The Internet giant joins forces with Google—should Facebook and Microsoft be afraid?
Yahoo yesterday joined Googles recently launched OpenSocial network. OpenSocial is built on APIs that let developers build applications to run on any participating social network. It gives the programs access to user data, relationships, and event postings across the board. For example, if the wildly popular Facebook application Scrabulous had been built for OpenSocial, it would work on any network under the OpenSocial umbrella, not just Facebook.
While scientists are still puzzling over the disappearance of bees, large numbers of bats have begun dying out no less mysteriously
Weve by now all seen the news that bees are dying in huge numbers. Scientists have labeled the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. Dead bees mean less crop pollination, which means less food at higher prices. Whats causing the problem is still anyones guess. Now, strangely, bats in the eastern U.S. are experiencing a similar plague which biologists have dubbed White Nose Syndrome (WNS) for the white fungus that appears on their bodies at the height of infection.
The ills of factory farming reach beyond the ethical as immunologists grow increasingly concerned about a vaccine-resistant virus
One of the dire consequences of factory farming is that it encourages the spread of disease due to the close quarters in which the animals live. Thats why theyre fed antibiotics and other medicines when they arent sick. This overuse of antibiotics, while beneficial to the flocks and herds in the short term, leads to stronger and more drug-resistant bacteria in the long term. The effect has been widely reported by popular authors like Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. What we havent heard much about are how viruses can thrive in this environment.
Why cost to the city's coffers outweighs cost to the Earth
Municipalities are always weighing cost against environmental concerns and quite often, cost wins out at great expense to the environment. Residents of New York City will remember the summer of 2002 when the Bloomberg administration ceased recycling glass and plastic, citing budgetary concerns. It was cheaper for the city to dump tons of reusable refuse into landfills than to continue its recycling program. After a year of no plastic recycling and two years of no glass, the city determined the savings were negligible and resumed recycling both.
The world's most sophisticated robot surgeon takes one great blink forward
Robotics and surgery continue to intertwine with new research coming out of the Imperial College London. Computer scientists there have been improving upon the already tremendously sophisticated Da Vinci surgical robot. Currently, to operate the machine, a surgeon sits in a console from which she peers into the patient through a fiber optic camera. She manipulates the finely-tuned arms of the device with a set of fingertip controls. What the researchers are adding to the system is an attachment which can track the surgeons eye movements and present a three-dimensional map of the area of the patient at which the surgeon is looking. It does this by combining live imagery with a collection of scans of the patient taken prior to the surgery.
The complex algorithm which bats employ to identify plants could make for the most advanced facial recognition software yet
This past week we happened to cover both dolphin echolocation and facial recognition. Today comes a report on a study that may bring the two concepts a little closer together. German researchers have devised a computer algorithm which is able to identify plant species using sonar echoes, in the same way bats are able to find fruit and insects. If the technology is one day sufficiently refined, it could ultimately be used for facial recognition.
As mountain gorillas face increasing threat from the illegal charcoal trade, hope emerges as the DRC makes headway in rooting out top-level corruption
One of the biggest issues facing conservation movements worldwide is how to balance the needs of local populations with the protection of animal habitats. Ecotourism is a popular solution. Through a program of education and careful land management, local economies can be adapted to benefit more from preservation and tourism than removing and selling natural resources. In some areas, however, the situation is too heated for the concept to take hold. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of those regions, and at the heart of their trouble is the endangered mountain gorilla.
Stanford researchers are developing a digital image sensor equipped with 12,616 lenses to generate 3-D images
Multiple Cameras, One Chip: The testing platform for the multi-aperture image sensor. L.A. Cicero/Stanford University
Last year, we reported on the Adobe light-field camera
, a prototype device with 19 lenses which captures 19 versions of the same image at different focal lengths. The associated software then lets the user choose which parts of the resulting photograph should be in focus, which can produce a virtually 3D image. We also briefly mentioned a project at Stanford University which is experimenting with their own multi-lensed device.
The most advanced eye on Earth gives its owner a fighting chance
The mantis shrimp (which oddly is neither a mantis nor a shrimp, but a crustacean that resembles both) has arguably the most complicated visual system of any animal on Earth. Its compound eyes sit on independently moving stalks and can see colors ranging from ultra-violet to infra-red. Each eye is divided into three regions for tracking motion, forms, depth, and color. All of this, it is theorized, is done without the aid of its tiny brain. (Its also got claws that can smash through glass, but that well save for another article). Now add to this an entirely new kind of vision previously unknown: the mantis shrimp can see circular polarized light.
Long before DRM-cracking and Creative Commons, thinkers like Gutenberg, Kant and Locke started the freedom of information debate. A new site archives their really old ideas
Arguably the most heated and oft-discussed topic in regard to the Internet and all that it has become is the one of copyright. DRM, the RIAA, Creative Commons—you likely cant go a day without reading about a cracked cipher or a new business model in the face of illegal file sharing.
A zirconium dioxide coating could provide real protection for an airplane's engine
Kids arent the only ones who think fake diamonds are hot. Engineers at Ohio State University are using zirconium dioxide (the ceramic from which we get synthetic diamonds) to protect jet engines from high-temperature corrosion.
Why the paperless office is a goal worth pursuing
Everybody remember the promise of the paperless office? Anyone in front of a monitor can testify to just the opposite having taken hold. The ubiquity of the personal computer was supposed to free us from the chaotic sea of paperwork washing over our desks every day, and yet all it seems to have done is open the floodgates further.
A new online mapping system gives Google a run for its money
Wired recently reported on a newcomer to the street-level imagery map game. Theyre called MapJack, and if they can expand quickly enough to cover the ground Google has already claimed, theyll give them a good run for their money. The concept is the sameyou click around on a map and see photos of the streetbut beyond that, the two diverge. MapJacks imagery is many times sharper, larger, and more dynamic than Googles. The site offers a sophisticated array of controls, both in navigating the street and the view and in controlling the image display. I found it much more responsive and vibrant than Google Maps. Lining up a particular address or orientation is a snap, like it should be.
The most complete dino yet uncovered gives researchers an unparalleled look at a Cretacean creature
Dakota is the name given to the remains of an Edmontosaurus discovered on a ranch in the Badlands in 1999. What sets Dakota apart from all but four other dinosaurs so far unearthed is its completeness. And not just its complete skeleton—nearly all of Dakotas skin and soft tissues have been fossilized, which is an exceedingly rare discovery in paleontology. The perfect conditions had to exist at the time of the animals demise—being rapidly buried in substrate at just the right moisture level to bring about fossilization instead of decay.
A device used by the British Navy to mark minefields has been repurposed to keep sonar-equipped marine animals out of fishing nets
In the past decade, navies have been roundly criticized for extensively testing active sonar due to its potentially detrimental affect on marine life. Military-grade active sonar sends out a powerfully loud low-frequency signal with a range anywhere from tens to hundreds of miles under water. The effect on whales has been well documented—its akin to you or I standing next to a jet engine without ear protection.