wrong.

My mother, Anne Ford, was murdered.

It was November 3, 1983. I was a college student in New York. She was a mentally unstable alcoholic living in a classic California bungalow not far from the corner of Sunset and Vine. The house had once been gracious and charming but, under her intermittent care, had fallen into disrepair.

The back wall had been burned. Street people slept on the porch. A family of ducks lived in a tiny pond in the scrap of yard. The local police, who knew my mother as Crazy Annie, found her in a bedroom, stabbed and strangled, her sundress askew, her panties caught around an ankle and her squat-legged, one-eyed dog standing over her body, growling at the uniformed intruders.

Some of these details I learned at the time of her death; others I learned 10 years later, when the police had reopened the case and, on a lucky break, found her killer. I came from my home in New York to the Hollywood homicide bureau, where I sat on a hard metal chair in a narrow space, flipping through a four-inch-thick black binder, somewhat nervously overseen by an enormous man with a gun on his hip.

At one point, he interrupted me. “Wait,” he said, pulling the book away and skipping to the section that held photos in plastic sleeves. “It’s not that I want to keep anything from you—”

“It’s just that there are some things I do not need to see,” I interjected understandingly. He nodded, his face grave, grateful. In between the blank spaces where he had removed photos of the “victim” were images of rooms once notable for their elaborate woodwork but now marked by the black haze of smoke damage. A hall badge from my grammar school days peeked out from a pile of torn clothing, costume jewelry, garbage. Pieces of furniture I had napped on as a child were lopsided as if stone drunk.

There was one picture of her, an 8-by-10, full-color glossy. The detective told me it was taken some months before her death, when she had come into the police station to report having been beaten and raped. In the photo, my mother’s face was scrubbed clean, and her black hair was marked by scattered strands of gray. She was staring straight into the camera lens, her blue eyes faded but her expression proud—defiant, really.

When the picture was taken, my mother had been living on and off the streets for about six years. She had been drinking large quantities of cheap red wine and smoking packs of unfiltered cigarettes for more than 20 years. She hadn’t had regular meals, health care or showers for more than five. Her mind was deeply deteriorated from all the ways her life had exacerbated its inherent flaws.

Still, before all this, my mother had been Miss Redondo Beach, a Fiesta Queen, model, fashion designer, artist and glamorous girl-about-town who had dated Marlon Brando. She knew how to take a good picture. And in this picture, she’s posing. In this picture, the purples, blacks, blues and reds that in another part of her life might have been makeup came instead from a bruise spilling over her right eye and cheek. And in spite of everything, it showed a handsome woman who looked a decade younger than her 53 years.

I thought, The most striking thing about my mother is not that she was murdered but that she survived her own life for as long as she did.

It is also striking that my older brothers and I survived our childhoods with her. My mother positioned herself in the epicenter of 1960s Los Angeles, and like most parents of that milieu, she thought nothing of bringing her three young children along for the ride.

I thought, The most striking thing about my mother is not that she was murdered but that she survived her own life for as long as she did.

My earliest memories are of the gatherings that so defined that era. Sometimes we would set out to join a horde collecting for a “love-in.” Twisting my body like a cat that didn’t want to be held, I would squirm as my mother’s boyfriend, Henry, carried me to the car, begging to be left behind, while my mother exhorted me to stop being such a “drag.”

I didn’t want to get flowers and rainbows painted on my face or beads and ribbons plaited into my hair. I didn’t want to watch glassy-eyed people twirling in tie-dye skirts and peasant blouses—or without shirts at all, their thin, bare chests and small, drooping breasts open to the air and sunshine as they tangled together on a blanket or in the mud, their mouths and limbs slack against one another.

If it was the Fourth of July, the party would be on Santa Monica or Malibu beach, and people would set up dozens of multicolored tents on the white sand. Every night, campfires and sparklers lit up the beach, and rockets and fireworks filled the sky. Henry organized a ring of campfire stones outside the flapping door of our army-surplus tent, while I spun sparklers and then collected the spent metal spikes so no one would step on them later.

After the weekend was over and the other tents were taken down, ours would still stand, alone on the beach, littered with dried-up seaweed, empty shells and cans of beer, a lone sandal, a plastic bucket with a broken handle, damp clothes jammed into corners. Our faces would be glazed, our hair tangled with sea spray, our tans invisible under the salt encrusting our skin.

Days later, when the food and booze had finally run out, Henry would drag everything out of the tent, pile it on a blanket and tie the corners together, while my mother sat in the detritus, crying that she didn’t want to go back to the dirty dishes, the bills, the bastards downtown.

Other times the party was in the hills above Malibu, at a friend’s glass-walled house where nudity was the norm. Sometimes it was at Barney’s Beanery, where I wove myself around the barstools, asking again and again when we were going home, my leaden voice drowned out by the din of what my mother called witty repartee.

Sometimes the party started down on La Cienega, in an art gallery called Ferus, where adults stood, elbows cupped in hand, discussing things like “white space” and “irony,” and I wandered through the scattered forest of adult legs clad in fishnet stockings or white go-go boots, slick pants with flared-out legs or simply skin that disappeared into the faraway hem of a miniskirt.

