Friday, June 3, 2011

Google Files First Solar Patent, Builds R&D Team

Posted by Soulskill  

from the searching-for-electrons dept.
bizwriter writes"Google has moved beyond investing and using solar power and has started on serious R&D work in the field. Its first patent application in solar energy technology just became public, and the company is staffing a new R&D group 'to develop electricity from renewable energy sources at a cost less than coal' at 'utility scale.'"

Is Identity Theft Overwhelming the IRS?

Posted by Soulskill  

from the taxing-their-resources dept.
coondoggie writes"The number of tax-related identity theft incidents is exploding, and nowhere is that more obvious than at the Internal Revenue Service, which has seen reports rise from 51,702 in 2008 to 248,357 in 2010. While it has programs in place to fight the identity theft issue, it is also hamstrung in many other areas, according to a report out this week (PDF) from the Government Accountability Office. For example, the GAO says the IRS's ability to address identity theft issues is constrained by privacy laws that limit IRS' ability to share identity theft information with other agencies."

Internet Explorer Use Slips Below 55%

Posted by Soulskill  

from the slowly-but-surly dept.
rfc1394 writes with this snippet from an Infoworld report:"Internet Explorer's market share continues to drop like a rock. Net Applications published its numbers for May, and Internet Explorer's total share declined yet again, from 55.11 percent in April to 54.27 percent in May, a drop of [0.84 percent] in one month. Contrast that with Google's Chrome, which rose from 11.94 percent in April to 12.52 percent in May, an increase of [0.58 percent]. In the past year, IE's share of browser usage has dipped from 60.32 percent to 54.27 percent. How long before IE usage drops below 50%?'"

MI6 Swaps Bomb Making Info With Cupcake Recipe On al-Qaeda Website

Posted by samzenpus  

from the now-you're-cooking dept.
The British Intelligence agency has unveiled its latest weapon in the war on terror, cupcake recipes published by the Ellen DeGeneres show. MI6 hacked an online al-Queda magazine replacing instructions about how to “Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom" with a web page of recipes for “The Best Cupcakes in America” from Ellen's show. From the article: "It included a recipe for the Mojito Cupcake – 'made of white rum cake and draped in vanilla buttercream'- and the Rocky Road Cupcake – 'warning: sugar rush ahead!' By contrast, the original magazine featured a recipe showing how to make a lethal pipe bomb using sugar, match heads and a miniature lightbulb, attached to a timer."

When Stressed, Men Charge Ahead, Women More Careful, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2011) — Stress causes men and women to respond differently to risky decision making, with men charging ahead for small rewards and women taking their time, according to a new study in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, published by Oxford University Press. Under stress, men and women also have different brain activation patterns during decision making.

Autism May Have Had Advantages in Humans' Hunter-Gatherer Past, Researcher Believes

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2011) — Though people with autism face many challenges because of their condition, they may have been capable hunter-gatherers in prehistoric times, according to a paper published in the journal Evolutionary Psychologyin May.

Baby Thinking Radiologists Use Light To Scan The Inner Workings Of The Brain

December 1, 2007 — Radiologists have developed a new device to understand brain activity. It is a collection of fiber optic cables attached to a flexible cap placed atop the head. The cables send near-infrared light through the skull and into the brain, where it is diffused or scattered before it is collected by receiver cables. The device is able to interpret the light to measure blood circulation and the amount of oxygen in that blood, which helps explain brain activity.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fear of Dying During a Heart Attack Is Linked to Increased Inflammation

ScienceDaily (June 1, 2011) — Intense distress and fear of dying, which many people experience when suffering the symptoms of a heart attack, are not only fairly common emotional responses but are also linked to biological changes that occur during the event, according to new research published online June 1 in the European Heart Journal. These changes, in turn, are associated with other biological processes during the following weeks that can predict a worse outcome for patients.

Low-Energy Diet Can Improve Sleep Disorder

ScienceDaily (June 1, 2011) — Sufferers of the sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnea could benefit from following a low energy diet to lose weight, finds research published on the British Medical Journal website.

Life-size Angry Birds comes with giant slingshot, more realistic explosive death (video)

By Zach Honig  posted Jun 2nd 2011 6:18AM

Angry Birds was designed to be played on a device that fits in your pocket, so playing the game projected on a wall doesn't exactly feel natural. Throw a life-size slingshot into the mix, though, and things really get zany. The slingshot was on hand at the University of Queensland (Australia) last night, and had apparently been "months in the making." Details are scant, so we're not sure exactly how the slingshot communicates with the game, but however it works, it appears able to do its thing fairly well -- with only a brief delay after release. This slingshot appearance may be a one-time deal, so if you want to try flicking the bird on the big screen, Angry Birds for Chrome (and a mouse) may be your best option for now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No Moon Needed For Extraterrestrial Life

Posted by Soulskill  

from the sheer-luna-cy dept.
sciencehabit writes"Given the generally accepted idea of how Earth got its big moon — through a dramatic collision with a Mars-sized body that knocked a huge chunk of Earth loose — astronomers estimate that only 1% of all Earth-like planets in the universe might actually have such a hefty companion. That would mean planets harboring complex life might be relatively rare. But researchers have now carried out large numbers of detailed numerical simulations of 'moon-less Earths,' which show that the consequences are less dire than is generally assumed. According to the simulations, these planets would have ample time for advanced land life to evolve. As a result, the number of Earth-like extrasolar planets suitable for harboring advanced life could be 10 times higher than has been assumed until now."

