Friday, November 5, 2010

‘Invisible’ Material Can Now Fool Your Eyes

By Noah Shachtman November 4, 2010
4:40 pm
Categories: Science!

Don’t start picking out the pattern of your cloak, yet. But invisibility just became a whole lot more likely.

Tech journalists and military dreamers have talked about real-life invisibility cloaks for a while, and with good reason. With their specialized structures, so-called “metamaterials” can bend light around objects, making ‘em disappear.

But you haven’t seen the likes of Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins training at Fort Bragg (Fodo Braggins, maybe?), because the trick doesn’t work with visible light. Metamaterials warp things like infrared light or terahertz waves, neither of which we can see in the first place. In other words, we could still make out the “invisible” object with our own two eyes.

Or at least, that used to be the case. Physicists at the University of St. Andrews appear to have made a breakthrough, however. They’ve created a metamaterial that really does work in the “optical range,” the scientists note in the New Journal of Physics.

Not only did Andrea Di Falco and his research partners put together a metamaterial that could bend visible light. They built it in a way that could lead to larger-scale manufacturing — and real-world applications. Not just cloaks, but lenses made out of metamaterials that can zoom to the micron level, making it possible to spot germs, chemical agents and even DNA, using basically a pair of binoculars.

“It clearly isn’t an invisibility cloak yet — but it’s the right step toward that,” Ortwin Hess, a physicist at Imperial College London, tells the BBC. “A huge step forward in very many ways.”

Typically, metamaterials are built on top of rigid, brittle substrates like silicon. But that limits their size, and the wavelengths at which they work. Di Falco’s group instead made materials out of a superthin layer of flexible polymer, since “a ‘real’ cloaking device would have to be deformable and extend over a large area,” they write. If Di Falco and his partners can stack enough of these materials together — and show they can work while folded — we could be on our way to Hogwarts.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Will Netflix Destroy the Internet?

Posted by CmdrTaco on Thursday November 04, @11:31AM
from the apocalypse-now-now dept.
nicholasjay writes"Netflix is swallowing America's bandwidth and it probably won't be long before it comes for the rest of the world. That's one of the headlines from Sandvine's Fall 2010 Global Internet Phenomena Report , an exhaustive look at what people around the world are doing with their Internet lines. According to Sandvine, Netflix accounts for 20 percent of downstream Internet traffic during peak home Internet usage hours in North America. That's an amazing share — it beats that of YouTube, iTunes, Hulu, and, perhaps most tellingly, the peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol BitTorrent."

Do Firefox Users Pay More For Car Loans?

Posted by CmdrTaco on Thursday November 04, @09:21AM
from the no-wait-hear-me-out dept.
RandyOo writes"Someone wrote in to The Consumerist to report an interesting discovery: while shopping online for a car loan, Capital One offered him different rates, depending on the browser he used! Firefox yielded the highest rate at 3.5%, Opera took second place with 3.1%, Safari was only 2.7%, and finally, Google's Chrome browser afforded him the best rate of all: 2.3%! A commenter on the article claims to have been previously employed by Capital One, and writes: If you model the risk and revenue of applicants, the type of browser shows up as a significant variable. Browsers do predict an account's performance to some degree, and it will affect the rates you will view. It isn't a marketing test. I was still a bit dubious, but at least one of her previous comments backs up her claims to have worked for a credit card company. Considering the outcry after it was discovered that Amazon was experimenting with variable pricing a few years back, it seems surprising that consumers would be punished (or rewarded), based solely on the browser they happen to be using at the time!"

Harry Potter Blamed For India's Disappearing Owls

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday November 04, @12:18AM
from the even-muggles-want-one dept.
GillBates0 writes"Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has blamed fans of Harry Potter for the demise of wild owls in the country as children seek to emulate the boy wizard by taking the birds as pets. 'Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among the urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls,' Ramesh said Wednesday, according to comments reported by the BBC."

Chip Allows Blind People To See

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday November 04, @05:07AM
from the bionic-eye dept.
crabel writes"3 blind people have been implanted with a retinal chip that allowed them to see shapes and objects within days of the procedure. From the article: 'One of the patients surprised researchers by identifying and locating objects on a table; he was also able to walk around a room unaided, approach specific people, tell the time from a clock face, and describe seven different shades of gray in front of him.'"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Good Climate Change Vid

Prepare To Be Watched While You Watch a Movie

Posted by CmdrTaco on Wednesday November 03, @08:44AM
from the i-see-what-you-did-there dept.
BussyB writes"Gaining entry to some movie theaters lately gives patrons an experience that is on par with going through a TSA security checkpoint at the airport. Then once you've gained access, there are cameras strategically positioned that record your every move. Unfortunately, the extent to which these companies monitor movie-goers is only going to get worse."

