The Weekly Round-Up: Is there life on Mars?

And what's a sumo wrestler's preferred piece of tech hardware?
Written by The Round-Up, Contributor

And what's a sumo wrestler's preferred piece of tech hardware?

Is there life on Mars? Is there a starman waiting in the sky?

These are the questions and David Bowie-related conundrums that have perplexed humankind ever since it looked up and spotted those twinkly little lights in the sky (before all the light pollution, that is).

But now everyone's favour alien hunters the Seti Institute reckon we may have been looking in the wrong place all along.

The Seti Institute, of course, is the organisation dedicated to searching for evidence of intelligent alien life out in the inky blackness of space.

Has the Seti Institute found any evidence of intelligent life in space? In short: no. In fact, the total absence of big, enthusiastic ticks in the 'little green men spotted' column on the Seti Institute clip chart has spurred them on to greater efforts.

The Seti Institute is now suggesting we should broaden our search to start looking for intelligent machines developed by extra-terrestrials.

You see, just as techies inhabit the realms too extreme for lesser mortals (such as server rooms, datacentres and sword-and-sorcery chatrooms) so the Seti Institute thinks that AIs may be present in areas of the universe previously thought to be uninhabitable - like black holes or regions of space near pulsars.

Why not, says the Round-Up. If we can find life forms living in subterranean drops of acid, why not see if there is a HAL 9000 hanging around in a black hole?

According to one Seti Institute researcher, searching hostile areas of the universe could even uncover a communications beacon left by a long-dead civilisation.

Something along the lines of "Thanks for your email. Zvogan the Planet Conqueror is now on annual leave and will not be returning until the sun goes supernova", perhaps.

That's assuming there's life out there in the first place. And that it is capable of developing artificial intelligence and isn't just flopping about in ponds. And, for that matter, that it wants to be found: considering what aliens would have learned from us just by listening to the junk we've been transmitting into the cosmos via radio and television over the last 100 or so years, do you really think they'll want to have a chat with us?

As a result, perhaps we are the last people on Earth an AI would bother talking to - maybe they made contact years ago and have been enjoying a very nice chat with your toaster ever since…

In one of the Round-Up's very favourite The Simpsons episodes, Homer gains a large amount of weight to qualify to work from home.

However, as he tries to make an emergency call he finds his fingers are too chubby to press individual keys, leading the phone to issue an error message.

"I'm sorry, the fingers you have used to dial are too fat. To obtain a special dialling wand, mash the keyboard with your palm now," the phone tells him.

The Round-Up was reminded of this when reading that this week the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) has decided to throw its weight behind the iPad as a new communications device for its fat-fingered pugilists.

Not that the Round-Up would ever call a sumo wrestler fat. At least not to his face and certainly not without a team of ninjas in support.

The iPads are intended to speed up communication between JSA officials, wrestlers and coaches, who have until now relied on telephone or fax.

Around 60 iPads are being distributed among the wrestlers, which should make it easier for them to communicate, as the daily Nikkan Sports was quoted by the BBC as saying: "When they try to send email on mobile phones or PCs they often end up pressing two or three keys at once."

Try typing out a message on a BlackBerry by jabbing the keyboard with an uncooked sausage and you'll get the picture. Of course, to get the full effect, you try could always jabbing the keyboard with an uncooked sausage while wearing nothing but an enormous nappy and and a fetching top-knot, but sometimes the Round-Up feels you can take these things too far.

On the subject of mobile phones, if you went to a music festival this year you're probably either a) gazing at your beautiful new handset or b) wondering how to communicate with your friends using the battered and mud-encrusted lump of metal that used to be your phone.

That's because there's a good chance you lost or broke your phone while combining the Round-Up's two least favourite things - camping and loud music.

According to a piece of research by a mobile phone comparison site, one in eight festival-goers admit to having lost a handset at a festival, presumably while leaping around in the moshpit or wading through the traditional festival mud.

Four per cent said they'd had their phone stolen, although mostly this was because they left it in the tent. From the Round-Up's experience, at many festivals you're lucky to even find your tent still there when you come back at the end of the evening. To find your stuff still in it is really asking too much.

The rightmobilephone.co.uk survey also found that nearly one in five festival-goers had damaged their phone at a festival (half admitted the damage happened when they were under the influence of alcohol, and the rest were probably too drunk to remember).

And a lucky nine respondents claimed they had dropped their mobile into a portaloo, although thankfully there's no news on whether they retrieved it or not, though (if you want more on stall calls check out last week's Round-Up).

And in other news this week:

Want to attract the headhunters? Here are some top tips on helping you find that next job.

Calling all helpdesks - are you fed up with password resets and can't be bothered to tell users to 'turn it off and on again'? Self-service IT could be your salvation. And then put you out of a job. Still, to find out more, see How to get the most out of DIY IT.

In marketing? Got an iPhone? Then you really should check out this story here: iPhone apps for marketing pros.

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