Friday, December 7, 2007

Blast-Proof Fabric Resists Multiple Explosions

Posted by kdawson on Thursday December 06, @12:40PM
from the does-this-fabric-make-me-look-fat dept.

An anonymous reader tips a Gizmodo story on a fabric whose properties are counterintuitive, to say the least of it. "Zetix is a fabric so strong it will resist multiple car bomb blasts without breaking. It absorbs and disperses the energy from explosions... it can be used in body armor, window covering, military tents, and hurricane defenses... [and] it can be used as medical sutures that won't damage body tissue. All of this is thanks to a property that apparently defies the laws of physics: helical-auxetics, objects that actually get fatter the more you stretch them. The concept makes my head want to explode, but when you see it in action it actually makes sense."

GlucoBoy blood-sugar testing game finally ships

We first noticed the GlucoBoy blood-sugar testing game for the Game Boy Advance way back in 2004, but it's taken three years for inventor Paul Wessel to get the necessary approval from Nintendo to start manufacturing the game. Targeted at kids with juvenile diabetes, the device rewards timely testing and target blood sugar levels by doling out points that can be used to unlock 2 full length games and 3 additional mini-arcade games, and kids can share point totals and high scores on a related website called GRIP. GlucoBoy is now available in Australia, but the company hopes to have wider availability soon.

[Via Joystiq]

YouTube Breeding Harmful Scientific Misinformation

Posted by kdawson on Thursday December 06, @01:17PM
from the playing-to-the-emotions dept.
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes "University of Toronto researchers have uncovered widespread misinformation in videos on YouTube related to vaccination and immunization. In the first-ever study of its kind, they found that over half of the 153 videos analyzed portrayed childhood, HPV, flu and other vaccinations negatively or ambiguously. They also found that videos highly skeptical of vaccinations received more views and better ratings by users than those videos that portray immunizations in a positive light. According to the lead researcher, 'YouTube is increasingly a resource people consult for health information, including vaccination. Our study shows that a significant amount of immunization content on YouTube contradicts the best scientific evidence at large. From a public health perspective, this is very concerning.' An extract from the Journal of the American Medical Association is available online."

Flux Capacitor replicas for sale

Seems like every year since 1985 a modified DeLorean with Flux Capacitor shows up for sale. This time, it's just the 1.21 jigawatt-powered heart of the Back to the Future time machine. The perfect accessory for your 2008 DeLorean. Get your $220 pre-order in now (or $275 after January 1st) for an April 30th, 2008 fluxing -- the apparent past tense of fleecing.

[Via OhGizmo!]

IBM creates a chip-sized supercomputer

Good news, everybody! Those super-geniuses over at IBM have whipped up a new form of CPU transfer which utilizes pulses of light instead of electricity to move data between cores on a chip. The new technology -- which is one-hundred times faster than current speeds -- is called silicon nanophotonics, and if implemented, could downsize supercomputers to laptop stature. The invention is unhindered by common problems with electrical chips, such as overheating and breakdown of data on short trips, allowing signals to pass unmolested over greater distances. Using this process, data can be moved a few centimeters, while requiring one-tenth as much power, resulting in lower operational costs for supercomputers. Will Green, a researcher at IBM, says that the company's creation will, "Be able to have hundreds or thousands of cores on a chip," and will result in huge speed boosts. Unfortunately, the project is on track to be carried out in 10 to 12 years, which leaves a lot of time to ponder if the chips will play Doom.

House Bill Could Criminalize Free Wi-Fi Operators

Posted by kdawson on Thursday December 06, @09:14AM
from the what-were-they-thinking dept.
Velcroman98 sends word of a bill that passed the US House of Representatives by a lopsided vote of 409 to 2. It would require everyone who runs an open Wi-Fi connection to report illegal images, including "obscene" cartoons and drawings, or be fined up to $300,000. The Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online (SAFE) Act was rushed through the House without any hearings or committee votes, and the version that passed on a voice vote reportedly differs substantially from the last publicly available version. CNET reports that sentiment in favor of such a bill is strong in the Senate as well.

Environmentalists vs. wind farm

A group of coastal watchdog organizations, includng with representatives of the famed King Ranch, are suing the Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson over a proposed wind farm on the Gulf Coast. The aforementioned wind farm, which calls for 600 wind turbines, would encompass an area of about 60,000 acres to the south of Corpus Christi -- some of which would border the King Ranch. Arguing that they were unlawfully excluded from the permit hearings, it looks like the Coastal Habitat Alliance might be able to hold up construction of the wind farms with the lawsuit.

