Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pic of a few Watsons at work

Can Urine Rescue Hydrogen-Powered Cars?

Posted by timothy on Wednesday July 08, @02:43PM
from the use-every-part-of-the-animal dept.
thecarchik writes with this interesting excerpt:"It takes a lot of energy to split hydrogen out from the other atoms to which it binds, either in natural gas or water. Which means energy analysts are skeptical about the overall energy balance of cars fueled by hydrogen. Ohio University researcher Geraldine Botte has come up with a nickel-based electrode to oxidize (NH2)2CO, otherwise known as urea, the major component of animal urine. Because urea's four hydrogen atoms are less tightly bound to nitrogen than the hydrogen bound to oxygen in water molecules, it takes less energy to break them apart."

Emmaline and Michael Kayaking with a friend and Cows

Experimental Video Game Evolves Its Own Content

Posted by Soulskill on Wednesday July 08, @11:09AM
from the ontogeny-recapitulates-giant-lasers dept.
Ken Stanley writes"Just as interest in user-generated content in video games is heating up, a team of researchers at the University of Central Florida has released an experimental multiplayer game in which content items compete with each other in an evolutionary arms race to satisfy the players. As a result, particle system-based weapons, which are the evolving class of content, continually invent their own new behaviors based on what users liked in the past. Does the resulting experience in this game, called Galactic Arms Race, suggest that evolutionary algorithms may be the key to automated content generation in future multiplayer gaming and MMOs?"

Cellphones Increasingly Used As Evidence In Court

Posted by kdawson on Wednesday July 08, @09:02AM
from the we-know-where-you-were-last-summer dept.
Hugh Pickens writes"The NY Times reports that the case of Mikhail Mallayev, who was convicted in March of murder after data from his cellphone disproved his alibi, highlights the surge in law enforcement's use of increasingly sophisticated cellular tracking techniques to keep tabs on suspects before they are arrested and build criminal cases against them by mapping their past movements. But cellphone tracking is raising concerns about civil liberties in a debate that pits public safety against privacy rights. Investigators seeking warrants must provide a judge with probable cause that a crime has been committed, but investigators often obtain cell-tracking records under lower standards of judicial review — through subpoenas, which are granted routinely, or through an intermediate type of court order based on an argument that the information requested would be relevant to an investigation. 'Cell phone providers store an increasing amount of sensitive data about where you are and when, based on which cell towers your phone uses when making a call. Until now, the government has routinely seized these records without search warrants,' said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. Last year the Federal District Court in Pittsburgh ruled that a search warrant is required even for historical phone location records, but the Justice Department has appealed the ruling. 'The cost of carrying a cellphone should not include the loss of one's personal privacy,' said Catherine Crump, a lawyer for the ACLU."

Google Announces Chrome OS, For Release Mid-2010

Posted by timothy on Wednesday July 08, @08:14AM
from the bring-on-the-shiny dept.
Zaiff Urgulbunger writes"After years of speculation, Google has announced Google Chrome OS, which should be available mid-2010. Initially targeting netbooks, its main selling points are speed, simplicity and security — which kind of implies that the current No.1 OS doesn't deliver in these areas! The Chrome OS will run on both x86 and ARM architectures, uses a Linux kernel with a new windowing system. According to Google, 'For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.' Google says that this new OS is separate from Android, as the latter was designed for mobile phones and set-top boxes, whereas Chrome OS is designed 'for people who spend most of their time on the web.'"