Brain's Ability to Selectively Focus, Pay Attention Diminishes With Age, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Nov. 2, 2010) — A University of Toronto study shows that visual attention -- the brain's ability to selectively filter unattended or unwanted information from reaching awareness -- diminishes with age, leaving older adults less capable of filtering out distracting or irrelevant information.

A Robot In Every Korean Kindergarten By 2013?

Posted by timothy on Wednesday November 03, @04:29AM
from the here-robot-teachers-are-normal-already dept.
kkleiner writes"Elementary school children in Korea in the cities of Masan and Daegu are among the first to be exposed to EngKey, a robotic teacher. The arrival of EngKey to Masan and Daegu is just a small step in the mechanization of Korean classrooms: the Education Ministry wants all 8400 kindergartens in the nation to have robotic instructors by the end of 2013. Plans are already under way to place 830 bots in preschools by year's end. EngKey can hold scripted conversations with students to help them improve their language skills, or a modified version can act as a telepresence tool to allow distant teachers to interact with children."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Neat Vid

Collecting Your Thoughts: You Can Do It in Your Sleep!

ScienceDaily (Nov. 1, 2010) — It is one thing to learn a new piece of information, such as a new phone number or a new word, but quite another to get your brain to file it away so it is available when you need it.

Global Advance of Shrimp Virus Follows Evolutionary Biology Predictions

ScienceDaily (Nov. 2, 2010) — White spot syndrome virus (WSSV) has a devastating impact on shrimp farming throughout the world. What makes the situation even more serious is that the virus seems to become more aggressive as the epidemic spreads, contrary to other viruses, such as flu virus, that gradually die out. Scientists from Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR, reconstructed the genetic and geographical trajectory of the shrimp virus from the putative ancestral source, and discovered that the fitness of the virus increases over time and the genome shrinks, in a pattern similar to theoretical predictions from evolutionary biology.

Lactate in the Brain Reveals Aging Process

ScienceDaily (Nov. 2, 2010) — Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have shown that they may be able to monitor the aging process in the brain, by using MRI technique to measure the brain lactic acid levels. Their findings suggest that the lactate levels increase in advance of other aging symptoms, and therefore could be used as an indicator of aging and age-related diseases of the central nervous system.

Car Produced With a 3D Printer

Posted by samzenpus on Tuesday November 02, @10:17AM
from the printing-some-wheels dept.
Lanxon writes"A prototype for an electric vehicle - code named Urbee - is the first to have its entire body built with a 3D printer, reports Wired. Stratasys and Winnipeg engineering group Kor Ecologic have partnered to create the electric/liquid fuel hybrid, which can deliver more than 200 miles per gallon on the motorway and 100 miles per gallon in the city."

Breakthrough Portends Cure For the Common Cold

Posted by Soulskill on Tuesday November 02, @08:11AM
from the also-portends-breathless-headlines dept.
breadboy21 writes with this excerpt from the Independent:"Scientists have been able to show for the first time that the body's immune defenses can destroy the common cold virus after it has actually invaded the inner sanctum of a human cell, a feat that was believed until now to be impossible. The discovery opens the door to the development of a new class of antiviral drugs that work by enhancing this natural virus-killing machinery of the cell. Scientists believe the first clinical trials of new drugs based on the findings could begin within two to five years."