Bird people are especially up in arms about the wind farm, believing that it poses a threat to the vast number of migratory birds that fly through the area seasonally. The lawsuit also points out that, in adherence to Texas law, the permit-issuing process must include an environmental assessments of any energy facilities to be built along the coast.

It's a little known fact that the area is such a hot spot for birding fanatics, but the Texas Gulf Coast offers some of the best bird watching in the country. So I guess it's no surprise that their making so much noise about the issue. Although, aren't coal emissions harmful to the beloved birds as well?

Beer bottle Christmas tree: Merry drunken planet-saving holidays!

You know when you get really, really wasted, and normal, everyday tasks suddenly seem like insurmountable forces of evil? Like moving all the way to the bed instead of just passing out on the floor, or putting all those bottles into the recycling bin instead of just stacking them into a pyramid and calling it a Christmas tree? I imagine that conversation went something like this:

College student A: Dude. Dude. I am so wasted.
College student B: I love Christmas dude.
College student A: I wanna celebrate with you man.
College student B: I wanna celebrate with YOU.
College student A: (starts to cry a little bit) Merry Christmas, dude.

And then the beer bottle Christmas tree was born.

I know this oddball recycling effort probably isn't something you'll be incorporating into your holiday decorating scheme this season, but at least it's better than throwing those bottles in the trash. And to be honest, it looks pretty impressive. I'm just sayin'.

Kangaroo farts: The answer to global warming?

When cows and sheep pass gas, it's a danger to us all. Not just because it smells like a foul cocktail of stale death, rotting vegetation and animal crap -- but also because it contributes to global warming. I'm totally serious. Cow and sheep farts account for 14 percent of carbon emissions in Australia, and a whopping 50 percent in more agricultural countries like New Zealand.

Kangaroo farts, on the other hand, aren't a problem -- as their stomachs contain a special kind of bacteria that keeps their flatulence methane-free (the methane in cow and sheep farts is what makes them so hazardous to the environment). Subsequently, in an effort to reduce their country's overall greenhouse gas emissions, Australian scientists are trying to insert this bacteria into the stomachs of cows and sheep.

Of course, Australians could just start eating more kangaroos and breeding fewer cattle -- but then what would these clever scientists have to spend their time on?

Related Link

People-powered Christmas lights are totally carbon neutral (video)

One of the most festive parts of the holiday season is undoubtedly the decorations. There's nothing quite like a neighborhood full of blinking lights to help get your in the spirit. However, this is obviously a huge (and ultimately needless) waste of energy -- especially when you consider all the alternative ways to decorate your house that don't require electricity.

Here's a novel compromise -- a set of Christmas lights that run on people power. Check out the video to see how they function, and then go to the couple's blog to see how they constructed this unique little display.

It's not the mind-blowingly awesome spectacle du holiday glitz that you might be used to, but it's better than nothing -- plus, it's totally carbon neutral. Rock on.

Balancing Robot Can Take a Kicking

Posted by Zonk on Thursday December 06, @03:25PM
from the soon-they'll-be-doing-judo dept.
BotKicker writes "A Japanese team has created the first full-size humanoid robot that won't fall over if you push it. A video shows it staggering and regaining balance after blows from a researcher. Being able to withstand shoves and kicks is essential if robots are to truly be our buddies, they reckon. 'The robot's balancing ability depends on its joints. For one thing they are never kept rigid, even when standing still, meaning they yield slightly when the robot is pushed. Force sensors within each joint also work out the position and velocity of the robot's centre mass as it moves around. Control software rapidly figures out what forces the robot's feet need to exert on the ground to bring it back into balance, and tells the joints how to act.'"

Thursday, December 6, 2007

JetBlue introduces free in-flight email and IM

In a welcome first for domestic airlines, JetBlue will be rolling out free in-flight Yahoo IM and email services to passengers packing WiFi-equipped devices, starting aboard its new "BetaBlue" Airbus A320. Once this test-bed passenger jet reaches 10,000 feet, an in-plane network with three in-ceiling access points is activated, allowing most any wireless gadget with a Flash-enabled browser to view specialized versions of either Yahoo Messenger or Mail through a universal landing page. What's more, owners of certain BlackBerry handsets like the 8820 or Curve 8320 can keep feeding their addictions non-stop thanks to an agreement between JetBlue and RIM.

