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Greeks to buy Turkish isle after 2400 years April 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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The Greek islanders of Lesbos are planning to buy a tiny Turkish island several kilometres across the maritime border in what would be an unprecedented exchange of real estate between the arch-rival nations.

Lesbos’ 100,000-strong population is trying to raise the $US22 million price tag on the island of Garip, whose pine-clad hinterland is visible across the Aegean Sea from the Greek island. Where diplomacy and military might have failed, commerce could prevail if the self-proclaimed Lesbians manage to pull off a peaceful “conquest”.

“Any Greek would want to buy Turkish territory, especially territory of historic importance,” the island’s prefect, Pavlos Voyiatzis, told the weekly Proto Thema.

Located about 140 kilometres from the ancient city of Troy in Izmir’s Bay of Bademli, Garip is best known as the site of a battle between the Spartans and Athenians in 406BC. It remained under Greek control until the collapse of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 before passing to the Ottomans, and eventually to Turkey in 1922.

But in a nation obsessed with its shrinking borders, neither time nor military defeat has diminished the desire to win back lands lost to the Turks. In Garip, 84 years after the Treaty of Lausanne settled the frontiers between the countries, the Greeks, it seems, have found a way to regain lost face.

“The asking price might be very high, and is certainly too much for the prefecture to raise, but why not?” Mr Voyiatzis said.

The Turkish isle, 23 kilometres from the Lesbian capital Mytilene, was put on the market six months ago by brothers Ali and Alaatin Dartar, who have owned it for 20 years.

“We don’t have any bad feelings towards the Greeks,” said Ali Dartar, from Istanbul. “I have many Greek friends and I can say we wouldn’t be prejudicial if they expressed interest.”

In their online sales pitch, the brothers say the island provides excellent snorkelling and diving, and has thermal waters that make it a unique destination for many to relax and unwind.

Mindful of the countries’ ongoing territorial disputes, the Greek Government is viewing the sale as a private matter between individuals. Turkey would in any case retain sovereignty over the island, regardless of ownership of its real estate.

Ancient Greek acoustics April 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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The Theater at Epidaurus on the Peloponnese in Greece

epidaurus.jpg  The ancient theater at Epidaurus in Greece has been known for centuries as an acoustic marvel that allowed spectators to hear in the back row. Georgia Tech researchers have discovered that Epidaurus’ limestone seats created a sophisticated acoustic filter that carried instruments and voices all the way to the back row.

As the ancient Greeks were placing the last few stones on the magnificent theater at Epidaurus in the fourth century B.C., they couldn’t have known that they had unwittingly created a sophisticated acoustic filter. But when audiences in the back row were able to hear music and voices with amazing clarity, the Greeks must have known that they had done something very right because they made many attempts to duplicate Epidaurus’ design, but never with the same success.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have pinpointed the elusive factor that makes the ancient amphitheater an acoustic marvel. It’s not the slope, or the wind, it’s the seats. The rows of limestone seats at Epidaurus form an efficient acoustics filter that hushes low-frequency background noises like the murmur of a crowd and reflects the high-frequency noises of the performers on stage off the seats and back toward the seated audience member, carrying an actor’s voice all the way to the back rows of the theater.

The research, done by acoustician and ultrasonics expert Nico Declercq, an assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Georgia Tech Lorraine in France, and Cindy Dekeyser, an engineer who is fascinated by the history of ancient Greece, appears in the April issue of the Journal of the Acoustics Society of America.

While many experts speculated on the possible causes for Epidaurus’ acoustics, few guessed that the seats themselves were the secret of its acoustics success. There were theories that the site’s wind, which blows primarily from the stage to the audience, was the cause, while others credited masks that may have acted as primitive loudspeakers or the rhythm of Greek speech. Other more technical theories took into account the slope of the seat rows.

When Declercq set out to solve the acoustic mystery, he too had the wrong idea about how Epidaurus carries performance sounds so well. He suspected that the corrugated, or ridged, material of the theater’s limestone structure was acting as a filter for sound waves at certain frequencies, but he didn’t anticipate how well it was controlling background noise.