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Invisibility cloak modified to make you see things that aren't there

by Laura June, posted Jul 7th 2009 at 10:54AM

The ever-evolving tale of the invisibility cloak makes us want to hang our heads in our hands sometimes, so fraught with frustrations does it seem. Well, another chapter's been added to the tome: researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have devised a way to extend the invisibility principle, allowing an illusion to sit in place of the invisible object. So, say you wanted to use an invisibility cloak to mask the presence of your bottle of beer on the table, the new concept -- or 'shroud of lies' as we call it -- would enable you to make it appear that there was a glass of water sitting there, in place of the beer. So how does that work, exactly? Normal, every day invisibility cloaks bend light around a central cavity, whereas the team has now worked out mathematical rules for bending light in other ways, allowing a material to be designed to bend light in the exact way a spoon would, so that the light hitting the material would distort, making it look like a spoon was there. Theoretically, all of this is rather simple and quite sound, though it turns out that there are numberless mechanical obstacles standing in the way of producing such devices. The new illusion-producing device would have to be capable of working without interfering with the invisibility cloak itself (which, if you recall, also can't properly be said to exist). There's no word on when any of this will ever come to fruition of course, but we remain always hopeful

NC State gurus build remote control bats, freak out Dukies and Tar Holes

by Darren Murph, posted Jul 7th 2009 at 9:27AM

Micro-aerial vehicles, or MAVs as they're called in the elusive underground, are far from new, but a team from NC State University is hoping to advance the field with an all new critter. The Robo-Bat is a remote controlled creature that relies on a super elastic shape-memory metal alloy for the joints, which is said to provide a full range of motion while enabling it to "always return to its original position -- a function performed by many tiny bones, cartilage and tendons in real bats." The crew is also utilizing other "smart materials" in the muscular system, giving it the ability to react in real time to environmental changes such as sudden wind gusts. Ideally, this bionic chiropteran would be used to chivvy those who dare step foot on Franklin Street or inside Cameron Indoor Stadium, but in less malicious situations, it could help well-meaning scientists get the bottom of that whole "aerodynamics" thing.

British Library Puts Oldest Surviving Bible Online

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday July 07, @01:57PM
from the greek-to-me dept.
Peace Corps Library writes"BBC reports that about 800 pages of the earliest surviving Christian Bible, the 1,600-year-old Codex Sinaiticus manuscript, have been recovered and put on the Internet. 'The Codex Sinaiticus is one of the world's greatest written treasures,' says Dr. Scot McKendrick, head of Western manuscripts at the British Library. 'This 1,600-year-old manuscript offers a window into the development of early Christianity and first-hand evidence of how the text of the Bible was transmitted from generation to generation.' The New Testament of the Codex Sinaiticus appears in Koine Greek, the original vernacular language, and the Old Testament in the version, known as the Septuagint, that was adopted by early Greek-speaking Christians. For 1,500 years, the Codex Sinaiticus lay undisturbed in a Sinai monastery until it was found in 1844 and split between Egypt, Russia, Germany, and Britain. It is thought to have survived because the desert air was ideal for preservation and because the monastery, on a Christian island in a Muslim sea, remained untouched, its walls unconquered. The British Library is marking the online launch of the manuscript with an exhibition which includes a range of historic items and artifacts linked to the document. 'The availability of the virtual manuscript for study by scholars around the world creates opportunities for collaborative research that would not have been possible just a few years ago.'"

Social Security Numbers Can Be Predicted With Public Information

ScienceDaily (July 7, 2009) — Carnegie Mellon University researchers have shown that public information readily gleaned from governmental sources, commercial data bases, or online social networks can be used to routinely predict most — and sometimes all — of an individual's nine-digit Social Security number.

Alzheimer's Research Pinpoints Antibodies That May Prevent Disease

ScienceDaily (July 7, 2009) — Antibodies to a wide range of substances that can aggregate to form plaques, such as those found in Alzheimer's patients, have been identified in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid of healthy people. Levels of these antibodies decline with age and, in Alzheimer's patients, with increasing progression of the disease.