Bandwidth for these services is provided by LiveTV, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the carrier that provides the entire fleet with select DirecTV and XM radio channels, and which also happens to possess a valuable 1MHz slice of ground-to-air spectrum that it's deploying for this very purpose (with the help of some 100 existing cell towers around the country). If all goes well in what is admittedly a beta test, more aircraft will receive the WiFi makeover, and more features -- such as access to terabytes of locally-stored multimedia content -- will be rolled out, along with additional service providers besides Yahoo. Just don't expect an open pipe any time soon: that sweet little slice of spectrum is not nearly robust enough to handle the heavy Slinging, VoIPing, and Torrenting you all would obviously be doing.

The Pac-Man Christmas tree

Finally, Blinky, Pinky, Inky, Clyde, and even old Pacster get some religious iconography happening for themselves. A creative group of X-mas-and-Pac-Man-loving cats and kittens in Madrid have created a truly festive monument to the holiday... and the video game. Check the video after the break for the whole, utility-burning display in action -- and commenters, feel free to translate.

[Via technabob]

Keepin' it real fake: lunar evidence edition

Not content with just KIRF'n popular gadgets, our favorite reversers of engineering are back and this time, doing it up in space. Notice any difference between the 1994 Pentagon photo (on left) of the moon and that taken by China's Chang 1 last week in almost exactly the same location? Right, what appears to be a new crater on the geologically dead hellscape we call the moon. Well, since the image was released under great fanfare in China, it's been heavily shouted down as a fake by flat-Earthers in the West. It's not, at least not in the traditional sense. According to Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society, the image is real (and likely original) but the "new" crater is just an artifact from the process of stitching and blending 19 image strips taken on different orbits. The correctly stitched image (achieved by sliding the left-most crater up, and the right-most down) is presented in the yellow box above. Unfortunately, the chief scientist of the Chinese lunar exploration program, Ouyang Ziyuan, said that the emergence of the crater was proof that their photograph was original. Sorry Charlie, the crater is not new, only the lighting angle and resolution is... we think.


Ham Radio Operators Are Heroes In Oregon

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday December 06, @12:08AM
from the the-first-responders dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We all know the impact that Ham radio can have in emergencies, but that often slips by the public and the authorities. Not so in Oregon, where a day after getting inundated with torrential rains and winds and suffering from the usual calamities those cause, Oregon's Governor called the local Ham radio operators heroes. When discussing how the storm affected communications, the governor stated: "I'm going to tell you who the heroes were from the very beginning of this...the ham radio operators." Kudos to the Oregon Ham operators for helping out in a bad situation, and getting the recognition they deserve."

The Arctic Doomsday Seed Vault

Posted by samzenpus on Wednesday December 05, @08:53PM
from the who-replants-barter-town dept.
Anonymous Cow writes "A giant refrigerated genetic bank built into the island of Svalbard has been brought online. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway is designed to house up to 4.5 million seeds in the case of a catostrophic event. The bank is funded by the Norwegian government, Monsanto Corporation, and the Gates, Rockefeller, and Syngenta Foundations. The Global Crop Diversity Trust has completed construction of the doomsday vault and is getting the facility ready to preserve the genetic heritage of the world's agriculture for future generations. There will be no full-time staff, but the vault's relative inaccessibility will facilitate monitoring human activity. Spitsbergen was considered ideal due to its lack of tectonic activity and its permafrost, which will aid preservation. Locally mined coal will provide power for refrigeration units which will further cool the seeds to the internationally recommended standard 20 to 30 C."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Freakonomics Q&A With Bruce Schneier

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday December 04, @05:10PM
from the thinking-like-an-economist dept.
Samrobb writes "In grand Slashdot tradition, the Freakonomics blog solicited reader questions for a Q&A session with Bruce Schneier. The blog host writes that Mr. Schneier's answers '...are extraordinarily interesting, providing mandatory reading for anyone who uses a computer. He also plainly thinks like an economist: search below for "crime pays" to see his sober assessment of why it's better to earn a living as a security expert than as a computer criminal.'" The interview covers pretty much the whole range of issues Schneier has written about, and he provides links to more detailed writings on many of the questions.

20 worst polluters: the chart

Amidst the news coming from Bali's climate conference is a message of optimism, and not just for the environment, but for the economy as well. $100 billion -- roughly 18% -- of energy investments went towards renewable energy. According to Management Information Services, the US environmental industry is a rapidly expanding. It now employs 10 times as many people as the pharmaceutical industry.

But it's not all roses and participation medals at the conference. The Guardian has put together a cool interactive graph illustrating the carbon emissions of the 20 most polluting countries. Although you probably won't be too surprised who's at the top ( ahem... US ), you might be surprised how narrow their lead is.

