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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When did modern culture begin?

Science and techno world topic: Culture

Researchers have found new evidence of modern culture's beginnings in a cave in South Africa. These findings may indicate that 'modern behavior as we know it' has existed for longer than previously thought. 

Poisoned-tipped arrows and jewelry made of ostrich egg beads found in South Africa show modern culture may have emerged about 30,000 years earlier in the area than previously thought, according to two articles published on Monday.
Border Cave in South Africa was occupied by humans for tens of thousands of years.  
The findings published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" show that the 44,000-year-old artifacts are characteristic of the San hunter-gatherers. The descendants of San people live today in southern Africa, so the items can clearly be traced forward to modern culture, unlike other archaeological finds, researchers said.
South African researcher Lucinda Backwell said the findings are the earliest known instances of "modern behavior as we know it." Backwell said the discovery reinforces the theory that modern man came from southern Africa.
The carbon dating on the items shows that traces of the San culture may have existed earlier than the previous estimate of somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, the journal said.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Uganda Ebola outbreak: patients flee hospital amid contagion fears

Science and techno world topic: Health

The Ebola virus causes hemorrhagic fever, an acute disease characterised by high fever and bleeding into the skin. 
Ebola outbreak in Uganda claims at least 14 lives as health officials battle to stem spread of deadly virus

Terrified patients fled from a hospital in western Uganda as soon as news broke that a mysterious illness that killed at least 14 people in the region was Ebola, one of the world's most virulent diseases.

Ignatius Besisira, a member of parliament for Buyaga East County in the Kibaale district, said people had at first believed the unexplained deaths were related to witchcraft. "Immediately, when there was confirmation that it was Ebola … patients ran out of Kagadi hospital (where some of the victims had died)," he told the Guardian. "Even the medical officers are very, very frightened," he said.

Government officials and a World Health Organisation representative confirmed the Ebola outbreak at a news conference in Kampala on Saturday. "Laboratory investigations done at the Uganda Virus Research Institute ... have confirmed that the strange disease reported in Kibaale is indeed Ebola haemorrhagic fever," they said in a joint statement.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

100 Year Starship: An interstellar leap for mankind?

Science and techno world topic: Future

Is a Pentagon plan for a spaceship travel outside our solar system a crackpot idea, or a visionary blueprint for reaching the stars?

When Jack Sarfatti was 13 years old, he began receiving phone calls from a strange metallic voice that told him he would someday become part of an elite group of scientists exploring uncharted territory. Those calls, which he believes may have come from a computer on a spacecraft, proved a seminal influence on his life and led him to pursue a career that combined mainstream physics with an enduring interest in UFOs and the far-out reaches of science.
For those who might dismiss Sarfatti as a crank, he is quick to point out that he is not interested in debating the reality of little green men, but rather whether the existence of UFOs might prove that the technology required for interstellar travel is possible. “It’s the physics that interests me,” says Sarfatti, who received his PhD in the subject from the University of California.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Termites' crystal backpacks help them go out with bang

Science and techno world topic: Biology

Ageing workers assist soldiers in defending
their colony 
A species of termite has been found to inflict more damage on its enemies as it ages.

When defending their colony, some termites "explode", releasing chemicals that injure intruders.

A previously unknown crystal structure has been discovered that raises the toxicity of their chemical weapons.

As worker termites grow older, they become less able to perform their duties.

Yet this newly discovered structure allows ageing workers to better defend their colony. The research was published today in Science.

When faced with a threat, many termite species employ a type of altruistic suicide known as "autothysis" in order to deter attackers.

In a few species, workers join "soldier" termites in the defence of their colony and perform these acts of suicidal defence.

However, a twist to this system has been discovered in a species from French Guiana.

"My PhD student, Thomas Bourguignon, was studying termite community ecology and collecting species when, casually, he found something really special," Prof Yves Roisin from the Free University of Brussels told BBC News.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Save time with these three Chrome extensions

Science and techno world topic: PROBLEM SOLVER

Navigate around and between Web pages without clicking, browse faster by loading your next pages automatically, and get a big preview of thumbnail images when you mouse over them.

What makes someone choose one browser over another? Often people use whichever browser is closest at hand: Internet Explorer in Windows and Safari on Macs.
Lots of folks choose Firefox because of the browser's many useful add-ons. But the best reason to go with one browser over another is speed. In my experience, no browser is faster than Google Chrome.