Close Relationship Between Past Warming And Sea-level Rise

ScienceDaily (July 7, 2009) — A team from the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), along with colleagues from Tübingen (Germany) and Bristol presents a novel continuous reconstruction of sea level fluctuations over the last 520 thousand years. Comparison of this record with data on global climate and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels from Antarctic ice cores suggests that even stabilisation at today's CO2 levels may commit us to sea-level rise over the next couple of millennia, to a level much higher than long-term projections from the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Underground Cave Dating From The Year 1 A.D. Exposed In Jordan Valley

ScienceDaily (July 7, 2009) — An artificial underground cave, the largest in Israel, has been exposed in the Jordan Valley in the course of a survey carried out by the University of Haifa's Department of Archaeology. Prof. Adam Zertal, who headed the excavating team, reckons that this cave was originally a large quarry during the Roman and Byzantine era and was a "one of a kind." Various engravings were uncovered in the cave, including cross markings, and it is assumed that this could have been an early monastery.

Incandescent Bulbs Return To the Cutting Edge

Posted by timothy on Tuesday July 07, @05:09AM
from the abstract-standards-mean-more-flexibility dept.
lee1 writes"A law in the US that is due to take effect in 2012 mandates such tough efficiency standards for lightbulbs that it has been assumed, until recently, that it would kill off the incandescent bulb. Instead, the law has become a case study of the way government regulation can inspire technical innovation. For example, new incandescent technology from Philips that seals the traditional filament inside a small capsule (which itself is contained within the familiar bulb). The capsule has a coating that reflects heat back to the filament, where it is partially converted to light. The sophisticated ($5.00) bulbs are about 30% more efficient than the old-fashioned ($0.25) kind, and should last about three times as long. So they are less economical than compact fluorescents, but should emit a more pleasing spectrum, not contain mercury, and, one supposes, present the utility company with a more desirable power factor."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nanopillar Solar May Cost 10x Less Than Silicon

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Monday July 06, @12:53PM
from the hot-off-the-presses dept.
Al writes"A team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new kind of flexible solar cell that could be far cheaper to make than a conventional silicon photovoltaics. The cells consist of an array of 500-nanometer-high cadmium sulfide pillars printed on top of an aluminum foil — the material surrounding the pillars absorbs light and creates electrons, while the pillars themselves transport the electrons to an electrical circuit. The closely packed pillars trap light between them, helping the surrounding material absorb more. This means the electrons also have a very short distance to travel through the pillars, so there are fewer chances of their getting trapped at defects and its possible to use low-quality, less expensive materials. '"You won't know the cost until you do this using a roll-to-roll process," says lead researchers Ali Javey. "But if you can do it, the cost could be 10 times less than what's used to make [crystalline] silicon panels."'"

Successful Test of Superconducting Plasma Rocket Engine

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Monday July 06, @01:37PM
from the to-superconductivity-and-beyond dept.
xp65 writes to mention that Ad Astra has successfully tested their VX-200 plasma engine at full power in superconducting conditions, the first time such an engine has been tested at those power levels."The VX-200 engine is the first flight-like prototype of the VASIMR® propulsion system, a new high-power plasma-based rocket, initially studied by NASA and now being developed privately by Ad Astra. VASIMR® engines could enable space operations far more efficiently than today's chemical rockets and ultimately they could also greatly speed up robotic and human transit times for missions to Mars and beyond."

Interesting read

An article that looks at how people think. The best point I saw was actually a comment that follows.

People who are 'good at math' are more likely to analyze the law exactly as written and determine logically whether or not he actually violated the law as written. People who are good at math are far more likely to see answers as absolute - either it's absolutely correct or absolutely incorrect.

Most people just look at the first question, which is "Is what he did sick and disgusting, and probably immoral and/or unethical?" To which the answer of course, is an obvious 'yes'. Math people ignore that, because that's not really relevant when it comes to law. The real question is "Did he violate the law as written?" And the answer to that in this case is a pretty clear 'no'.