But most often, the party took place at our own house, a sprawling, stuccoed behemoth at the corner of Fairfax and Sunset, where people arrived with brown bags of Coors, Gallo burgundy and Pall Mall Reds, as well as instruments, sketchpads and stories. They sat around and played and talked and smoked and drank and drew one another playing and talking and smoking and drinking.

An accretion of glasses with rings of dried wine, ad hoc ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts, felt-tip pens with snub-nosed tips, jugs of graywater, tin cans filled with brushes and palettes cluttered with smudges of paint grew on whatever surface was nearby. Hands and arms were in constant motion, filling a glass, wrapping a shoulder, dragging a child into a lap, strumming a guitar, rolling a joint, shaking a cigarette up out of a pack, jogging across a pad of paper.

To me, my mother’s friends were just drunks in paint-spattered jeans. But she filled our home with their work, arranging dozens of paintings and drawings against the dark blue walls of our living room, their mere presence a promise that all this was going to amount to something someday.

According to Joan Didion, the era ended with the Manson murders in August 1969. But for my mother, the party never ended. Darkness began to surround us—war, gas crisis, stock-market crash, recession. She became more combative and paranoid. Parties were no longer attended by the up and coming but by a motley group of wannabes and has-beens.

And yet a newspaper reporter who visited her more or less perpetual garage sale in 1970 wrote, “The whole scene is obviously real and not a trip. Anne the July heat.”

My mother embodied all the reckless, selfish innocence of the time and place in which she first flourished. It’s no wonder she refused to let it go.

In 1981, an official investigating her habit of starting campfires in a vacant lot and relieving herself on neighbors’ property, said: “She was going to turn this into a little Shangri-la...It was the typical thing of the free spirit versus city hall.” Up to her last days, she was filling smoke-stained sketchbooks with dress designs and plans for a renovation on her fire-damaged home that counted on “flower children coming down from the Hollywood Hills to restore Queen Anne to her throne” in a house with a glass roof, “so I’ll never feel closed in again.”

My mother embodied all the reckless, selfish innocence of the time and place in which she first flourished. It’s no wonder she refused to let it go. It’s no wonder it was the death of her.

After my mother was killed, there was little left behind other than paintings. Picking through them in a dark garage on a gray day a few weeks later, still encased in the fog of shock, the stories she had told me about each piece drifted back. A painting of surfers rendered in flat blocks of chalky color was by John Altoon, her “first great love,” unsigned because she had taken it out of the garbage, where he threw so much of his work.

A plaster-of-Paris piece of wedding cake was a party favor created by someone named Claes Oldenburg. A small square with an apple green heart surrounded by bands of blue was by her friend Billy Al Bengston. An accordion book of Sunset Strip photos was made by someone named Ed Ruscha.

As a child, those stories had meant little. But even before her death, I had begun to see these same names elsewhere, printed on little cards stuck on the walls of great museums. The Ferus Gallery is now the stuff of documentaries and coffee-table books. Altoon’s drawings go for tens of thousands, and Ruscha’s book, which I never tired of stretching out to its full length across our wine-stained and cigarette-burned living-room rug, is now a collector’s item.

I had begun to wonder why these men made it and she didn’t. My childhood had been filled with a chorus of voices telling me how talented my mother was. Clearly, talent was not enough.

I began to wonder less about the toll the ’60s had taken on her and more about what she might have been a part of. I began to want to see her life as more than a headlong tumble toward a tragic death and my own life as something more than an antidote to hers. I began to realize there were three women I wanted to know better: my mother as I knew her, my mother as she was before I knew her, and myself. To go forward, I first needed to go back.

[Laurel Saville, author of several books, numerous articles and short stories, is a corporate communications consultant with an MFA from Bennington College. She lives and works in New York, in a 100-year-old brick building on the banks of the Mohawk River, overlooking the Erie Canal.]

Unraveling Anne


Laurel Saville

ISBN-10: 161218085X
ISBN-13: 978-1612180854

"Vanished"...a game to spark interest in science

"Vanished Helps Kids Save the Future with Science"


Michael Andersen

November 28th, 2011


For eight weeks, the MIT Education Arcade and the Smithsonian Institute put on an alternate reality game seeking to engage children with the scientific method. The game attracted thousands of players gathering data to assist scientists from a cataclysmic future.

Scientists from the future reached out to present day scientists as part of Project Phoenix to investigate a natural disaster that wiped out the historical record as part of Vanished, an alternate-reality game designed exclusively for children. The game was a collaboration between the MIT Education Arcade and the Smithsonian Institution, and sought to engage kids and teens in the role of scientific detectives and inspire scientific learning through an epic story. Prior to the game’s launch, ARGNet provided a sneak peek at the upcoming campaign. Now that the game has come to a conclusion, I followed up with Caitlin Feeley and Dana Tenneson of MIT’s Education Arcade to take a postmortem look at the game.

The true heroes of Vanished were the players, who uncovered the mystery by making scientific progress week by week. The game was also populated by a full cast of characters; the most prominent was Lovelace, an artificial intelligence who traveled back in time to assist in the investigation. Moderators had in-game personas, like Storm and Megawatt, who played the roles of guardians and guides. The journey also involved interacting with real-world scientists from a variety of fields, and players even encountered a few villainous trolls and hackers among their own ranks before reaching the end.

