By Gregory Mone
Posted 08.23.2007 at 5:09 pm 13 Comments
A 39-year-old man was arrested for surfing someone elses unsecured wireless connection in London on Tuesday. The man was sitting, notebook in his lap, on a garden wall in the West London suburb of Chiswick when two representatives of the neighborhood watch approached and questioned him.
The man admitted that he was using someone elses Wi-Fi illegal under the U.K. 2003 Communications Act - so they alerted the police, who came and arrested him. Free-surfing isnt so easy in Europe. In Italy its nearly impossible to get your own machine on the Web. To even access the Internet at a café you have to leave a copy of your license or passport.
As for the British case, further details are scant, but I cant help wondering why he didnt just shut down his notebook and run. Maybe he was reading a really engrossing blog.—Gregory Mone
By Gregory Mone
Posted 08.23.2007 at 5:08 pm 0 Comments
Nothing inspires like looking up at the stars on a clear night, but a new feature from Google Earth could come close. In fact, the experience it offers is much closer to how many professional astronomers study the sky on a daily basis not through a lens, but on a computer screen.
The newest version of Google Earth, the free program that has been downloaded by an estimated 250 million people, includes a Sky function that allows you to switch the view from any point on the planet so that youre looking up and out instead of down at the ground. It works just like Google Earth, except now you can zoom in on stars, galaxies and planets. You wont be looking at a live view; the images are compiled from shots taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Find out more, or download it yourself, here.—Gregory Mone
Posted 08.23.2007 at 12:01 am 3 Comments
Just three days after Canon announced a pair of pro cameras, Nikon unleashed its own duo of high-end digitals: The ultra high-end D3 and the still really high-end D300.
It leads with the Deathstar of SLRs, the D3. The biggest change is, in fact, one of bigness. Nikon equipped the new camera with a 36x23.9-millimeter image sensor thats nearly as large as an old 35-milimeter film frame. Previously only Canon made these full-frame sensors, which capture extreme wide-angle shots and have larger pixels to soak in more light.
By Gregory Mone
Posted 08.22.2007 at 12:47 pm 0 Comments
Though Google just about runs the universe at this point, the company does a stellar job of recovering from the inevitable, occassional evil deed. Consider the case of what the search giant itself calls "Google Video's Download to Own/Rent Refund Policy vs. Common Sense." The "Common Sense" side of the argument belongs to the users, the people who paid real money to download videos through Google, thinking they'd either own them for good, or rent them for the agreed-upon period. Unfortunately for them, Google axed the program. Which means that people who thought they had bought a video - as in, they own a copy for good - will have it stripped away.
The company originally offered Google Checkout credits to make it up to these customers, but that move incited a small revolution. "Common Sense" emerged victorious: Google is now offering a full credit card refund to anyone who ever bought a video, and will support playing the videos for another six months. From the official apology: "We make mistakes; we do our best not to repeat them - and we really do try to fix the ones we make. That said, the very least that our users should expect from us is that our mistakes be new and innovative, too."—Gregory Mone
Engineers develop a mind-controlled prosthetic arm dexterous enough to play piano
By Bjorn Carey and Michael Belfiore
Posted 08.22.2007 at 2:00 am 3 Comments
More than 130 veterans of the Iraq war now face the daunting challenge of learning to live with a missing arm. To make that transition easier, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, has launched a $55-million project that pools the efforts of prosthetics experts nationwide to create a thought-controlled bionic arm that duplicates the functions of a natural limb. If all goes well, by 2009 the agency will petition the Food and Drug Administration to put the arm through clinical trials.
By Gregory Mone
Posted 08.21.2007 at 5:31 pm 4 Comments
An article describing something called "Internet addiction disorder" has been spreading around the Web, and Vaughan Bell, a psychiatrist at King's College London, is fuming over what he calls the "infuriating and self-contradictory" piece. Bell just published a paper in the Journal of Mental Health detailing why this supposedly new brand of psychological addiction is, in fact, impossible. He says that people can become addicted to substances or activities, but stresses that the Internet is neither. Instead, he says it's a medium of communication, and that one can be no more addicted to it than to language or radio waves.
Bell acknowledges that there are people who have significant psychological problems and do spend too much time online, but says there's little evidence that all the surfing causes those problems. The Japanese, he says, are approaching the issue the right way. They've identified the problem driving the individuals known as hikkikomori, who spend all their time using the Internet and playing video games, as social withdrawal. The gameplay and surfing are just symptoms of that larger issue.
This isn't the first time scientists have fought over this question of excessive Internet use, and it may be that the courts help decide the issue. A former IBM worker recently sued the company for wrongful termination after he'd been caught spending too much time in chat rooms. His excuse? An acute case of Internet addiction. Which may or may not be real.—Gregory Mone
By Gregory Mone
Posted 08.21.2007 at 5:09 pm 1 Comment
They're already starting to turn to simulated universes to study economics and human behavior, and now scientists hope to use online worlds to predict the impact of plagues, too. Epidemiologists first identified the scientific value of these virtual worlds after an imaginary virus began to spread unchecked in the popular online game World of Warcraft.