There's no easier way to start an argument among geeks than to claim one browser is the speed champ. If you look hard enough you can find a reliable study naming each of the most popular browsers the fastest.

Of the many browser test results the "real-world" benchmarks reported last August by Compuware's Gomez division seem most trustworthy. 

When it comes to browsing, the only thing better than fast is faster. Here's a quick look at three Chrome extensions that let you spend less time waiting for pages to load.

Give your mouse clicker a break

Add the Click-free Browsing extension to Chrome and put your clicking finger on ice. The program places six arrow icons along the right edge of the browser window. Hover your mouse over them to page up, page down, go to the top or bottom of the page, go back, or go forward.

Navigate around the page or between recent pages
without clicking via icons added to Chrome by the
Click-free Browsing extension.
When you hover over a link, an arrow icon appears nearby. Move the pointer to the arrow to open the link without pressing the mouse button. You might think the arrow icon would cause you to follow links inadvertently, but the icon is far enough from the mouse pointer that accidental hovers are unlikely. Sliding the pointer quickly over the icon won't open the link, either; it doesn't open until the pointer pauses over the icon.

It takes only a few minutes to get used to the Click-free Browsing arrow icons in the Chrome window. It would be preferable that the page-up and page-down arrows scroll rather than hop a page at a time because sometimes the information wanted to be seen was right at the top or bottom edge of the page.

You can reposition the program's arrow icons, change the speed of various actions, and make other changes to the add-on via its Options window, which is shown below. (To access the options, click Wrench > Tools > Extensions and look for the Click-free Browsing entry.) Pressing Ctrl while hovering lets you open the link in a new tab, go two pages back or forward, and take the action without delay.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Higgs: What was left unsaid

Science and techno world topic: Future, Physics.

Everybody was wowed by the recent discovery of a Higgs-like particle, but how many people really understand what was discovered.

So that’s it, search over, Higgs boson found. Almost 50 years after physicist Peter Higgs first theorised it was out there, public elementary number one has finally been captured in the data from two detectors at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern. Case closed. Champagne popped. Boson nova danced.

If only. That handily simplified and heavily fictionalised telling of the tale has helped transform a spectacular scientific success story into one that is also global front page news. Without it the 4 July announcement might not have generated such a frenzy of coverage and so many claims about it being a historic milestone for our species. One particle physicist only half jokingly told me that in future the date may come to be celebrated as Higgs Day, rather than anything to do with American independence.       

Don’t get me wrong. What has happened at Cern represents a magnificent accomplishment; big science at its biggest and boldest. And it’s fantastic that it has been perceived and received as being of such importance. It’s just that there is more to the story from the very beginning right through to the, probably false, ending. 

For starters, as Peter Higgs himself acknowledges, he was just one of several scientists who came up with the mechanism which predicted the particle which bears his name, but the others rarely get a mention*. As to the finish – well, as small children are fond of saying, are we there yet? There is very strong evidence that the LHC teams have found a new elementary particle, but while this is exciting it is far less clear that what they’ve detected is the fabled Higgs.   If it is, it seems curiously lighter than expected and more work is needed to explain away the discrepancy. If it’s not, then the experimentalists and theorists are going to be even busier trying to see if it can be shoehorned into the current Standard Model of particle physics. Either way, it’s not exactly conclusive.

Lead exposure affects teenage memory

Science and techno world topic: Environment

*The metal found in the environment, is accumulating in the blood to alter the creative processes of young.

MEXICO CITY - Experts from the National Institute of Perinatology in Mexico City, claim that the lead found in the environment has a negative impact on memory processes of adolescents. 

Dr. Carmen Hernandez Chavez, a specialist at the National
Institute of Perinatology.
According to the study, teens who accumulated the highest concentration of lead in blood when they were between one and five years had difficulty with memory tasks applied. In the words of Dr. Carmen Hernandez Chavez, a specialist of the Institute, the problem could be a trigger for future complications related to their creative abilities. 

Dr. Hernández Chávez contributed to the research by studying a sample of more than 91 subjects. Half of them were exposed for a period of 10 years to environmental factors which dominated the lead. This sample was taken from the Prospective Study of Lead in Mexico City. 