Vanished began when members of Project Phoenix, who are scientists in the future, contacted players through the game site requesting their help to gather data to test their hypotheses about the disaster, called the Epoch. Players had to gather temperature data, photograph plants and animals, and figure out how to convert present-day units of measurement to those used in the future. They determined that an asteroid strike caused the Epoch hundreds of years in the future. That raised questions about what the future was like and why humans didn’t stop the asteroid. As the game continued, players discovered that global warming cause society to collapse, causing mass starvation and technological regression. When the asteroid approached, humanity was unable to muster a response and went extinct. Project Phoenix wasn’t comprised of future human scientists; they were from another world. Just by discovering this, players discovered that humanity has the possibility of changing the future.

The Vanished team sought to invite players during the lead up to the game through outreach from the Smithsonian and press. Player recruitment expanded organically as players pulled in their friends to join the fun, while the home-schooling community provided its own influx of players. There was significant international participation, despite the game’s U.S.-centric design focus. Over 6,700 player accounts registered, plus an additional 3,000 watcher/adult accounts; over a thousand players remained active through to the game’s finale. The Vanished team attributed this high level of active participation to the tight player community that formed over the game’s eight-week run.

One design goal for Vanished was to “squash the pyramid” by encouraging traditionally casual players to take a more active role. Typically, participation in high engagement campaigns like alternate reality games are expected to take the shape of an inverted pyramid, with casual players forming the base, supported by the efforts of the highly engaged few at the top. To encourage active collaboration, players at received one of 99 unique codes at the beginning of Vanished, and the players had to assemble every code to advance. Assignment was random, so players actively solicited others to speak up and become involved. As the game progressed, players received achievement points for their participation, which could be spent to unlock documents. Many documents required more points than any single player could afford, and so players had to pool their points together as a team. While presenting Vanished at GDC Online in October, Scot Osterweil and Feeley cited improvements to the traditional “90-9-1? player percentages of casual-active-enthusiast to 69-25-6 – tripling the active participants, with a large number of players serving as heavy contributors.

Players were allowed the freedom to discuss and critique the game as they chose. The forums were moderated, but moderation was limited to ensuring that content was age appropriate and that no players were posting personal information. Largely the players self-regulated; if someone trolled the forums, players told them to leave rather than ruin the experience for the group. When a player proclaimed “this isn’t real, it’s all fake,” moderator Storm replied in the forums, “please don’t tell [moderator] Megawatt, she’s been here for 14 hours, she’ll rupture a blood vessel if somebody tells her.” No one brought it up again. Only one troll was ever banned by moderators for repeat bad behavior.

Hacking stories flooded the news this year, so it was not surprising that a hacker emerged from within the player ranks. Anti-QWERTY found a way to unlock documents on the site without spending points. Instead of exploiting the weakness, he presented the issue to the forums. The players overwhelmingly asked Anti-QWERTY not to abuse the hack any further; they were having too much fun with the game. Anti-QWERTY privately revealed details of the hack to the moderators so that they could fix the site, and balance was preserved. The developers created a unique “White Hat Hacker” achievement and awarded it to the player.

Building community and showing that the players valued their experience powerfully demonstrate excellent game design, but the content focus of Vanished was teaching scientific skills and instilling lifelong subject interest. This is a much more difficult objective to assess, but anecdotally it was a great success. Video conferences with scientists engaged otherwise quiet kids, and players across the spectrum demonstrated the transfer of newly learned knowledge to game puzzles. Initially, players had to be instructed to move beyond the initial step of creating a hypothesis, to figuring out a way to test each hypothesis. Once they had a direction, players jumped to execute.

Feedback from the participating Smithsonian museums was also highly positive. Kids visiting didn’t perform “badge checking,” a common behavior where players try to complete a checklist at maximum speed at the expense of immersing themselves. Vanished avoided sending players to answer specific questions, instead guiding them to gather information that might be applied to the week’s scientific subjects. The players seemed interested to learn about the subjects with a broader perspective. Players applied this broader knowledge to the puzzles they encountered online and critically thought through problems.

Feeley and Tenneson spoke particularly of Jason Dransfield, a middle school teacher working with at-risk seventh grade students, who contacted them after Vanished concluded. Dransfield had to hustle to get permission from his school and the parents in order to have his students participate, but claims Vanished transformed his class. The students were fascinated and engaged week after week, and many expressed a desire to be scientists as a result of their experience. Dransfield expressed active interest in incorporating games from the MIT Education Arcade team into his classes in the future.

The team at MIT learned a number of lessons from Vanished that they hope to apply to future games. At the top of their list is the creation of additional characters; interaction with the game’s characters was a favorite part for many players, and strongly promoted engagement. The Lovelace AI began with a basic set of phrases, and the players actively taught her to improve her language when they realized she could learn. When Lovelace made comments that they perceived as rude, players reprimanded her extensively about “human etiquette.” When Lovelace was aggressive toward the moderators, players were protective and made it clear her behavior wouldn’t be tolerated. Characters like Lovelace require a real person to manage the character’s conversations and development, so additional characters would in turn require a larger staff.

