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posted by martyb on Friday March 27, @07:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the looking-back-in-time dept.

Universe Today has an article on using astronomical images captured on glass plates which date back to the 19th century to study the change in stars and galaxies over the past 130 years.

“The images captured on these plates remain incredibly valuable to science, representing a century of data on stars and galaxies that can never be replaced,” writes astronomer Michael Shara, who is Curator in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, who discussed the plates and their significance in a new episode of AMNH’s video series, “Shelf Life.”

The history of the plates, and the effort to digitise the images and use them to generate data, are discussed at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) Shelf Life page, and links data sets and volunteer efforts to transcribe the associated astronomy logbooks from Harvard's "Digital Access to a Sky Century @ Harvard" (DASCH) Project.

posted by janrinok on Friday March 27, @05:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the poke-his-eye-out dept.

SRI International, a Menlo Park, California-based biosciences research house, today announced an exclusive license of Iris on the Move® (IOM) technologies to Samsung for use in Samsung mobile products. Additionally SRI has entered into a supply agreement to start production and sales of the IOM technology-embedded Samsung mobile products for B2B applications. The initial product for this supply agreement will be a customized Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 tablet with a built-in IOM iris module.

The product will be introduced in the SIA New Product Showcase at ISC West 2015 (the largest security industry trade show in the U.S.) and offered worldwide through SRI partners and resellers. This new model will provide fast, easy-to-use, and accurate biometric identity management solutions to its users. Tests have shown this purely iris-based solution to be more than 1,000 times more accurate than published fingerprint data.

More here.

posted by janrinok on Friday March 27, @03:14AM   Printer-friendly

A new plastic waste recycler can convert failed 3D projects or scraps into new filament to use in your 3D printer:

3-D printers are getting cheaper and faster – this week the company CarbonD announced a 3-D printer that the company claims is 25 times faster than the average starting at around $2,500; meanwhile the Xyz home-oriented printer can be had for about $500.

As with regular printers, however, so with the 3-D versions – supplies are another story. The spools of plastic "ink" used in 3-D printers are not so cheap – about $30 a spool – and depending on what the printer is printing, could end up as nothing more than an expensive blob of waste plastic.

Three students at the University of British Columbia – Dennon Oosterman, Alex Kay, and David Joyce – have come up with a way to reduce the waste as well as the cost of 3-D printing. The three have designed an instant plastic recycling machine for home and small-business 3-D printers. The unique feature of this consumer-oriented extruder is that it has a built-in function to grind and pound plastic waste – like pieces of the lids from coffee cups – into small pellets. The machine, called a ProtoCycler, accepts ABS and PLA plastic waste, though each batch of waste for making into new "ink" filaments must come from the same type of plastic.

The ProtoCycler can then extrude new plastic filaments from the pellets at a rate of 5 to 10 feet per minute. That's faster than traditional extruders. The ProtoCycler machine also uses less energy than typical plastic filament-producing equipment, so it is more efficient. Colors will be able to be added to the filaments.

posted by janrinok on Friday March 27, @01:04AM   Printer-friendly
from the kamouflaged-kermit dept.

Carrie Arnold reports at National Geographic that on a nighttime walk through Reserva Las Gralarias in Ecuador in 2009, Katherine Krynak spotted a well-camouflaged, marble-size amphibian that was covered in spines. The next day, Krynak pulled the frog from the cup and set it on a smooth white sheet of plastic for Tim to photograph. It wasn't "punk "--it was smooth-skinned. She assumed that, much to her dismay, she must have picked up the wrong frog. "I then put the frog back in the cup and added some moss," says Krynak. "The spines came back... we simply couldn't believe our eyes, our frog changed skin texture! I put the frog back on the smooth white background. Its skin became smooth."

Krynak didn't find another punk rocker frog until 2009, three years after the first sighting. The second animal was covered in thorny spines, like the first, but they had disappeared when she took a closer look. The team then took photos of the shape-shifting frog every ten seconds for several minutes, watching the spines form and then slowly disappear. It's unclear how the frog forms these spines so quickly, or what they're actually made of. The discovery of a variable species poses challenges to amphibian taxonomists and field biologists, who have traditionally used skin texture and presence/absence of tubercles as important discrete traits in diagnosing and identifying species. The discovery illustrates the importance of describing the behavior of new species, and bolsters the argument for preserving amphibian habitats, says Krynak. "Amphibians are declining so rapidly that scientists are oftentimes describing new species from museum specimens because the animals have already gone extinct in the wild, and very recently."

posted by martyb on Thursday March 26, @11:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the Great-Pyramid-is-about-4600-years-old dept.