Funny quotes from the post

The winner of the Inker
If you and your best friend decide to get matching tattoos, don't go first. (Drew Bennett, West Plains, Mo.)
2. the winner of "The Art of the Bonsai Potato": Even if the traffic reporter on the radio says "backup on the Beltway," it's best not to do it. (Russell Beland, Fairfax)
3. Ask questions -- don't answer them. -- H. Thomas, Washington (Kevin d'Eustachio, Beltsville)
4. A bank teller won't fall for "I come from the future where guns are invisible" when you try to rob her. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village)
Passing fails : Honorable mentions
Slipping your finger in through the leg hole is not best way to check a diaper. (Andy Wolodkin, Frostburg, Md., a First Offender)
Don't hire plumbers to do wiring. -- R. Nixon (Kevin Mellema, Falls Church)
Don't pack last year's summer clothes and expect that they haven't shrunk in the past 12 months. (Beverley Sharp, Washington)
Besides love, you might need a bodyguard. -- J. Lennon, No Heaven (Randy Lee, Burke)
Bowling your age is apparently nothing to brag about. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn)
Never marry into a family who thinks your name is "Him."(Lawrence McGuire, Waldorf)
If you step on something while going down a staircase in the dark and begin to fall, well, it would have been better not to do that.(Andy Wolodkin)
Always take the deep breath before putting the blow gun to your lips. (Russell Beland)
Home repair Web sites suggest you put Cheerios in your toilet to show whether a clog has been cleared. They should have also said that undigested Cheerios are better for this. (Dion Black, Washington)
Dropping a bug into a bottle of liquor doesn't make it taste "just like tequila." (Bird Waring, Larchmont, N.Y.)
Dudes in a Liverpool pub tend not to agree that soccer players are a bunch of sissies who could never play real, American football. (Chris Doyle, Ponder, Tex.)
Priests don't think it's funny if you do a spit take at communion. (Roy Ashley, Washington)
The five-second rule does not apply to hypodermic needles. (Jon Graft, Centreville)
The first shot of water coming out of that hose that's been lying in the sun in all day will not cool down Mom. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney)
After eight hours of playing tennis, toss a coin. -- Nicolas Mahut, France (Edmund Conti, Raleigh, N.C.)
Don't get too attached to your horse. -- Catherine the Great (Beverley Sharp)
While duct tape will work for any job, it's not the first choice for birth control. (Russell Beland)

If you release doves at your wedding, cover the cake. (Beverley Sharp)
There are better Twitter names than CrazedSexPoodle. -- A. Gore(John Cogburn, Southlake, Tex.)
Before you drench the odd and shy new girl with a bucket of pig's blood, check the newspapers from the last town she lived in. (Stephen Dudzik)
If you want to get printed in a contest like this, you have to make sure that you stick to the rules and limit your entry to thirty words or. (Russell Beland)
And actual Fails They Learned From:
Dialing 1-800-724-2400 will result not in the message "Welcome to M&T Bank," but rather "Welcome to 1-888-FREESEX." (Katherine Stinson, Chevy Chase, a First Offender)
Do not tie your Christmas tree to the top of your car and go through the car wash. Although the deluxe hot wax does keep the needles on. (Ann Walker Smalley, Apple Valley, Minn., a First Offender)
During Easter services, if your child is playing connect-the-dots with the hymnal, resist the temptation to shout "No!" because the priest may have just asked, "Do you reject Satan?" (Jeff Contompasis)
Don't dye your hair while your toddlers are home with you, unless the color you're looking for is Cheetos. (Jennifer Fleming, Severna Park, a First Offender)

GE Buying 'Tens of Thousands' of EVs

General Electric is betting big on EVs. Here's why, and why Renault-Nissan may be the big winner.

11 Trailblazing Electric Vehicles

As the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf roll silently over the horizon, we look back at some of the most important cars with cords.

EV Days Are Here Again

Automakers are taking another stab at the electric vehicles. It didn't work in the 1990s. So what's different this time? Everything.

UV Light Nearly Doubles Vacuum's Effectiveness in Reducing Carpet Microbes

ScienceDaily (Nov. 1, 2010) — New research suggests that the addition of ultraviolet light to the brushing and suction of a vacuum cleaner can almost double the removal of potentially infectious microorganisms from a carpet's surface when compared to vacuuming alone.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Play Zork on an Arduino-controlled typewriter

Jonathan Guberman of Toronto's Site 3 coLaboratory hackerspace wrote in to share his Automatypewriterproject:
Introducing the Automatypewriter, a new way to experience interactive fiction! It's still a little rough around the edges (in particular, you can see that the spacebar sticks a little, and the whole thing needs to be tidied up), but you get the idea: the Automatypewriter is a typewriter that can type on its own, as well as detect what you type on it. By reading what it types to you and responding, it can be used interactively to play a game or participate in a story (in this case, Zork).

Immune System Killer Mechanism Identified

Posted by samzenpus on Monday November 01, @03:39AM
from the cancer-killer dept.
traveller.ct writes"Researchers from Melbourne and London have identified the mechanism by which the immune system destroys malignant cells. The notion of killer cells puncturing a malignant cell to inject toxic enzymes has been understood for over a century, but now, using the Australian Synchrotron, researchers have identified the protein which is responsible for forming a pore in the malignant cell: perforin. Perforin resembles the cellular weaponry employed by bacteria such as anthrax, but may have been appropriated by our immune system in our evolutionary past to fight against them. The researchers are now investigating ways to boost perforin for more effective cancer protection and therapy for acute diseases such as cerebral malaria."