For future iterations, the team wants to further improve “pyramid-squashing” and their community outreach. Flash games did a fine job of providing casual players with something to do, but also allowed some players to remain at the outskirts of the community. The response of the home-schooling community was also stronger than expected, and merits extra communication for future games. The team also plans on working closer with participating museums to create recurring events instead of tying events to a specific time. For those players unable to reach the museum at a specific time due to family schedules or distance, it would open up greater participation. Teachers who followed Vanished expressed a desire to be notified ahead of time about future games; with enough lead time, interested teachers will be better prepared to involve their students.

The promise of additional games from the MIT Education Arcade is more than lofty hopefulness, based on the success of Vanished. There has been a strong response from outside parties interested in their own games, including major publishing, tech, and arts institutions.

At the end of Vanished, players concluded their epic journey as heroes. They saved the world. And yet, saving Earth from a fictional future disaster was a vehicle for the game’s educational goals; players learned critical scientific skills, were inspired to pursue science on their own, and may follow new careers that will produce material discoveries and changes in the future. If an environmental disaster does occur, they may just save the world for real.

Absolute memory is a gray area of recollection

Testimony in everything is subject to scrutiny.

"The Certainty of Memory Has Its Day in Court"


Laura Beil

November 28th, 2011

The New York Times

Witness testimony has been the gold standard of the criminal justice system, revered in courtrooms and crime dramas as the evidence that clinches a case.

Yet scientists have long cautioned that the brain is not a filing cabinet, storing memories in a way that they can be pulled out, consulted and returned intact. Memory is not so much a record of the past as a rough sketch that can be modified even by the simple act of telling the story.

For scientists, memory has been on trial for decades, and courts and public opinion are only now catching up with the verdict. It has come as little surprise to researchers that about 75 percent of DNA-based exonerations have come in cases where witnesses got it wrong.

This month, the Supreme Court heard its first oral arguments in more than three decades that question the validity of using witness testimony, in a case involving a New Hampshire man convicted of theft, accused by a woman who saw him from a distance in the dead of night.

And in August the New Jersey Supreme Court set new rules to cope with failings in witness accounts, during an appeal by a man picked from a photo lineup, and convicted of manslaughter and weapons possession in a 2003 fatal shooting.

Rather than the centerpiece of prosecution, witness testimony should be viewed more like trace evidence, scientists say, with the same fragility and vulnerability to contamination.

Why is a witness’s account so often unreliable? Partly because the brain does not have a knack for retaining many specifics and is highly susceptible to suggestion. “Memory is weak in eyewitness situations because it’s overloaded,” said Barbara Tversky, a psychology professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York. “An event happens so fast, and when the police question you, you probably weren’t concentrating on the details they’re asking about.”

Hundreds of studies have cataloged a long list of circumstances that can affect how memories are recorded and replayed, including the emotion at the time of the event, the social pressures that taint its reconstruction, even flourishes unknowingly added after the fact.

While most of us tend to think memory works like a video recorder, it is actually more like a grainy slide show. Lost details, including imaginary ones, often are added later. One of the earliest and more famous experiments to demonstrate that memories are malleable was conducted by Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine, and an early pioneer of witness memory research.

In a 1974 study published in The Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, she asked participants to view films of fender-benders in which no car windows or headlights were broken. Later, the subjects who were asked how fast the cars were going when they “smashed” into each other — as opposed to “hit” — were more likely to report speeding and describe shattered glass they never actually saw.

In another experiment, conducted in Scotland, participants were four times as likely to report a memory of a nonexistent event — in this case, a nurse removing a skin sample from their little finger — if they had been asked to imagine it just one week before. Others in the experiment read a description, but were not asked to picture it happening.

Even the process of police questioning and prepping for trial can crystallize a person’s own faulty reconstruction. In 2000, Dr. Tversky published a series of experiments conducted at Stanford University in the journal Cognitive Psychology. In one, volunteers read profiles of fictitious roommates with both charming and annoying habits; they were then asked to write either a letter of recommendation or letter making a case for a replacement.

When later asked to repeat the original description, the volunteers’ recollections were skewed by the type of letter they had written. Their minds had shed qualities that didn’t match the first draft of their own recall and had embellished those that did.

“When we don’t remember, we make inferences,” Dr. Tversky said.

Sometimes we miss details because we weren’t paying attention, but sometimes we are concentrating too hard on something else. Nothing is as obvious as it seems.

Few experiments have demonstrated this more notably than one published in 1999 by researchers at Harvard. Participants watched a video of people dressed in either black or white passing a basketball. The subjects were told to count the number of passes made by players in white.

During the test, a woman in a gorilla suit strolled through the players. She was unnoticed by about half the people who took the test, the researchers found. Distraction is not unique to the eyes. During a meeting of the Psychonomic Society this month, Polly Dalton and colleagues at the University of London presented the audio version of the gorilla test, a 69-second recording of two men and two women preparing for a party. Almost all of the study participants instructed to listen to the women did not hear a third man repeating “I’m a gorilla” for 19 seconds midway through the conversation.