Senior Citizens Lining Up to Tackle Fukushima

Posted by samzenpus  

from the greatest-and-most-radioactive-generation dept.
Some have compared them to kamikazes, but the more than 200 elderly volunteers who want clean up the Fukushima power station say they are just being practical. 72-year-old retired engineer Yasuteru Yamada says: "I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live. Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer." So far the government is hesitant to let the volunteers into the power station but Yamada and the others have been lobbying for the right to aid in the clean up. He says: "At this moment I can say that I am talking with many key government and Tepco people. But I am sorry I can't say any more at this moment. It is on the way but it is a very, very sensitive issue politically."

Graphics Algorithm Becomes 8-Bit Vector Perfecter

  • 9:00 am  |  

  • Categories: Culture

    Old-school videogame artwork gets turned into vector graphics using a new algorithm.
    Photo: Hudson Soft/Nintendo. Click to enlarge.
    Two computer science researchers have come up with an algorithm that can take a low-resolution piece of pixel art and upscale it accurately to vector graphics.
    Microsoft’s Johannes Kopf and Dani Lischinski from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem built the algorithm by blending a number of approaches, including pixel analysis and spline curves. These are already used in the vectorization of bitmaps, but as the new algorithm focuses solely on 8-bit pixel art, it can take the art form’s particular quirks into account and produce results with far fewer graphical artifacts than more generalized approaches.
    In the research paper (.pdf) — offline at the time of writing but handily mirrored at Imgur — the pair say:
    Because of the hardware constraints at the time, artists were forced to work with only a small indexed palette of colors, and meticulously arrange every pixel by hand, rather than mechanically downscaling higher-resolution artwork. For this reason, classical pixel art is usually marked by an economy of means, minimalism and inherent modesty, which some say is lost in modern computer graphics.
    As a result, says the paper, every pixel can be a feature on its own, or carry important meaning. Other vectorization algorithms tend to lose detail when they’re given pixel art as an input. The researchers claim their approach is “well-suited to pixel art graphics with features at the scale of a single pixel.”
    You can see some of the results in Wired UK’s gallery. The algorithm doesn’t always work perfectly, admit Kopf and Lischinski, especially when it comes to the anti-aliased Doom face, and there’s also the question of whether certain aspects of pixel art — like Space Invaders — should have nice rounded edges.
    It remains a research project for now, but how awesome would it be to see SNES games upscaled to HD resolution on the forthcoming Wii 2? We hope someone at Nintendo is paying attention.

    Researchers Grow a Brain In a Dish

    Posted by samzenpus  

    from the please-kill-me dept.
    Hugh Pickens writes"Dr. Jeffrey H. Toney writes that a team of biomedical engineers at the University of Pittsburgh led by Henry Zeringue have managed to grow an active brain in a dish, complete with memoriesby culturing brain cells capable of forming networks, complete with biological signals. To produce the models, the Pitt team stamped adhesive proteins onto silicon discs. Once the proteins were cultured and dried, cultured hippocampus cells from embryonic rats were fused to the proteins and then given time to grow and connect to form a natural network. The researchers disabled the cells' inhibitory response and excited the neurons with an electrical pulse which were then able to sustain the resulting burst of network activity for up to what in neuronal time is 12 long seconds compared to the natural duration of .25 seconds. The ability of the brain to hold information 'online' long after an initiating stimulus is a hallmark of brain areas such as the prefrontal cortex. The team will next work to understand the underlying factors that govern network communication and stimulation, such as the various electrical pathways between cells and the genetic makeup of individual cells. 'This is amazing,' writes Toney. 'I wonder what the "memory" could be — could be a good subject for a science fiction story.'"

    Green Crystal 'Rain' Discovered Near Infant Star

    Posted by Soulskill  

    from the somebody-should-stake-a-claim dept.
    An anonymous reader writes with this quote from a NASA press release:"Tiny crystals of a green mineral called olivine are falling down like rain on a burgeoning star, according to observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. This is the first time such crystals have been observed in the dusty clouds of gas that collapse around forming stars. Astronomers are still debating how the crystals got there, but the most likely culprits are jets of gas blasting away from the embryonic star. ... The crystals are in the form of forsterite. They belong to the olivine family of silicate minerals and can be found everywhere from a periodot gemstone to the green sand beaches of Hawaii to remote galaxies. NASA's Stardust and Deep Impact missions both detected the crystals in their close-up studies of comets. ... The findings (abstract) might also explain why comets, which form in the frigid outskirts of our solar system, contain the same type of crystals."

    Human Brain Places Limit On Twitter Friends

    Posted by Soulskill  

    from the some-brains-do-it-better-than-others dept.
    Hugh Pickens writes"Back in early '90s, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar began studying human social groups, measuring the number of people an individual can maintain regular contact with, and came up with 150 — a number that appears to be constant throughout human history — from the size of neolithic villages to military units to 20th century contact books. But in the last decade, social networking technology has had a profound influence on the way people connect, vastly increasing the ease with which we can communicate with and follow others, so it's not uncommon for tweeters to follow and be followed by thousands of others. Now Bruno Goncalves has studied the network of links created by three million Twitter users over four years. After counting tweets that are mutual and regular as signifying a significant social bond, he found that when people start tweeting, their number of friends increases to a saturation point until they become overwhelmed. Beyond that saturation point, the conversations with less important contacts start to become less frequent and the tweeters begin to concentrate on the people they have the strongest links with. So what is the saturation point? The answer is between 100 and 200, just as Dunbar predicts. 'This finding suggests that even though modern social networks help us to log all the people with whom we meet and interact,' says Goncalves, 'they are unable to overcome the biological and physical constraints that limit stable social relations (PDF).'"