He noted that members of the study were assessed continuously through neuropsychological metrics and analysis of blood samples that showed concentrations of lead in blood. 

"Adolescents were presented with a list of 12 words in three trials, then asked to repeat all the words in any order, but a tendency to repeat the same answer was noticed." 

The study results also showed that the boys showed lack of cognitive flexibility, ie, they had difficulty in introducing changes in thinking or using strategies for solving a given task. 

Finally, the researcher noted that the current Mexican Official Standard may be underestimating the damages done by lead, as they set the standard "accepted" is from zero to ten micrograms per deciliter of blood lead. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is Planet Gliese 581g Really the 'First Potentially Habitable' Alien World?

Science and techno world topic: Space

Image: This artist's conception shows the inner four planets of the Gliese 581 system and their host star. The large planet in the foreground is Gliese 581g, which is in the middle of the star's habitable zone and is only two to three times as massive as Earth. Some researchers aren't convinced Gliese 581g exists, however.
Nearly two years after spotting Gliese 581g, the celebrated "first potentially habitable" alien world, the planet's discoverers continue to fight for its existence.

The discovery of Gliese 581g made headlines around the world in September 2010, because the planet was said to orbit in the middle of its star's "habitable zone" — that just-right range of distances where liquid water, and perhaps life as we know it, could exist.

Just a few weeks later, however, another prominent research team began casting doubt on the find, saying the alien planet didn't show up in their observations. This group, led by Michel Mayor of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, had found the previously known four planets in the Gliese 581 system.

But in a new study that will be published Aug. 1, 581g's discoverers examine the Swiss team's since-expanded data set and take issue with their conclusions, saying that the evidence supports the planet's existence after all.

The data and analyses "point to there being at least one other planet beyond the confirmed 4, a 5th planet, with a period in the 26-39-day regime," lead author Steve Vogt, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told SPACE.com via email. 

Image: The orbits of planets in the Gliese 581 system are compared to those of our own solar system. The Gliese 581 star has about 30 percent the mass of our sun, and the outermost planet is closer to its star than we are to the sun. Gliese 581d might be able to sustain liquid water on its surface.
"This 5th planet would have a mass of only 2-3 [times that of] Earth, and would orbit pretty much squarely in the star's habitable zone," he added.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What is the future of food? Will there be high rise farms?

Science and techno world topic: Future

Salads of the future may still be served in bowls, but their ingredients might be grown in skyscrapers.

That's the hope of scientists and architects who are erecting a unique strategy to feed a swelling population on a planet with finite farmland.

"In another 40 years, there'll be another three billion people. That's the problem," said Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University in New York. "We have to find another way to feed them."

Photo: The Pyramid Farm may be one way to address the needs of a swelling population on a planet with finite farmland, according to designers Dickson Despommier at New York's Columbia University and Eric Ellingsen of the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Design teams around the world have been rolling out concepts for futuristic skyscrapers that house farms instead of—or in addition to—people as a means of feeding city dwellers with locally-grown crops.

One solution, Despommier believes, is to grow everything from salad greens to staple grains year-round in high-rise buildings at the hearts of urban centers.

This so-called vertical farming could put food within easy reach for billions of people while reducing carbon emissions from shipping crops across continents and oceans, he notes.

"[The concept] is based on technologies already in use throughout the world, mainly high-tech greenhouses," Despommier said.

For example, many existing greenhouses use hydroponics, a technique for growing crops in smaller spaces using nutrient-enriched water instead of soil.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Will we ever… run 100m in under nine seconds?

Science and techno world topic: Future

To understand how fast a human can ultimately run, we need to go beyond the record books and understand how Usain Bolt's legs work.

To understand how fast a human can ultimately run, we need to go beyond the record books and understand how Usain Bolt's legs work.

In 2008, at the Beijing Olympic Games, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt ran the 100m in just 9.69 seconds, setting a new world record. A year later, Bolt surpassed his own feat with an astonishing 9.58-second run at the 2009 Berlin World Championships. With the 2012 Olympic Games set to begin in London, the sporting world hopes Bolt will overcome his recent hamstring problems and lead yet another victorious attack on the sprinting record. He is arguably the fastest man in history, but just how fast could be possibly go?