The editing of the past occurs without a person’s realizing what has been forgotten. In court, witnesses are asked to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. They think they do. Whether in a story told in a courtroom or at a dinner table, the mind is sometimes prone to blur the distinction between reality and fantasy. Brain scans taken as people “recall” something they did not actually see have many similarities to the brain dwelling on an actual memory.

“That’s one of the striking findings of the studies,” said Daniel Schacter, a psychology professor at Harvard. Whether an event is real or imagined, “many structures involved in the coding and retrieving are the same.”

All this makes sense, he said, when you consider the purpose of memory. He and his colleagues believe that memory is designed not just to keep track of what has happened, but to offer a script for something that might.

Evidence for this also comes from brain scans. Just as the “recall” of a bogus event lights up the brain’s memory centers, so does thinking about something that might occur.

Because the brain uses memories for mental dress rehearsal, we are not wired to retain every facet of an event, scientists say. We don’t have to. A general framework is all that’s necessary to keep from getting lost, or find food, or know what to do when a storm is coming.

One 1979 study asked a small group of people to pick out a penny from a series of 15 similar drawings. Less than half chose correctly, because no one needs to know whether Lincoln faces left or right to pay the cashier. Yet witnesses often are asked to remember with similar levels of precision, often about scenes and faces spotted fleetingly.

When selective attention combines with fear, “you have a very strong memory for a few details,” said Elizabeth Phelps, a psychology professor at New York University. “Emotion gives us confidence more than it gives us accuracy.”

The problem comes when witnesses bring that certainty to the entire memory. In crimes that involve a weapon, Dr. Loftus and other scientists have found that witnesses will fixate on the gun barrel or knife blade but will fail to notice other details as clearly. Yet because they so starkly remember particulars of the weapon and may have the accuracy of parts of their memory affirmed by police officers and prosecutors, witnesses carry an air of assurance into the courtroom.

“Many people think if someone is confident, they must be right,” said Dr. Loftus.

Rather than discount witnesses, researchers are trying to use their findings to make trials fairer and testimony more reliable, particularly in the case of suspect lineups, a police staple at the heart of many wrong convictions. In September, Gary Wells, a psychology professor at Iowa State University, released a new report comparing whether the accuracy of lineups improves when the possible suspects are presented to witnesses in sequence, rather than all at once in the traditional lineup.

In studies involving actual cases, Dr. Wells’s team found that the likelihood of choosing a stand-in “filler” instead of the suspect fell to 12 percent, from 18 percent, when faces were presented sequentially. The downfall of side-by-side lineups, Dr. Wells said, is that “if the real perpetrator is not in there, there is still someone who looks more like him than the others.”

Lineups also may improve when some uncertainties are made clear to witnesses and jurors. Dr. Wells and others recommend changes like making sure a witness knows the perpetrator may not be in the group, and having lineups administered by someone who does not know which photograph is the suspect.

Dr. Wells also believes witnesses should give a statement at the time of the lineup documenting how confident they are in their choice — because once the trial comes around, the witnesses will believe they were always sure.

It may be that witnesses in police stations and courtrooms are being asked the wrong question to begin with — that telling witnesses to pick out a perpetrator, or state exactly what they saw or heard, implies they really can when science suggests that they may well be unable to do so.

“My view is that people should be asked to pick out someone who looks similar to who you saw, or sounds similar to what you heard, and leave it to the jury to decide,” said Donald Thomson, a psychology professor at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.

Pressing witnesses with questions that appear to have precise answers enhances the likelihood that the innocent will be prosecuted and the guilty will escape, Dr. Thomson said. “It forces people to pick someone and say, ‘This is the person,’ ” he said. “Two months down the track, they go into the witness box and say they are absolutely sure.”

Monday, November 28, 2011

An eternal kiss?...Oscar Wilde's burial site

"Oscar Wilde's lipstick-covered Paris tomb to be protected"

Wilde's grave in Paris has been restored after decades of unusual lipstick tributes


Dalya Alberge

November 26th, 2011

The Observer

"A kiss may ruin a human life," Oscar Wilde once wrote. It can also ruin the stonework of a tomb, judging by the extraordinary graffiti – kisses in lipstick left by admirers – that for years have been defacing and even eroding the massive memorial to the Irish dramatist and wit in Paris's Père Lachaise cemetery.

Wilde died in the city in 1900, aged 46. His restored tomb will finally be unveiled this week, newly protected from his devotees.

For years visitors would confine themselves to leaving gently admiring billets doux dedicated to the creator of The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere's Fan. All that changed in the late 1990s, when somebody decided to leave a lipstick kiss on the tomb. Since then lipstick kisses and hearts have been joined by a rash of red graffiti containing expressions of love, such as: "Wilde child we remember you", "Keep looking at the stars" and "Real beauty ends where intellect begins". Surprisingly, perhaps, most are written by women.

Merlin Holland, Wilde's grandson, said the lipstick had become a "serious problem" because the grease sinks into the stone. "Every cleaning was causing a bit more stone to wear away," he said.