Rachel Sussman has an interesting article at Nautilus about her nine year quest to find and photograph the oldest living things in the world. To qualify for inclusion, each organism must have gone through at least 2,000 years of continuous life as an individual. "I selected 2,000 years as my minimum age specifically to draw attention to the gentleman’s agreement of what “year zero” means. In other words, 2000 years serves both as an all-too-human start date, as well as the baseline age of my subjects," writes Sussman, an American fine art photographer. "The requirement of endurance on an individual level was an important consideration, because we all innately relate to the idea of self. This was a purposeful anthropomorphization that would further imbue the organisms with a reflective quality in which we could glimpse ourselves." Sussman went searching for 5,500-year-old moss in Antarctica, a 2,000-year-old brain coral in Tobago, an 80,000-year-old Aspen colony in Utah, a 2,000-year-old primitive Welwitschia in Namibia, and a 43,600-year-old shrub in Tasmania that’s the last of its kind on the planet, to name a few.

Sussman writes that one of her primary goals was to create a little jolt of recognition at the shallowness of human timekeeping and the blink that is a human lifespan. "Does our understanding of time have to be tethered to our physiological experience of it? writes Sussman. "The more we embrace long-term thinking, the more ethical our decision-making becomes." Sussman says that the dialogue with environmental conservation is a perfect example of the importance of blending art, science, and long-term thinking. "We hear these things like carbon-dioxide levels are rising. You hear "400 parts per million," and it doesn't really register what that means. But when you can look at this organism and say, "Wow, this spruce tree has been living on this mountainside for 9,500 years and, in the past 50, got this spindly trunk in the center because it got warmer at the top of this mountainside," there's something that's a very literal depiction of climate change happening right in front of you. It's observable. So I hope that that's going to be a way that people can connect to that as an issue."

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday March 26, @09:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the nose-knows dept.

As reported by The Register :

A Purdue University undergraduate has picked a way to stop virtual reality inducing motion sickness: program in a virtual nose.

Fixed-reference objects help to stop the sickness, Whittinghill says, but not every simulation lends itself to the inclusion of something like the window frames in a cockpit to give the brain something to latch onto.

While discussing this problem, undergraduate Bradley Ziegler piped up with the idea of programming in a virtual nose. The idea is that we're all used to our hooters haunting our field of vision, so much so that we take it for granted that it's always possible to see a slice of schnoz.

Subjects given the virtual nose staved off simulation sickness longer than their noseless counterparts in a variety of simulations, including a sickness-inducing roller coaster ride. The original source provides more information, including a finding that test subjects didn't notice the virtual nose during testing, even displaying skepticism over its presence when told about it later during post-testing debriefings.

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday March 26, @07:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the still-waiting-on-the-grapefruit-collider dept.

Wired reports the LHC is back to full strength after running at half power for years to prevent another accident like that which took it down in 2008:

In the fall of 2008, CERN’s high-energy physicists ran into a problem. A faulty electronic connection at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland—the biggest, baddest, most powerful particle accelerator ever built—caused a couple of magnets to overheat and melt, triggering an explosion of pressurized helium gas. The accident, which happened just nine days after the LHC turned on for the first time, led to months of delays. “It was pretty depressing when we broke the accelerator,” says Aaron Dominguez, a physicist at the University of Nebraska. “That was not a good day.”