That’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer, and ploughing through the record books is of little help. “People have played with the statistical data so much and made so many predictions. I don’t think people who work on mechanics take them very seriously,” says John Hutchinson, who studies how animals move at the Royal Veterinary College in London, UK.

The problem is that the progression of sprinting records is characterised by tortoise-like lulls and hare-like… well… sprints. People are getting faster, but in an unpredictable way. From 1991 to 2007, eight athletes chipped 0.16 seconds off the record. Bolt did the same in just over one year. Before 2008, mathematician Reza Noubary calculated that “the ultimate time for [the] 100 meter dash is 9.44 seconds.” Following Bolt’s Beijing performance, he told Wired that the prediction “would probably go down a little bit”.

John Barrow from the University of Cambridge – another mathematician – has identified three ways in which Bolt could improve his speed: being quicker off the mark; running with a stronger tailwind; and running at higher altitudes where thinner air would exert less drag upon him. These tricks may work, but they’re also somewhat unsatisfying. We really want to know whether flexing muscles and bending joints could send a sprinter over the finish line in 9 seconds, without relying on environmental providence.

To answer that, we have to look at the physics of a sprinting leg. And that means running headfirst into a wall of ignorance. “It’s tougher to get a handle on sprinting mechanics than on feats of strength or endurance,” says Peter Weyand from Southern Methodist University, who has been studying the science of running for decades. By comparison, Weyand says that we can tweak a cyclist’s weight, position and aerodynamic shape, and predict how that will affect their performance in the Tour de France. “We know down to 1%, or maybe even smaller, what sort of performance bumps you’ll get,” he says. “In sprinting, it’s a black hole. You don’t have those sorts of predictive relationships.”

Our ignorance is understandable. By their nature, sprints are very short, so scientists can only make measurements in a limited window of time. On top of that, the factors that govern running speed are anything but intuitive.

Vast aquifer found in Namibia could last for centuries

Science and techno world topic: Environment

A newly discovered water source in Namibia could have a major impact on development in the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa.

Pressure from the aquifer means the water is cheap to extract 
Estimates suggest the aquifer could supply the north of the country for 400 years at current rates of consumption.
Scientists say the water is up to 10,000 years old but is cleaner to drink than many modern sources.

However, there are concerns that unauthorized drilling could threaten the new supply.

Huge resource

For the people of northern Namibia water is something that they either have too much of or too little.

The 800,000 people who live in the area depend for their drinking water on a 40-year-old canal that brings the scarce resource across the border from Angola.

Over the past decade the Namibian government has been trying to tackle the lack of a sustainable supply in partnership with researchers from Germany and other EU countries.

They have now identified a new aquifer called Ohangwena II, which flows under the boundary between Angola and Namibia.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pumping Up Plankton

Science and techno world topic: Climate change

The idea of fighting global warming by dumping iron in the oceans to fertilize plankton—tiny plants that absorb carbon dioxide—gets a new boost today with a study in the journal Nature (pictured: a natural plankton bloom off Antarctica).

One of several last-ditch fixes proposed to fight climate change, iron dumping has long been proposed as a "geoengineering" strategy—a way to manipulate the climate to reduce the effects of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Some studies, however, have suggested that, over time, iron fertilization can create low- to no-oxygen conditions—dangerous for marine life—or trigger blooms of types of plankton that are harmful to some organisms.

The new study, though, finds no evidence for these concerns. Instead, most of the plankton in iron-enriched waters falls to the seafloor and gets buried in ocean sediments, which trap carbon long-term, the study found.

Scientists Learn How to Turn Innovations into Jobs

Science and techno world topic: Research

Many of today's best researchers and scientists need someone to show them the money. They face the same dilemma that alchemists faced centuries ago: how do you turn basic research (a base metal) into a commercially viable business (gold)?  The National Science Foundation thinks its innovative I-Corps program will succeed where the alchemists failed.  The early results are promising.

The NSF's I-Corps program, now one year into a three-year pilot program, teaches top scientists and engineers how to turn their fundamental research discoveries into successful businesses and jobs.
Teams composed of academic researchers, student entrepreneurs (undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs) and business mentors participate in the six-month program. The curriculum is a hypothesis-based approach to assessing technological readiness that combines two site-based short courses, extensive online coaching and hands-on outreach to potential customers.