"No amount of appeals to the public did any good at all. Kissing Oscar's tomb on the Paris tourist circuit has become a cult pastime, which is proving impossible to break. Even if one could catch someone in flagrante delicto – there is a €9,000 (£7,700) fine – most perpetrators are probably tourists, so they would be home before the French authorities could bring them to court.

"From a technical point of view, the tomb is close to being irreparably damaged. Each cleaning has rendered the stone more porous necessitating a yet more drastic cleaning."

With the Paris authorities offering a fraction of the cost of preserving the memorial, the Irish have come to the rescue, paying for it through the office of public works in Dublin, which is responsible for a number of Irish monuments and buildings overseas. They have paid for a radical cleaning and "de-greasing" of the tomb, as well as a glass barrier which will surround it to prevent the kissers from causing further damage.

Holland explained that when Wilde died he was bankrupt and his friends could offer him only un enterrement de sixième classe (a sixth-class burial) at Bagneux, outside the city. Over the following years his friend and literary executor, Robert Ross, managed – through the sale of Wilde's works, including De Profundis, his bitter letter of recrimination from prison to Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie), his former lover – to annul Wilde's bankruptcy and purchase a burial plot "in perpetuity" at Père Lachaise.

The following year Helen Carew, one of Ross's friends who had known Wilde in his heyday, anonymously offered £2,000 to erect a monument by the young sculptor Jacob Epstein. The commission, a flying naked angel inspired by the British Museum's Assyrian figures, was finally unveiled in 1914, surviving intact until the early 1960s, when the angel was vandalised, its genitals hacked off and stolen.

The unveiling of the monument will take place on Wednesday, the anniversary of Wilde's death. It will be attended by representatives from the Irish and French departments of culture, as well as Rupert Everett, whose films include The Importance of Being Earnest.

Holland hopes that the barrier will deter loving vandals. Designed to be unobtrusive and aesthetic, it could only discourage rather than be preventative and he says: "Some determined kissers will no doubt try to find ways of kissing the upper extremities."

"The Twelve Days of Christmas"...Merely $100,000

"PNC Christmas Price Index On Track with Economic Indicators"

Prices for "The Twelve Days of Christmas" Song Items Mostly Stable; Total Cost of Christmas tops $100,000 for First Time

MarketWatch, Inc.

A sluggish economy coupled with weak demand has kept the 2011 PNC Christmas Price Index® (PNC CPI) to a moderate gain of 3.5 percent in the whimsical economic analysis by PNC Wealth Management based on the gifts in the holiday classic, "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

According to the 28th annual survey, the price tag for the PNC CPI is $24,263.18 in 2011, $823.80 more than last year and less than half the increase seen in 2010. Still, that comes on the heels of a more modest 1.8 percent increase two years ago at the end of the recession.

As part of its annual tradition, PNC Wealth Management also tabulates the "True Cost of Christmas," which is the total cost of items gifted by a True Love who repeats all of the song's verses. This holiday season is the most expensive year ever: very generous True Loves have to fork over $101,119.84 for all 364 gifts, a 4.4 percent increase compared to last year.

"As the economy continues to struggle, we are seeing weakness in some areas of demand within the Index," said James Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management. "That is illustrated in the costs of the Five Gold Rings. While gold commodity prices are at or near record highs, the demand for retail gold is waning, and thus our Five Gold Rings actually dropped by 0.8 percent this year."

Although the economic trends affect both indexes, this year the PNC CPI's increase is exceptionally close to the government's Consumer Price Index, which grew 3.9 percent over the last 12 months.

Government CPI and PNC CPI on Parallel Tracks

"Typically we see parallels between our Index and the Federal government's," Dunigan said. "Last year was an aberration. Let's keep in mind that we are talking about a small basket of goods and services here compared to the Consumer Price Index."

Much like the government's CPI, the PNC CPI also measures a Core Index - up a mere 0.7 percent this year - that excludes the Swans. The increase, however, is within the Federal Reserve's comfort range to maintain low interest rates. The core Consumer Price Index, currently at 2.0 percent, excludes volatile food and energy costs and is generally lower than the headline figure.

The price of the Seven Swans-a-Swimming, which typically provides the biggest swings from year to year in the PNC CPI, based on supply and demand, rose by 12.5 percent, almost double last year's rise of 6.7 percent, to $6,300. That was the biggest dollar increase this year, up $700, a 12.5 percent boost.

Among the 12 gifts in the PNC CPI, four items (Three French Hens, Eight Maids-a-Milking, Nine Ladies Dancing, and 10 Lords-a-Leaping) were the same price as last year. Merchants may maintain their prices to attract reluctant buyers.

The 11 Pipers Piping ($2,427.60) and 12 Drummers Drumming ($2,629.90) saw modest increases, both up 3.0 percent.

Brakes Applied for the Milkmaids

As the only unskilled laborers in the PNC CPI, the price for the eight Maids-a-Milking is represented with the minimum wage. They received no increase in pay in 2011 as the Federal minimum wage did not rise for the second straight year. With the minimum wage flat at $7.25 per hour, hiring the maids this year will not increase labor costs.

