Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Confused school district fires sysadmin for running SETI@home: 'As an educational institution we do not support the search for E.T.'

By Nilay Patel posted Dec 2nd 2009 3:24PM

We've dealt with a number of confused and outright foolish school administrators in our time, but it seems like Arizona's Higley Unified School District might be run by the most bonkers of the bunch: they've fired IT director Brad Niesluchowski for running SETI@Home on some 5,000 of the district's machines. Why? According to confidently-underinformed superintendent Denise Birdwell, Higley Unified "certainly would have supported cancer research," but does "not support the search for E.T." Well, that's just peachy -- except that her flippant dismissal of SETI belies a complete ignorance of one of the oldest and most respected distributed-computing projects in the world, and what it's actually looking for. Oh, but it gets worse: Birdwell thinks SETI@home -- which primarily runs as a screensaver -- was somehow slowing down "educational programs in every classroom," and magically estimates that it's cost her district "$1 million in added utility fees and replacement parts," with a further huge cost required to remove the software. Completing her transformation into the worst-possible stereotype of a school district superintendent, Birdwell's even got the local cops on the case. Yeah, it's idiotic, but it could be worse -- we can only imagine the hell that would have broken loose had Higley's machines been a part of the renegade Engadget Folding@home team.

Musical Tesla Coils Perform Zelda

Posted by CmdrTaco on Wednesday December 02, @12:46PM
from the nerds-with-time dept.
heychris writes"You've gotta love the Chicago Tribune's story on Tesla Coil hobbyists from the first sentence. 'Under a starry Saturday sky behind a Lake Zurich warehouse, three men unload a small flamethrower, electric cabling, neon-tube "light sabers," about 80 pounds of chain mail and two 7-foot devices that look like monster-movie props.' So what does one do with 1.6 million (sorry, not 1.21 jigga-) watts and a Tesla coil or two? Play 110dB music, of course."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cool-Tether Links Phones' Bandwidth To Make High-Speed Hotspots

Barence writes "Microsoft Research has found a novel way of beating the deplorably slow speeds of mobile broadband, by combining several phones together to make one high-speed hotspot. Dubbed Cool-Tether, the system harnesses the mobile data connection of multiple mobile handsets to build an on-the-fly Wi-Fi hotspot. 'To address the challenges of energy efficiency, Cool-Tether carefully optimises the energy drain of the WAN (GPRS/EDGE/3G) and Wi-Fi radios on smartphones,' Microsoft's research paper claims. 'We prototype Cool-Tether on smartphones and, experimentally, demonstrate savings in energy consumption between 38%-71% compared to prior energy-agnostic solutions.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

DIY cat feeder now enabled by a Cisco switch, streams food and video

By Richard Lai posted Nov 30th 2009 11:58PM

You know, there are times when you have to part ways with your adorable kitties at home, and you might not be so keen on getting a cat sitter in case he or she touches your precious game consoles (even if it's an old granny). We've seen the lazy man's solution before, but Britain's Mathew Newton has brought us a new DIY internet-enabled cat feeder just in time for a new decade. Rather than using a CD-ROM tray to push-release unknown quantities of cat food, Mathew's version has a motor-driven cereal dispenser controlled by signal from port status LEDs on a Cisco switch -- an ingenious way to avoid expensive Ethernet relay units. When it's feeding time the user logs onto a web interface to choose the dispensing quantity, or you can also have an automatic feed schedule set up if you trust the system -- Mathew said he "can rely on it 100%," and his cats do appear to be healthy. Fortunately, you can always check the live video stream just in case you have doubts. All is explained in the video after the break.

Scientists Create Artificial Meat

Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that scientists have created the first artificial meat by extracting cells from the muscle of a live pig and putting them in a broth of other animal products where the cells then multiplied to create muscle tissue. Described as soggy pork, researchers believe that it can be turned into something like steak if they can find a way to 'exercise' the muscle and while no one has yet tasted the artificial meat, researchers believe the breakthrough could lead to sausages and other processed products being made from laboratory meat in as little as five years' time. '"What we have at the moment is rather like wasted muscle tissue. We need to find ways of improving it by training it and stretching it, but we will get there," says Mark Post, professor of physiology at Eindhoven University. "You could take the meat from one animal and create the volume of meat previously provided by a million animals." Animal rights group Peta has welcomed the laboratory-grown meat, announcing that "as far as we're concerned, if meat is no longer a piece of a dead animal there's no ethical objection while the Vegetarian Society remained skeptical. "The big question is how could you guarantee you were eating artificial flesh rather than flesh from an animal that had been slaughtered. It would be very difficult to label and identify in a way that people would trust.""

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Monday, November 30, 2009

In Motor Learning, New Brain Connections Form Rapidly

Posted by kdawson on Monday November 30, @04:48AM
from the reaching-out dept.
Science Daily has a report on research demonstrating directly that new connections begin to form between brain cells almost immediately as animals learn a new task. A team lead by researchers at UC Santa Cruz performed"...detailed observations of the rewiring processes that take place in the brain during motor learning. The researchers studied mice as they were trained to reach through a slot to get a seed. They observed rapid growth of... synapses between nerve cells in the motor cortex... The study used mice that had been genetically altered to make a fluorescent protein within certain neurons in the brain. The researchers were then able to use a special microscopy technique (two-photon microscopy) to obtain clear images of those neurons near the surface of the brain. The noninvasive imaging technique enabled them to view changes in individual brain cells of the mice before, during, and after the mice were trained in the seed-reaching task."

Air Cannon Ties Pirates In Knots

Posted by kdawson on Sunday November 29, @11:20PM
from the in-ur-seas-twistin-ur-propeller dept.
Hugh Pickens writes"Numerous high-tech devices have been proposed to help ships cope with piracy on the high seas. Now a company has developed a ship-borne launching device that fires a net or coiled rope into the path of pirate vessels using compressed air with a range of up to a range of 400m. The payload net or rope, which has a parachute attached to the end, will unravel and lay out across the surface of the water so that as the pirate boat travels through the water its propeller shaft will pick up the line and become entangled. 'With the trials and testing we've done,it has taken us some 45 minutes to cut and disentangle the line from the propeller itself,' says Jonathan Delf. 'Within that time of course, the target ship is on its way and hopefully help has arrived in the form of naval forces or helicopter support.' The system can be fired up to five times off just a cylinder of air like a simple scuba tank."The video mentions that the device can also fire a payload of golf balls. The systems have recently be sold to "several large shipping companies that travel near the oil-rich Nigerian Delta, which, like the Somalian coast, is rife with piracy."