Cell Phones and Driving Again

Here is yet another cellphone study with some awfully surprising conclusions:

Using a cellphone — even with a hands-free device — may distract drivers because the brain cannot handle both tasks, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

Imaging tests show the brain directs its resources to either visual input or auditory input, but cannot fully activate both at the same time, the team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found.

“Our research helps explain why talking on a cell phone can impair driving performance, even when the driver is using a hands-free device,” said Steven Yantis, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences who led the study.

“Directing attention to listening effectively ‘turns down the volume’ on input to the visual parts of the brain,” he added in a statement.

“When attention is deployed to one modality — say, in this case, talking on a cell phone — it necessarily extracts a cost on another modality — in this case, the visual task of driving.”

No kidding. While the innovative use of technology is cool, this is nothing more but what we have known for years.








Here Comes the TaxMan

Internet taxes in the near future:

An appellate court ruling against Borders Group Inc. sets a precedent that could enable California to force some major Internet retailers to start paying state sales tax for books, music and other goods sold online to state residents.

Whether California tax collectors use the precedent to go after not only Borders but Barnes & Noble Inc., Amazon.com and other online retailers remains to be seen. But independent booksellers and other “bricks-and-mortar” retailers have been cheering, saying the ruling should remove their Internet competition’s unfair advantage.

“There are a lot of online retailers who are watching this intently,” said Tom Dressler, a spokesman for the California Attorney General’s office. “Clearly online retailing is growing so one would think the potential revenue problem is fairly substantial.”

Businesses can avoid paying sales taxes to states where they have no physical presence, according to a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Borders Group Inc. says it has never collected sales tax for books and music sold over the Internet to California residents, even though the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based corporate parent operates 129 California stores under the Borders and Waldenbooks brands, as well as a 414,000-square-foot distribution center in the state.

Borders says it doesn’t have to collect California sales taxes because its online division _ since outsourced to Amazon.com _ doesn’t own or lease property in the state. None of the online division’s employees or bank accounts are in California and all Internet orders were received and processed outside the state.

“We’ve done everything within the confines of the tax law. We have always believed that what they did was correct under the Constitution,” said Borders lawyer Scott Brandman.

I am sure there are people who know much more about this issue than I do, so have at it in the comments.








Interesting

If there were a word that meant “Cool!” and “Yuck!,” it would accurately descibe my reaction to this post.








Pretty Pictures

If you have the time, make sure you check out all the new Hubble pictures, which are just spectacular.

Make sure you check out the the wallpapers. I just switched from “Maelstrom of Star Birth,” which I had for a year, to the “Dying Star Creates Fantasy-like Sculpture of Gas and Dust.”

Magnificent is exactly the right word. In these whacky times of fiscal conservatives spending gazillions of dollars on, well, you name it, I have no problem spending a couple billion on this baby.