 The program merges the structured coursework with guidance from NSF program officers and leading entrepreneurs who have committed their time to the program.

"Academic researchers already have many skills valuable for success in business, such as critical thinking, teamwork and an ability to move in a new direction and learn when a hypothesis proves false," said Errol Arkilic, NSF program director for I-Corps. "The NSF I-Corps builds upon that expertise, introducing researchers to the business community and teaching them to seek, and speak to, the needs of potential customers."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How will you Make a Computer Game for Free

Science and techno world topic: PROBLEM SOLVER

I bet that, if you are an avid gamer, that you have always wanted to make your own game. However, you probably aren't willing to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars into buying a good game making software, without even knowing if it's going to work. Ok, now to the interesting stuff:

  1. Decide which kind of game will it be. Adventure? RPG? FPS? TPS? MMO? RTS?
  2. Decide which engine will you use. Every engine is different, and I suggest 001 if you have no programming knowledge, or Unity, UDK or CryEngine If you have some programming knowledge
  3. Learn how to program, if the engine requires programming knowledge. This is a very important part of the game making process.
  4. Learn the engine. Tinker with it all around, create some basic stuff.
  5. Start small. When I started making games, they were far too complicated, and I hadn't finished a single one in half an year.

Robot swarms aim to bring buildings to life

Science and techno world topic: Future

Meet the man who wants to create architecture that understands everything about us – down to our emotional states – and learns from its mistakes

It doesn’t take much to be considered smart if you’re a building. Add some lights that turn themselves off when nobody is around or install an “intelligent” air conditioning system to regulate the ambient temperature and you’re well on your way. But compared to the living buildings proposed by Akira Mita, today’s smart buildings are the architectural equivalent of single-celled organisms.

Mita is an engineer, not an architect, and it shows in both the sophistication of his designs and the scale of his ambition. Using swarms of robotic sensors that “chase” a structure's human occupants, he wants buildings to understand everything about us, down to our emotional state. These robot sensors will learn from their mistakes, self-regulate using digital “hormones”, and record information over the course of years, building up a record of experiences to be used as “DNA” to program future versions of themselves, or even other buildings.

Hubble spots spiral galaxy that shouldn't exist

Science and techno world topic: Space

*Cosmic structure dates back roughly 10.7 billion years, study says 

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered the oldest known spiral galaxy, a 10.7-billion-year-old anomaly that by all rights shouldn't exist.

An artist’s rendering of galaxy BX442,which is 10.7 billion 
light-years from Earth, and its companion dwarf galaxy
(upper left).
The galactic find, discovered by researchers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, comes as something of a surprise. Other galaxies from such early epochs are clumpy and irregular, not strikingly symmetrical like the newfound spiral, which broadly resembles our own Milky Way.

"The fact that this galaxy exists is astounding," study lead author David Law, of the University of Toronto, said in a statement. "Current wisdom holds that such ‘grand-design’ spiral galaxies simply didn’t exist at such an early time in the history of the universe."

Scanning ancient galaxies

Law and his colleagues used Hubble to snap photos and study the properties of about 300 distant galaxies. The newfound galaxy, which goes by the name BX442, was the only spiral in the bunch, researchers said.

BX442's light has taken about 10.7 billion years to reach us, meaning astronomers are now seeing it as it looked just 3 billion years after the Big Bang that created the universe.

Today, spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way are common throughout the cosmos. But that wasn't the case long ago, when galaxy collisions were much more common, gas raining in from the intergalactic medium fed more dramatic star formation and black holes grew faster than they do now, researchers said.

"The vast majority of old galaxies look like train wrecks," said co-author Alice Shapley of UCLA. "Our first thought was, why is this one so different, and so beautiful?"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How will you find a Lost Cell Phone

Science and techno world topic: PROBLEM SOLVER

Even before your phone is lost, learn its unique code. To do that press the following buttons on your phone keyboard or panel: *#06# Keep the information in a secured place for the day when your phone is missing. After the initial sinking feeling when you realize you've lost your phone, it's important to react swiftly to see whether you can retrieve it or at least cover your bases in terms of changing all of your passwords and logins.

Keep calm: Whether you think you've misplaced it or have actively witnessed someone swiping it from you, don't panic because a cool head will ensure you do the right things first.