Eventually, engineers fixed the LHC, and in 2012, physicists used it to do what the accelerator was always supposed to: Find the elusive subatomic particle called the Higgs boson. It worked, earning much fanfare and a Nobel Prize. But to prevent another accident, CERN’s engineers had run the LHC at only half its designed capability. Now, after a two-year hiatus in which engineers upgraded the accelerator to prevent such magnetic meltdowns, the LHC is set to smash protons together harder than ever—the way it was intended. “It’s like having a new accelerator, really,” Dominguez says. The increased power will mean more violent collisions that might create bigger, even rarer particles...

protons will finally begin slamming together, hopefully creating particles that physicists have only theorized to exist. At first, the collisions will be at 13 TeV. Only later, once engineers get a better feel for how the machine works, will they boost it to its maximum of 14 TeV. And higher energies mean more particles. The first run produced 500,000 Higgs bosons, but detectors only identified a few hundred of them for physicists to study. With more collisions, the LHC should create 10 times as many Higgs bosons. More data could be the key to discovering all kinds of new physics. The Higgs, for example, might be responsible for dark energy, the force that’s causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.

I for one am looking forward to the flying cars and invisibility powers this will finally bring us.

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday March 26, @05:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the plots-of-plots-of-plots dept.

Here is a story for the computer history buffs. El Reg is reporting that Ken Shirriff, a programmer better known for work on Arduino, got access to a 50-year-old IBM 1401 mainframe in the collection of the Computer History Museum and programmed it to produce a Mandelbrot fractal, printing it out on a line printer. Even though the computer has a Fortran compiler, he wrote the program in assembly language.

While this is not exactly an amazing feat of software engineering in anyone's book, it is an object lesson in how difficult (and how fun) it was to program the ancient mainframes of our fathers' and grandfathers' times.

Mr. Shirriff's story and lots of pictures can be found on his blog.

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday March 26, @03:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the world-of-tomorrow dept.

The sweet shop of the future will offer smaller portions in more elaborate forms, thanks to 3D printers adapted for food use.

Willy Wonka-esque candy floss lamps and edible diamonds were just some of the futuristic creations developed by self-proclaimed "food futurologist" Morgaine Gaye and award-winning British chocolatier Paul A Young at Future Fest, an event held in London this month.

They looked at the factors they thought likely to alter the landscape of confectionary manufacturing, and predicted that sweets as we know them were going to change dramatically over the next 20 years and beyond.

Perhaps the Chocolate Room isn't so far away after all. Let's hope chiral sugars arrive before it does...

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday March 26, @01:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the Bathory-day-spa dept.

The BBC reports studies have shown that drinking or injecting the blood of the young is good for you.

Dr Saul Villeda, a biologist at the University of California, ... has been doing some extraordinary research looking at what happens if you inject blood from young mice into old mice. This is not being done simply to replace elderly blood but to transform it.

After an infusion of young blood, the old mice perform significantly better in memory tests, such as finding their way back to their nest.

The effects of young blood on elderly brains is particularly striking when you look at the brain cells themselves. When mice — like humans — age, the neurons end up looking like tired, shriveled peanuts.

Once the brain cells from an elderly mouse have been infused with young blood, however, they start sprouting new connections to fellow neurons and become much more like those of a young, smart, mouse.

Another reason to keep those tasty, ahem, young interns around...

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday March 26, @12:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the trust-no-one dept.

BBC reports the co-pilot of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the Alps intentionally locked the pilot out of the cabin and initiated the flight's descent into the ground:

The co-pilot of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps, named as Andreas Lubitz, appeared to want to "destroy the plane", officials said.

Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, citing information from the "black box" voice recorder, said the co-pilot was alone in the cockpit.

He intentionally started a descent while the pilot was locked out.

Mr Robin said there was "absolute silence in the cockpit" as the pilot fought to re-enter it.

Air traffic controllers made repeated attempts to contact the aircraft, but to no avail, he said.

The story seems SN-worthy because it is an object lesson in the consequences for our lives when we put complex machines and systems into the hands of others. In this case it was a trained pilot who killed a plane full of people who were powerless to stop him. Another example could be engineers who sabotage a dam and wipe out entire communities downstream. We mostly don't think about stuff like this because there is an invisible web of trust, sometimes called a "social contract," that leads people to get on a plane, or go to work, or take their kids to school without giving it a second thought. But when that social contract unravels, all bets are off...

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday March 26, @11:10AM   Printer-friendly
from the carriage-return-of-justice dept.