Carbon ring storage promises 1,000 times higher memory density

by Vladislav Savov, posted Jul 6th 2009 at 8:31AM

Terrifying news, kids: we're growing seriously close to maxing out the density limits of present magnetic memory technology as it becomes increasingly difficult to shrink the necessary grains used in the process. Thankfully, there's a team of German scientists devoted to doing more than standing around and watching the inevitable happen. Cobalt, the element responsible for keeping your precious data intact, typically requires a 50,000 atom fleet for each grain, but boffins from Dresden have found a way to shrink that to a measly flotilla of 50. Without trampling you with technological details, attaching carbon rings to the cobalt reproduces the requisite hexagonal close packed structure, which leads to reduced space requirements. Should this technique prove viable, we can expect yet another race among hard drive makers as they strive to make each other's most capacious drives look downright diminutive. Hit the read link for all the grisly details.

Nitrates May Be Environmental Trigger For Alzheimer’s, Diabetes And Parkinson's Disease

ScienceDaily (July 6, 2009) — A new study by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital have found a substantial link between increased levels of nitrates in our environment and food with increased deaths from diseases, including Alzheimer's, diabetes mellitus and Parkinson's. The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

NSA To Build 20-Acre Data Center In Utah

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday July 02, @07:57AM
from the data-on-the-horizon dept.
Hugh Pickens writes"The Salt Lake City Tribune reports that the National Security Agency will be building a one million square foot data center at Utah's Camp Williams. The NSA's heavily automated computerized operations have for years been based at Fort Meade, Maryland, but the agency began looking to decentralize its efforts following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and accelerated their search after the Baltimore Sun reported that the NSA — Baltimore Gas & Electric's biggest customer — had maxed out the local grid and could not bring online several supercomputers it needed to expand its operations. The agency got a taste of the potential for trouble January 24, 2000, when an information overload, rather than a power shortage, caused the NSA's first-ever network crash, taking the agency 3 1/2 days to resume operations. The new data center in Utah will require at least 65 megawatts of power — about the same amount used by every home in Salt Lake City so a separate power substation will have to be built at Camp Williams to sustain that demand. 'They were looking at secure sites, where there could be a natural nexus between organizations and where space was available,' says Col. Scott Olson, the Utah National Guard's legislative liaison. NSA officials, who have a long-standing relationship with Utah based on the state Guard's unique linguist units, approached state officials about finding land in the state on which to build an additional data center. 'The stars just kind of came into alignment. We could provide them everything they need.'"

Record-Breaking Solar Cells Tailored To Location

Posted by samzenpus on Wednesday July 01, @07:56PM
from the new-and-improved dept.
Urchin writes"The quality of sunlight varies depending on where you live, but off-the-shelf solar cells are all identical. A new solar cell designed by UK firm Quantasol is easily tuned to adapt to the local light conditions, which boosts its long-term performance. Its short-term performance isn't bad though — the single junction solar cell has a peak efficiency greater than any previous device, beating a world record that's stood for 21 years."

Wind powered knitting machine takes the tedium out of your heirloom production

by Laura June, posted Jul 2nd 2009 at 10:33AM

Knitting is one of those acquired crafting skills we just never fully warmed up to. We'll embroider, crochet, or quilt until the sun sets for the last time on the day of the apocalypse, but knitting is just so... boring sometimes. Luckily, ingenious artist Merel Karhof has a solution for the monotony of the knit - purl - knit - purl routine. She's designed and invented a machine that knits all on its own, harnessing the ever-present power of the wind. Called the Wind Knitting Factory, the automatic knitting machine itself looks like a cross between an old-timey coffee grinder and a medieval torture device (which we like about it very much), and knits a scarf in about two hours. This isn't likely to be the type of thing that every hits the retail market, but we'll tell you this: if it did, we'd be first in line. Hit the read links for video, more photos, and an explanation of the machine's design.

Read - Merel Karhof's blog
Read - Show RCA Wind Knitting Factory

Caffeine Reverses Memory Impairment In Mice With Alzheimer's Symptoms

ScienceDaily (July 6, 2009) — Coffee drinkers may have another reason to pour that extra cup. When aged mice bred to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease were given caffeine – the equivalent of five cups of coffee a day – their memory impairment was reversed, report University of South Florida researchers at the Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.