Do the obvious first: If you've lost your phone due to momentarily forgetting where you last put it down, call it. Use a friend's cell phone or a landline to dial your phone. If your phone is nearby, you'll hear it and can retrieve it. Alternatively, perhaps someone will answer it and can tell you where it is. Naturally, this will only work if your phone is charged enough.

  • If you don't have a landline or friend's phone available to call, try calling from your computer using a program like Gmail or Skype. 

Get the Microsoft Office 2013 Customer Preview right now

Science and techno world topic: Internet

Get your hands on the Customer Preview of Office 2013 right now, don't wait.

Microsoft announced the latest version of its popular productivity suite, Office 2013. The Office suite has been reworked with Windows 8 and touch-screen tablets in mind. One more key feature is that it will rely heavily on the cloud.

If you're eager to get your hands on this new set of tools, you'll be glad to know you won't have to wait. Microsoft has posted a Customer Preview of Office 2013 here. You'll need to be running Windows 7 or the Release Preview of Windows 8 in order to install it. You will notice the Customer Preview runs a preview of Office 365 Home Premium Preview. In the end, you're still able to use the newly announced features, but have to go through Office 365 to do so.

Microsoft previews tools for new Office, SharePoint apps

Science and techno world topic: Internet

Developers who want to sell their add-in applications in the coming Office Store can check out the preview of Microsoft's newest toolset.

Microsoft today released a preview build of a new toolset codenamed "Napa," which is aimed at those building application add-ins for the coming versions of Office and SharePoint.

The Office 365 development tools (Napa) are designed to accommodate the "new Cloud App Model" in the more cloud-centric Office 15 wave of products, according to a new blog post from Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jason Zander. This new model allows apps to be hosted on SharePoint, Windows Azure Web sites or a user's own server.

The new Office apps and add-ins -- which are codenamed "Agaves" -- can be hosted in the cloud and/or published and sold through the new Office Store. Enterprise IT users also can be privately distribute Napa-developed apps via an internal App Catalog, Zander noted.

Microsoft's definition of Office apps is worth nothing. A new MSDN Article about Office apps explains:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New Expedition 32 Trio Arrives at Station

Science and techno world topic: Space

The Soyuz TMA-05M carrying Expedition 32 crew members Yuri Malenchenko, Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide approaches the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

Expedition 32 Flight Engineers Suni Williams, Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide have arrived at the International Space Station after two days in orbit. The new trio docked its Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft to the Rassvet module at 12:51 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

Williams, Malenchenko and Hoshide will join current station residents Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Sergei Revin when the hatches open a little over three hours later.

The hatches between the Soyuz and the Rassvet module will open in about 2-1/2 hours, and Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Sergei Revin will greet their new crewmates. The six-member crew also will conduct a welcoming ceremony with family and mission officials then undergo a safety briefing.

Source: NASA

Monday, July 16, 2012

Giant ice telescope hunts for dark matter's space secrets

Science and techno world topic: Physics

Scientists are using the world's biggest telescope, buried deep under the South Pole, to try to unravel the mysteries of tiny particles known as neutrinos, hoping to shed light on how the universe was made.

The mega-detector, called IceCube, took 10 years to build 2,400 meters below the Antarctic ice. At one cubic km, it is bigger than the Empire State building, the Chicago Sears Tower - now known as Willis Tower - and Shanghai's World Financial Center combined.

Designed to observe neutrinos, which are emitted by exploding stars and move close to the speed of light, the telescope is attracting new attention in the wake of last week's discovery of a particle that appears to be the Higgs boson - a basic building block of the universe.

"You hold up your finger and a hundred billion neutrinos pass through it every second from the sun," said Jenni Adams, a physicist at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, who works on IceCube.
IceCube is essentially a string of light detectors buried in the ice through hot water drilling. When neutrinos, which are everywhere, interact in the ice, they produce charged particles that then create light, which can be detected.

Facebook 'likes' and adverts' value doubted

Science and techno world topic: Internet

A BBC investigation suggests companies are wasting large sums of money on adverts to gain "likes" from Facebook members who have no real interest in their products.

It also appears many account holders who click on the links have lied about their personal details.

A security expert has said some of the profiles appeared to be "fakes" run by computer programs to spread spam.