Nobody interested in technology has failed to notice how aggressive and remorseless prosecutors can be in pursuing relatively powerless individuals. Examples: any Whistleblower acting in the public interest is at serious risk, as are activists like Aaron Scwartz by the piling on of a century's worth of charges, or journalists who expose information the government would like kept secret, like Barrett Brown, and FBI agents and Federal prosecutors are perfectly happy to tell ridiculous lies to further their abuse (in court filings, the Feds claimed Ladar Levinson exited the back door of his 5th story apartment and drove off -- this would have required a 5 story jump from his balcony).

Of course, if you are politically connected, and you only leak in a self-glorifying manner, then you get a slap on the wrist, e.g., General Petraeus.

This morning I read a letter of apology written by a prosecutor who got an innocent man convicted -- to see that was very moving and makes me feel hopeful that perhaps, the sentiments he writes about will filter back into the prosecutorial community:

The full letter (if ever there is a time to RTFA, this is it) and an excerpt:

In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning. To borrow a phrase from Al Pacino in the movie "And Justice for All," "Winning became everything."

After the death verdict in the Ford trial, I went out with others and celebrated with a few rounds of drinks. That's sick. I had been entrusted with the duty to seek the death of a fellow human being, a very solemn task that certainly did not warrant any "celebration."

posted by janrinok on Thursday March 26, @09:08AM   Printer-friendly
from the little-green-men-rejoice dept.

The NASA Curiosity rover has found biologically useful nitrogen on Mars. The nitrogen was found near the crater Gale. The nitrogen may have been produced by non-biological processes but shows that the prerequisites for life has been present in the past. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has published the full story, Evidence for indigenous nitrogen in sedimentary and aeolian deposits from the Curiosity rover investigations at Gale crater, Mars.

Along with other nitrogen compounds, the instruments detected nitric oxide (NO -- one atom of nitrogen bound to an oxygen atom) in samples from all three sites. Since nitrate is a nitrogen atom bound to three oxygen atoms, the team thinks most of the NO likely came from nitrate which decomposed as the samples were heated for analysis. Certain compounds in the SAM instrument can also release nitrogen as samples are heated; however, the amount of NO found is more than twice what could be produced by SAM in the most extreme and unrealistic scenario, according to Stern [of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland]. This leads the team to think that nitrates really are present on Mars, and the abundance estimates reported have been adjusted to reflect this potential additional source.

"Scientists have long thought that nitrates would be produced on Mars from the energy released in meteorite impacts, and the amounts we found agree well with estimates from this process," said Stern.

posted by janrinok on Thursday March 26, @07:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the no-chance? dept.

A bipartisan-sponsored bill has been proposed to the United States House of Representatives, titled (accurately, for once) the "Surveillance State Repeal Act".

The bill (full text [PDF]) would completely repeal the Patriot Act and FISA Amendment Act, destroy most of the collected data, require warrants for all surveillance of Americans, forbid the government from requiring backdoors in hardware or software, and create a whistle-blowing immunity for reporting violations. Needless to say, this seems like a big step in the right direction.

I have already contacted my representative, and you may wish to do the same.

posted by janrinok on Thursday March 26, @05:12AM   Printer-friendly
from the data-transfer-rate-of-the-worst-ISPs dept.

Israeli researchers have demonstrated a proof of concept for defeating air-gapping through heat:

[...] [S]ecurity researchers at Ben Gurion University in Israel have found a way to retrieve data from an air-gapped computer using only heat emissions and a computer’s built-in thermal sensors. The method would allow attackers to surreptitiously siphon passwords or security keys from a protected system and transmit the data to an internet-connected system that’s in close proximity and that the attackers control. They could also use the internet-connected system to send malicious commands to the air-gapped system using the same heat and sensor technique.
currently, the attack allows for just eight bits of data to be reliably transmitted over an hour—a rate that is sufficient for an attacker to transmit brief commands or siphon a password or secret key but not large amounts of data. It also works only if the air-gapped system is within 40 centimeters (about 15 inches) from the other computer the attackers control. But the researchers, at Ben Gurion’s Cyber Security Labs, note that this latter scenario is not uncommon, because air-gapped systems often sit on desktops alongside Internet-connected ones so that workers can easily access both.

Oh yeah? Well, my computer's a difference engine, so there!

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