Archive for September, 2011
Sep 26 2011
Sep 26 2011
Space tourism meets the assembly line…
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Sep 22 2011
By Lisa Girion, Scott Glover and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times
September 17, 2011, 2:55 p.m.
Propelled by an increase in prescription narcotic overdoses, drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States, a Times analysis of government data has found.
Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people nationwide, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are an exception. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes. By contrast, traffic accidents have been dropping for decades because of huge investments in auto safety.
Public health experts have used the comparison to draw attention to the nation’s growing prescription drug problem, which they characterize as an epidemic. This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979.
Sep 22 2011
Cool School – Where Peace Rules — Human Development Scientists And Computer Game Developers Design Video Game That Teaches Conflict Resolution To KidsPosted by Chris Williamson in Accelerating Change, Ethics/Dangers
Human development scientists and computer game developers designed a video game that teaches kids how to resolve conflicts peacefully amongst themselves. Inanimate objects, such as pencils and erasers, come to life to lead players through a series of common scenarios in which arguments are about to occur. The player is prompted for the non-violent solution and is rewarded for choosing correctly.
Amid growing concern surrounding the effects violent video games have on children, a new computer game could be the alternative parents have been waiting for.
Kids who play together also argue together. Fights over games, toys and friendships are common, but when arguments heat up, it’s time to solve them before things get out of hand. A new computer game teaches kids how to solve playground and classroom quarrels that kids face every day in a positive way — without fists and fights.
"It helps them resolve conflicts by giving them a chance to think about what happens in the course of an actual conflict episode," said Melanie Killen, Ph.D., a human development expert at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.
The game, called "Cool School: Where Peace Rules" — designed by a team of human development scientists, teachers, government mediators, computer game developers and animators — helps kids solve school violence and bullying while still having fun.
Infants spend their first few months learning to find their way around and manipulating objects, and they are very flexible about it: Cups can come in different shapes and sizes, but they all have handles. So do pitchers, so we pick them up the same way.
Similarly, your personal robot in the future will need the ability to generalize — for example, to handle your particular set of dishes and put them in your particular dishwasher.
In Cornell’s Personal Robotics Laboratory, a team led by Ashutosh Saxena, assistant professor of computer science, is teaching robots to manipulate objects and find their way around in new environments. They reported two examples of their work at the 2011 Robotics: Science and Systems Conference June 27 at the University of Southern California.
A common thread running through the research is “machine learning” — programming a computer to observe events and find commonalities. With the right programming, for example, a computer can look at a wide array of cups, find their common characteristics and then be able to identify cups in the future. A similar process can teach a robot to find a cup’s handle and grasp it correctly.
“We just show the robot some examples and it learns to generalize the placing strategies and applies them to objects that were not seen before,” Saxena explained. “It learns about stability and other criteria for good placing for plates and cups, and when it sees a new object — a bowl — it applies them.”
via Science Daily
Sep 22 2011
Sep 21 2011
Are you a writer? Are you a robot?
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Sep 19 2011
A bunch of gamers have untangled the structure of a key protein in the virus that causes AIDS, a mystery that has left scientists stumped for decades.
It took just three weeks for players of online game Foldit to predict an accurate model for the protein – a type of enzyme called a retroviral protease that has a critical role in how the HI virus grows and spreads.
The game Foldit was specially designed to help work out the structure of proteins. It combines computer intelligence with human spatial abilities by asking players to tweak and tug 3D models, a task that computers find hard to do.
Sep 19 2011
A Canadian teenager has scooped a CAN$5,000 prize and deserved glory after successfully wielding the power of a scientific supercomputing network to develop a mix of drugs which could be used to fight cystic fibrosis.
Marshall Zhang, a Grade 11 student at Bayview Secondary School in Richmond Hill near Toronto, used Canada’s collaborative SCINET super-net to model the effects of different compounds on the mutant proteins responsible for cystic fibrosis. The debilitating disease causes the natural protective mucus lining sufferers’ lungs to become thick and sticky, forming an inviting environment for potentially fatal infections.
"Marshall’s findings show that computational methods can drive the discovery of compounds that may offer effective treatment for cystic fibrosis," comments Dr Christine Bear of Canada’s Hospital for Sick Children. Zhang carried out his groundbreaking work in Bear’s lab.
Apparently the young scientist suspected that combining two drugs could work more effectively than using one alone. He first modelled the effects of his plan in silico, then proved it using living cells in culture.
"The cells treated with the two drugs were functioning as if they were the cells of healthy individuals," says Zhang. "The thrill of knowing that I was on the forefront of current knowledge was absolutely the best thing about my experience … getting a taste of real research has definitely driven me towards pursuing science in the future."
In Pay the Printer, Philip K Dick imagined a species called “Printers” who could organically create perfect copies of complex objects. In this world, the increasingly-popular 3D printer can’t create a car, but its ability to produce simple 3D objects is being used to create blood vessels.
The researchers, led by Fraunhofer’s Dr Günter Tovar, have combined 3D printing with multiphoton polymerization to create an artificial blood vessel, which they will be demonstrating at the Hannover Biotechnica Fair in October.
A 3D printer can’t build things on a small enough scale to create a structure as small as a blood vessel, so instead, it is used to lay down a substrate that the blood vessel will be created in.
In multiphoton polymerization, the creation of polymers in the target material is triggered by a focused laser. This allows the formation of polymer chains to be controlled at the nano scale.
By combining the two, the researchers have found that they can create the target material very quickly, using the laser to create the artificial blood vessel.
Sep 19 2011
In October, British researchers supported by the U.K. government will attempt to pump water a kilometer into the air using little more than a helium balloon and a rubber hose. The experiment, which will take place at a military airfield along England’s east coast, is meant as a test of a proposed geoengineering technique for offsetting the warming effects of greenhouse gases. If the balloon and hose can handle the water’s weight and pressure, similar pipes rising 20 kilometers could pump tons of reflective aerosols into the stratosphere.
Sep 19 2011
In IT, theres reality, and then theres whatever the boss/project lead/stakeholder wants. Today, were hosting a community discussion about what you, the IT guru, think is the single most powerful change your department could adopt, short of replacing your end users with robots. Well be highlighting the best feedback next week, and returning to the topic in a series of reports we have in store for you over the next month or so. Here are the key questions:What are the most productive changes IT departments today can make, based on your experience? What worked best at your company—and how did it help? If you are imagining a bold new direction, what obstacles do you expect?Heres my take. Up in the Orbiting HQ, we have a sneaking suspicion that every IT department back on Earth has at least one big efficiency challenge. And its common knowledge that IT departments are in upheaval, beset on the one side by users and on the other by budgets. Thus, one big efficiency boost I expect to see gain traction is the practice of letting users choose their own tools. Less than a year ago I spoke with an IT manager at Intel who said one of the best things his corporation ever did for efficiency was letting employees do their work on just about any device they—and not the IT department—wanted. As you know, this wouldnt have gone over well in most IT departments a decade ago. Intel ended up with 15,000 mobile devices hooked up to its e-mail system; nearly two-thirds of them were owned by employees. This was a big win for end users, for the budget, and for efficiency.
MasterCard, one of the major credit card issuers eyeing the market for years, is set to launch its service in the U.S. with partner Google. The company is the exclusive credit card issuer for the launch of Google Wallet, a digital-wallet application for Google Android phones…
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Angry Birds hits 350 million downloads…
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Sep 17 2011
To soar far away from Earth and even on to Mars…
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