“When I first tackled this problem, I thought that the effect of the splendid acoustics was due to surface waves climbing the theater with almost no damping,” Declercq said. “While the voices of the performers were being carried, I didn’t anticipate that the low frequencies of speech were also filtered out to some extent.”

But as Declercq’s team experimented with ultrasonic waves and numerical simulations of the theater’s acoustics, they discovered that frequencies up to 500 Hz were held back while frequencies above 500 Hz were allowed to ring out. The corrugated surface of the seats was creating an effect similar to the ridged acoustics padding on walls or insulation in a parking garage.

So, how did the audience hear the lower frequencies of an actor’s voice if they were being suppressed with other background low frequencies? There’s a simple answer, said Declercq. The human brain is capable of reconstructing the missing frequencies through a phenomenon called virtual pitch. Virtual pitch helps us appreciate the incomplete sound coming from small loudspeakers, in a laptop or a telephone, even though the low bass frequencies aren’t generated by a small speaker.

The Greeks’ misunderstanding about the role the limestone seats played in Epidaurus’ acoustics likely kept them from being able to duplicate the effect. Later theaters included different bench and seat materials, including wood, which may have played a large role in the gradual abandonment of Epidaurus’ design over the years by the Greeks and Romans, Declercq said.

Greek researchers develop Virtual Maps for the Blind April 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Health & Fitness, Science.
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Tactile models based on video footage could make navigating a new city easier

Researchers in Greece have developed a new system that converts video into virtual, touchable maps for the blind. The three-dimensional maps use force fields to represent walls and roads so the visually impaired can better understand the layout of buildings and cities.

“Imagine I’m blind and I want to come to New York,” says Konstantinos Moustakas, lead researcher on the virtual mapping project and a graduate student at Aristotle University of Thessaloníki in Greece. “I should have a map.”

Architects sometimes create three-dimensional models for the blind, but these replicas can only be used by one person at a time. Paper maps with ridges signifying roads are not ideal either, because they cannot convey enough information. With Moustakas’ system, a digital version of a diorama can be accessed simultaneously by people around the world. Extra information is presented in audio clips.

To build the virtual dioramas, the researchers first shoot video of an architectural model. The video is then processed frame by frame using software developed by Moustakas’ team. As the camera angle changes, the software tracks each structure and determines its shape and location. That data is used to create a three-dimensional grid of force fields for each structure. “Each point on the grid has an associated force value,” Moustakas says.

Two common-touch interfaces simulate the force fields by applying pressure to the user’s hand: the CyberGrasp glove, which pulls on individual fingers, and the Phantom Desktop, which applies a single force to the hand via a wand. Moustakas said the process is somewhat like trying to identify an object by running a finger or wand along its surface.

Virtual, touchable maps, also known as haptic maps, have been created before, but they were made using stereoscopic movies, which require special cameras. Moustakas’ system works with a standard video camera.

Moustakas also developed a system that converts pictures of traditional paper maps into a three-dimensional street map. Users run a finger or wand down the grooved roads of the virtual map, while street names are automatically read aloud.

Moustakas tested both systems on 19 visually impaired people. During the tests, subjects were asked to identify buildings in the virtual scene and travel from one location to another.

According to the study, published in the journal IEEE MultiMedia, the subjects preferred the virtual street maps for navigating large areas, such as cities, and the virtual dioramas for assessing small groups of buildings. Moustakas is currently working on integrating the two systems.

Reginald Golledge, a professor of geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says he believes Moustakas’ research is “a good step in the right direction.” Golledge, who has conducted research on other virtual mapping systems for more than 15 years, notes that blind users would still need a guide dog or cane to navigate potholes in the real world.

Dan Jacobson, co-chair of the International Cartographic Association’s commission on maps and graphics for the visually impaired, says Moustakas’ technology could be useful for the sighted as well as the blind. A haptic map could be helpful in situations where a sighted user is visually distracted, for example. It could also convey information about things that are not in view. “In a virtual world … you could feel your way around a building to see what’s behind,” Jacobson says.