Facebook said it had "not seen evidence of a significant problem".

"Likes" are highly valued by many leading brands' marketing departments.

Once a user has clicked on a link the company it belongs to can then post content on their news feed, send them messages and alert their friends to the connection.

Facebook makes money by charging companies a fee to show adverts designed to attract new "likes".

Some companies have attracted millions of "likes". 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Brave New World Of Tomorrow's Tablets

Science and techno world topic: Future

Tablets with paper-thin screens that can be folded and tucked into your back pocket, artificial intelligence and augmented reality -- the stuff of science fiction may be coming to a store near you.
It's been two years since Apple Inc launched the iPad and spawned rival tablets from the likes of Samsung Electronics Co, Amazon.com Inc, Sony Corp, and now Google Inc and Microsoft Corp.

Much of the competition so far has centered on making smartphone and tablets lighter, slimmer, faster and longer-running than their predecessors, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. The increasingly crowded marketplace is also galvanizing hardware designers and software engineers to explore new technologies that may revolutionize the look and feel of mobile devices in coming years.

"We should think beyond just the touch-screen device," said Lin Zhong, a professor at Rice University who does research on mobile systems. "Why do we have to hold tablets, carry many displays? We should think about wearable computers."

Next home for Retina: Apple's TV display?

Science and techno world topic: Technology

Apple's focus on display tech is driving it to make an HDTV, says Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate.

Image: Apple's third-generation iPad Retina display compared with a standard HDTV screen.
(Credit: Apple)

So, why would Apple make an HDTV? If you're looking for another reason, here's one.
I queried Raymond Soneira, the founder, president, and CEO of DisplayMate Technologies, earlier this week about the timing of the upcoming 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro. Though he wasn't able to address that question, he did give a pretty good answer about why he thinks Apple is going Retina.

Soneira believes Apple will continue to adopt Retina across all "premium" products, including the Apple TV. But it's less about the intrinsic Retina technology than it is about consistency, he believes.

"My...theory is that color consistency and accuracy among all Apple devices is more important for Apple than Retina Display resolution and will be the strategic basis for the eventual launch of an Apple Television," he said.

Citing one of his reports, he continued.

Will we ever... live on the Moon?

Science and techno world topic: Future

Four decades after the Apollo missions, the idea of colonising the Moon is still the stuff of science fiction. But astronomer Phil Plait argues that it is not an issue of whether we can live there, but how and why we want to.

Will mankind once again walk on the lunar surface? I wouldn’t even hesitate to say “yes”, because the future is long, and who in the early 1950s would have dared to predict that we would even land a craft on the Moon within 20 years? But in this case, the answer probably isn’t as interesting as the question itself – more specifically, when, and why, and how will we do it?
I can think of many possible scenarios that could lead to us colonising the Moon: an extended economic boom that allows us to fund ambitious space exploration; a breakthrough in launch costs which makes them drastically cheaper; or the discovery of some vital natural resource on the Moon. But I don’t like betting on breakthroughs.

A better question is then: “What is a likely way we’ll end up with a human presence on the Moon?” Given what we know today and extrapolating from there, I have a thought on how this could happen.

Mind control moves into battle

Science and techno world topic: Future

Technology that taps into a soldier’s thought patterns could soon see action on the battlefield. But some worry about its future applications.
In Afghanistan, some soldiers are said to possess a sixth sense.

They hone their skills at the head of convoys that trundle along the dusty roads of remote mountainous provinces. As they drive, these soldiers scan ahead for signs of roadside bombs: disturbed earth, a glint of metal, or just something that seems out of place. Spotting them can mean the difference between life and death. Those who are half-jokingly said to possess the “sixth sense” are the ones that seem to have an uncanny ability to spot these almost imperceptible signs of danger.

Now, military scientists are beginning to build technologies that would give every soldier this ability, pushing the field of neuroscience from the lab and on to the battlefield.

These devices exploit what neuroscientists call the P300, a wave of brain activity that signifies an unconscious recognition of a visual object, and is so-named because it occurred about 300 milliseconds after stimulation. The P300 can be thought of as the biological basis of the sixth sense.

The problem is that it may take several seconds for the brain to become conscious of what it’s seen, and in Afghanistan, that brief time can mean the difference between spotting a bomb, and driving over it and setting it off.