Birds Chugging Along

After significant increases last year, prices for the birds were more moderate in this year's Index, in part due to the lack of demand for certain feathered friends that amplified several prices last year. The cost of feed as well as availability sent The Two Turtle Doves soaring 25.0 percent (still weaker than the 78.6 percent in 2010) to $125 but the Three French Hens stayed even at $150. The Partridge increased 14.2 percent to a still affordable $15, although its home, the Pear Tree, increased 13.3 percent to $169.99, bucking the national trend of declining house prices. Perhaps Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will see this as a signal that stronger housing prices are coming back.

As a contrast, the Four Calling Birds dropped in price by 13.3 percent, to $519.96. One way to have the birds fly off the shelves is to lower prices enticing shoppers to spend.

The PNC CPI's sources include retailers, the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia-based Philadanco and Pennsylvania Ballet Company.

Cyber Prices: The Cost of Convenience Full Steam Ahead

For those True Loves who prefer the convenience of shopping online, PNC Wealth Management calculates the cost of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" gifts purchased on the Internet.

This year, the trends identified in the traditional index are repeated in the Internet version. True Loves will pay a grand total of $39,860 to buy the items online. That is a 16.1 percent more expensive than last year and almost $16,000 more than this year's traditional index.

"In general, Internet prices are higher than their non-Internet counterparts because of premium shipping costs for birds and the convenience factor of shopping online," Dunigan said.

John Wesley Hyatt...nitrocellulose film stock--MOVIES

U.S. inventor and pioneer of the plastics industry who discovered the process for making celluloid. His other inventions included a water-purification system, a sugar-cane mill, a machine for straightening steel rods, a multi-stitch sewing-machine, and a widely used roller bearing. In the 1860s he became interested in finding a substitute for the ivory used to make billiard balls. With his brother Isaac, he improved the techniques of molding pyroxylin (a partially nitrated cellulose) with camphor by dissolving in an alcohol and ether mixture to make it softer and more malleable. This he called "Celluloid," a name trademarked on 14 Jan 1873. It was the first synthetic plastic, for which he took out a patent in 1870. Later in life he had over 200 patents.

The Robinson Library...

John Wesley Hyatt was born in Starkey, New York, on November 28, 1837. At the age of 16 he went to work for a printer in Illinois who produced game boards and game pieces. After patenting a knife sharpener in 1861, Hyatt was able to start his own company in Albany, New York, making checkers and dominoes.

Looking for a cheap substitute for ivory, then a traditional material for the making of game pieces, Hyatt began experimenting with a cellulose-based compound that had been developed in England by Alexander Parkes. Further spurred by an offer of $10,000 from the New York firm of Phelan & Collender for the best ivory substitute for making billiard balls, Hyatt improved Parkes' compound by adding camphor. The result was a plastic compound that was easy to mold under mild heat and pressure, and that, when cooled, became hard, strong, and easy to color. And, even better, it was cheap to produce. Although he never received the promised prize (nor did anyone else for that matter), Hyatt subsequently patented his compound, which he named Celluloid, in 1869; he also developed and patented much of the machinery necessary for making Celluloid, something that Parkes had failed to do with his compound.

Hyatt ultimately founded the Celluloid Manufacturing Company to manufacture and market Celluloid. The product proved so successful that what was once a brand name is now considered a generic name. It has been used to make everything from eyeglass frames to dentures, combs and buttons to piano keys, and, of course, billiard balls; in fact, just about anything that was once made from ivory.

In addition to celluloid, Hyatt ultimately received more than 200 patents for a wide range of inventions. In 1891 he invented a ball bearing that is still used in industrial machinery today. He also invented the Hyatt Filter, a water purification device that separated solid particles from water by directing the water through a porous filtration substance of either sand or charcoal, which is very similar to today's home filtration systems.

In 1914, Hyatt received the Perkin Medal of Honor from the Society of Chemical Industry for his work with celluloid. He died on May 10, 1920.

Not socially acceptable...bad Hailee Steinfeld and Dakota Fanning

Hailee Steinfeld

Dakota Fanning

Brooke Shields

Things like this are on the edge of absurdity...a committee decides print advertising. Hailee Steinfeld's situation...well, she's 14 and in a "potentially life-threatening situation." Well, members of the committee check out episodes of television crime drama [Cold Case, Criminal Minds, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, etc.] or the spate of motion picture films. Dakota Fanning...well, just how phallic is that bottle? What would the committee think of Brooke Shields [age 12] in Louis Malle's Pretty Baby [1978]?

Idiots: Take a close look at the rail that Hailee Steinfeld is sitting on...terribly train traffic...yep, she is in a "potentially life-threatening situation."

"Banned in Britain: Hailee Steinfeld ad for Prada"

November 23rd, 2011

Los Angeles Times

See Hailee. See Hailee Steinfeld. See Hailee Steinfeld sitting on a railroad track, dressed in Prada-owned Miu Miu. See Britain's Advertising Standards Authority banning the ad because Steinfeld is only 14 years old and photographed in a "potentially life-threatening situation."

No, it's not a joke.

The star of "True Grit" was photographed by Bruce Weber, a well-known photographer and moviemaker. A Prada Retail UK spokesperson told the Guardian that the ad campaign was "part of a serious, high-fashion campaign aimed at adult women."