Regardless of the intended user, Golledge says the system will have to become more portable to be widely accepted. The Phantom Desktop, for example, has to be plugged into an outlet. Although it could be handy for travel planning, it could not be used en route.

Greek Flag raised April 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in News Cruises.
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The Calypso yesterday became the fifth cruiser of Louis Hellenic Cruises to raise the Greek flag.

Louis’s fleet consists of 13 cruise ships, four of which are chartered by Britain’s Thomson Cruises and one by Germany’s Transocean.

Helesi receives funding for Greek expansion April 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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Government grants have been approved that will allow plastics and rubber moulder Helesi to boost capacity at its facility in Greece.

The Greece and UK based waste management products manufacturer will receive grants totalling €11.4m from the Greek Ministry of Finance towards an expansion of its production facilities at Komotini.

The award will enable Helesi to invest an additional €20.8m over and above the €60m investment programme it disclosed in November 2006, at the time of its share listing on London’s Alternative Investment Market. Helesi is planning to double production capacity at Komotini over the next two years. The plant produces two and four wheel plastic bins and pallet boxes.

The company said: “In addition, the investment will provide the Company with the latest generation of manufacturing technology that will increase efficiency, lower unit costs and free up older equipment for use elsewhere.”

The total investment of €20.8m comprises €11.4m of grants, €4.2m from a secured long term debt facility and €5.2m from the company’s internal cash flow. The expansion programme will commence in August and is scheduled to be completed in September 2009. 

ON Telecoms launches Triple Play services in Greece April 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Telecoms.
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ON Telecoms has chosen Orca Interactive’s RiGHTv middleware for its Greek IPTV deployment.

ON Telecoms began offering an attractive triple play package for customers in January 2007, including live TV (hybrid of DVB-T and IP channels), on demand services such as video on demand (VOD) and broadband. The service uses MPEG-4 technology and can provide channels in Standard Definition or High Definition.

“ON Telecoms identified the potential of Greek market for IPTV, but as an innovative startup we didn’t have the luxury of time in getting the deployment up and running. So we selected a first rate team, of which Orca Interactive provides the core middleware management, to get us there quickly as well as meet all of our custom requirements,” said Ruggero Gramatica, CEO, ON Telecoms.

Greek archaeologists discover rare Roman ruins April 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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Rows of stone seating and a stone-flagged pavement from what archaeologists believe may have been an ancient theater are seen in this photo released by the Greek Culture Ministry on Wednesday, April 4, 2007. Digging on the western island of Kefallonia, archaeologists have also discovered a large Roman-era tomb with its ancient offerings intact. The complex, which contained five burials, yielded gold jewelry, glass and clay pots and bronze artifacts, a Culture Ministry announcement said. 

greek_fiscardo.jpg  Archaeologists on a Greek island have discovered a large Roman-era tomb containing gold jewelry, pottery and bronze offerings, officials said Wednesday. The building, near the village of Fiscardo on Kefalonia, contained five burials including a large vaulted grave and a stone coffin, a Culture Ministry announcement said. 

The complex, measuring 26 by 20 feet, had been missed by grave-robbers, the announcement said.

Archaeologists found gold earrings and rings, gold leaves that may have been attached to ceremonial clothing, as well as glass and clay pots, bronze artifacts decorated with masks, a bronze lock and copper coins. The vaulted grave, a house-shaped structure, had a small stone door that still works perfectly, turning on stone pivots. On a nearby plot, archaeologists also located traces of what may have been a small theater with four rows of stone seats, the ministry said.

Previous excavations in the area have uncovered remains of houses, a baths complex and a cemetery, all dating to Roman times, between 146 B.C. and 330 A.D.  which they say must have been an important link between ancient Greece and Italy.

“It is the first time such a monument is discovered, not only in Cephalonia but in all the Ionian Sea islands,” the Culture Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. “It is a touching detail that the stone door still opens and closes to this day just as in antiquity,” the Ministry added.