Here are the top 10, based on 2005 data -- measured in billions of tons of CO2:
  • US -- 5.957
  • China -- 5.323
  • Russian -- 1.984
  • Japan -- 1.230
  • India -- 1.166
  • Germany -- .844
  • Canada -- .631
  • UK -- .577
  • South Korea -- .500
  • Italy -- .467

Major Breakthrough In Spintronics Research

Posted by kdawson on Wednesday December 05, @02:45AM
from the taking-it-out-for-a-spin dept.
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes "Spintronics is the field of research into developing devices that rely on electron spin rather than electron charge to carry information. A major advance has been made by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), where they have for the first time generated, modulated, and electrically detected a pure spin current in silicon. Progress in this field is expected to lead to devices which provide higher performance with lower power consumption and heat dissipation. Basic research efforts at NRL and elsewhere have shown that spin angular momentum, another fundamental property of the electron, can be used to store and process information in metal and semiconductor based devices. The article abstract is available from Applied Physics Letters."

Final Repair Mission To Extend Hubble's Life

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday December 04, @05:56PM
from the gyros-batteries-and-a-quart-of-oil dept.
necro81 writes "The NYTimes has an in-depth piece describing an upcoming shuttle mission, scheduled for next August, to make a final service call to the Hubble Space Telescope. After the Columbia accident and the scheduled shuttle decommission in 2010, additional service trips to the telescope were off the table. The resulting hue and cry from scientists, legislators, and the public forced NASA to reconsider. Next August, if all goes well, Atlantis will grab Hubble, replace its aging gyros, attempt to revive the Advanced Camera for Surveys, and install a new camera and spectrograph. The telescope could then continue doing science well into the next decade."

Microwave beam car stopper tested, fries cars in nanoseconds flat

Yeah, this idea has definitely been around the block a time or two, but Eureka Aerospace is doing a whole lot more than just envisioning yet another concept. Its 200-pound, 5-foot long prototype has recently undergone testing, and reportedly, it's been able to completely and utterly incapacitate any vehicle that dared roll in its path. The device has been used to shut down four whips thus far, each from a distance of 10 to 50-feet, and all it took was a microwave pulse lasting some 50-nanoseconds to do it. According to James Tatoian, the outfit's CEO, a version that weighs just 50-pounds and can disable rebel rides from 600-feet away is only a couple of years from reality, but it's highly doubtful that these will be available to the general public. Depressing, we know.

[Via Slashgear]

Wiimote used in Buckyball Bowling, other educational simulations

Seriously, is there anything the Wiimote can't do? Just when you thought the world had exhausted all possibilities for Nintendo's oh-so-versatile controller, along comes the crew at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to prove otherwise. Programmed to operate with BigBen -- PSC's 4,000 processor, 21-teraflop Cray XT3 supercomputing system -- the Wiimote was seen controlling a round of Buckyball Bowling, which just might be the nerdiest (that's a compliment, ya know) title for a game to date. Additionally, it was suggested that the WiiMD technology could eventually "offer scientists an easily usable tool to gain insight into simulations," and moreover, provide "an entertaining educational outreach tool to help interest students in biology, chemistry and physics." Man, lecturing is so last year.

[Via EarthTimes]

The $4 Wireless Sensor Bar: for that special Wii in your life

So, your Wii sensor bar has slid down the back of your TV for the umpteenth time and you just aren't up for diving into the rats nest of cables this time, maybe this time you should just leave it there. You can pick up this Wireless Sensor Bar for a mere $4, a quarter of what you'll pay for most competing products. Of course, they're using the term "wireless" liberally here, and the bit about being "detected automatically by your Wii console" is pure rubbish -- all it takes is a pair of IR emitters, or even a couple candles to make a sensor bar replacement -- but we'll let it slide for this kind of price.

[Via Wii News]

Birmingham, Alabama schools getting 15000 OLPC XOs

If you (or your kiddo) just happens to be a first through eighth grader in Birmingham, Alabama, you (or your offspring) will soon be playing with an XO during regularly scheduled class time. Mayor Larry Langford has recently announced that a $3 million deal was signed in order to bring in one laptop per child for the aforementioned grades, or 15,000 XOs in total. Apparently, the schools will become the first in the nation to receive heaps of the low-cost lappies, which were sold to the district at $200 a pop. As for logistics, students can expect to receive their machine on April 15, 2008, and while pupils will be allowed to take 'em home, the school system can and will disable any that inexplicably "disappear."

[Image courtesy of OLPCNews]

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