Weber's photographs, the Guardian reported, "were meant to look like the actor had been captured in photographs between takes on the imaginary film."

Several British papers, including the Daily Mail, commented on the fact that it looks as though Steinfeld is crying in the photograph. Prada representatives, the Daily Mail reported, "said Miss Steinfeld was not crying, nor had she been asked to cry or look upset. Rather, they said the ad pictured her with a "wistful and thoughtful face."

"Prada also highlighted the fact that no one was put in any danger because the images, which were shot by top photographer and film maker Bruce Weber, were taken on an abandoned rail track," the newspaper said.

The same board demanded earlier this year that an ad featuring Dakota Fanning with an oversized bottle of Marc Jacobs perfume between her legs be pulled. Fanning is 17.

"Dakota Fanning's 'Lolita' perfume ad for Marc Jacobs is banned for 'sexualising children'"


Sean Poulter

November 9th, 2011

The Mail

A perfume advertisement featuring teen actress Dakota Fanning has been banned on the basis it appeared to ‘sexualise a child’.

The actress is 17, but she looked younger in the magazine ad for ‘Oh Lola!’, where she was sitting on the floor with the perfume bottle between her thighs.

The scent is the creation of U.S fashion designer Marc Jacobs, who said he chose the young actress because she could be a ‘contemporary Lolita’.

The perfume was made by the global beauty brand Coty, which has previously come under fire for its use of sexual imagery.

In a second ruling, watchdogs have also banned a website ad from the clothing brand Drop Dead Clothing, which appeared to legitimise anorexia.

The ad featured an apparently dangerously thin model, with visible hip, rib, collar and thigh bones, wearing a bikini and denim shorts.

The bans have been announced by the Advertising Standards Authority(ASA) and follow calls from the Prime Minister for action to prevent the sexualisation of children.

The ASA said the ‘Oh, Lola!’ advertisement showed Dakota Fanning, sitting on the floor, alone, wearing a pale coloured thigh length dress.

‘We noted that the model was holding up the perfume bottle which rested in her lap between her legs and we considered that its position was sexually provocative,’ it said.

‘We understood the model was 17 years old but we considered she looked under the age of 16.’

It said: ‘We considered that the length of her dress, her leg and position of the perfume bottle drew attention to her sexuality.

‘Because of that, along with her appearance, we considered the ad could be seen to sexualise a child.

'We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible and was likely to cause serious offence.’

It is clear that Marc Jacobs intended to exploit the fact that Dakota Fanning looks extremely young for her age.

Speaking recently, the designer said the decision had been inspired by her appearance as a 15-year-old punk rock singer in the coming of age film The Runaways.

‘Dakota was in it, and I knew she could be this contemporary Lolita, seductive yet sweet,’ he said.

Lolita featured in the controversial novel by Vladimir Nabokov about a middle-aged man’s sexual obsession for a 12-year-old girl.

The second controversial advertisement for the successful Drop Dead Clothing, which targets the young, appeared on its website in June.

The ASA said: ‘We considered that using a noticeably skinny model with visible hip, rib, collar and thigh bones, who wore heavy makeup and was posed in ways that made her body appear thinner, was likely to impress upon that audience that the images were representative of the people who might wear Drop Dead's clothing, and as being something to aspire to.

‘Therefore, while we considered the bikini and denim short images might not cause widespread or serious offence, we concluded they were socially irresponsible.’

The rulings are in tune with warnings from the Prime Minister about the dangers of the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood.

Just last month, Mr Cameron announced the setting up of a Parentport(correct) website to allow people to report firms that overstep the mark.

‘There is a growing tide of concern up and down the country among parents who, like me, are concerned about our children being exposed to inappropriate advertising and sexual imagery and growing up too early,’ he said.

The Lib-Dem MP Jo Swinson(correct), who has campaigned against deceptive advertising, particularly airbrushed images of women, backed the bans.

‘I’m glad the ASA has taken action against such socially irresponsible images,’ she said.

‘It’s frankly shocking that any advertiser can think it appropriate to try to create an image of a ‘contemporary Lolita’ to sell its products. There is huge parental concern about the over-sexualisation of children.

‘Rather than glamourising stick-thin bodies in fashion ads, advertisers should recognise the public’s desire for a greater diversity of body shapes, sizes, colour and age in the media images they see.

‘Marc Jacobs and Drop Dead Clothing need to take a hard look at the kind of damaging messages they are sending out in these advertising campaigns.’

Coty admitted the perfume image was ‘edgy’ but denied that the styling suggested the model was underage or inappropriately sexualised.

‘It did not show any private body parts or sexual activity. The giant perfume bottle was provoking but not indecent,’ the firm said.

In its defence, Drop Dead Clothing insisted the model they used was a standard, healthy and normal size eight.

The firm said: ‘While many people in the UK may find a size eight too slim, a size eight was a normal UK clothing size and it would be unreasonable to consider a size eight model offensive.’

The firm said its models were everyday people and ‘representative of young people’

It said while she might not have any fat around her ribs, she had a bust, hips and healthy skin.