In 2005, programmers released a contagious disease called "Corrupted Blood" into a new zone in the game. At first, the disease effected some players, while others shrugged it off. But then it began to spread, both through avatars - virtual versions of real world people - and their pets. The game's overlords, Blizzard Entertainment, actually had to shut down World of Warcraft and re-boot the system to get things running normally again.
Scientists who study these problems in the real world typically deal in mathematical simulations, but the World of Warcraft case presented an opportunity to study the behavioral side of plagues, too. If epidemiologists can get a better idea of how people might react in such situations, they may be able to build stronger models, which will in turn help them predict what would happen in the real world. A group of scientists is in talks with Blizzard to see how they can work together in the future.—Gregory Mone
By Dawn Stover
Posted 08.20.2007 at 4:02 pm 1 Comment
When six men got trapped in a Utah coal mine on August 6, the mine's chief executive declared that the cave-in was caused by a natural earthquake. The University of Utah Seismograph Stations did record a magnitude-3.9 earthquake, but the quake was probably caused by the mine collapse—rather than the other way around.
Seismograph stations recorded a smaller seismic event on Thursday, when a second implosion killed three men who were participating in the rescue effort, including an inspector from the U.S. Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration. Called a "bump" by mining officials, it is the seismic event recorded in blue on the lower right section of this chart.
Seismologists at the University of Utah, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of California, Berkeley, say that the downward motion of seismic waves from both events is strong evidence of collapse. The second event happened less than a mile underground, which would be quite shallow for a natural earthquake.
The "bumps" are likely to continue. The roof of the Crandall Canyon mine is held up by pillars of coal. When some pillars fail, that can increase the stress on nearby pillars that are still standing.—Dawn Stover
By Gregory Mone
Posted 08.20.2007 at 1:50 pm 1 Comment
The CIA might be watching everyone else, but self-described mad scientist and disruptive technologist Virgil Griffith is monitoring the organization's behavior, too. He's also watching the Vatican, the Turkish Treasury, the BBC, Reuters, and countless companies, politicians and individuals. Griffith developed a program called the Wikiscanner that can track the origins of suspicious edits within Wikipedia, the popular online, community-compiled encyclopedia.
The program has traced 297 edits of entries covering subjects ranging from Iran's president to the Argentine navy to CIA computers. It discovered that a Vatican computer removed a reference to the involvement of Irish political leader Gerry Adams in a double murder. And the little political digs it turns up—Democrats subly ripping Rush limbaugh, for example—are pure entertainment. Griffith says his technology specializes in "creating minor public relations disasters, one company at a time." For a sample of some of his best coups, check out Wikiscanner here. —Gregory Mone
By Gregory Mone
Posted 08.20.2007 at 1:43 pm 0 Comments
The whole world can talk for free...except for the last few days. Skype, the eBay-owned Internet phone service, was unexpectedly taken down last week by a software bug, leaving loads of users unable to log on, including myself. I've been using Skype since the beginning of the year, and have had almost no trouble with the service. Whether I'm calling landlines, mobile phones in China, or other Skype users, the quality is typically great. Sure, I've had a couple of echoes here and there, but most of the time I'll just ask the person if I can hang up and call again, and when I do, it's perfect. 220 million people worldwide use Skype, and there are usually 5 to 9 million online at a given time, but I haven't seen numbers on how many people lost access last week.
Skype has now explained the problem. On Thursday, a huge number of its users' computers re-booted at the same time after receiving a set of routine software patches through Windows Update. This basically crippled Skype's network resources, creating "a chain reaction that had a critical impact." The company insists the outage didn't stem from anything malicious, but I'm sure there were more than a few telecom bigwigs who were happy with the news.—Gregory Mone
scored the first drive on Yamaha’s water rocket, which makes waves with a lighter, stronger hull—courtesy of nanotech
You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when a rollercoaster slips over the edge of a huge drop? I got it the first time I grabbed a fistful of throttle on Yamaha’s 2008 FX Cruiser SHO WaveRunner. And I liked it.
I was flying over a glassy lake near Yamaha’s headquarters in Newnan, Georgia, as the first civilian to test-drive the beast. And I mean flying. The FX Cruiser packs one of the most powerful—and cleanest-running—engines in the industry: a 1.8-liter, supercharged four-stroke with roughly the same power as an Audi TT coupe.
But the big news is the WaveRunner’s ultralight hull—the first to use nanotechnology. Instead of hand-laying a traditional fiberglass-and-resin hull, Yamaha combines fiberglass resin with nanoscale particles of clay, melding it all together in a high-compression mold. This new recipe links molecules together in an overlapping design that boosts strength and stiffness while reducing weight by 25 percent.
With more power and less heft, the FX Cruiser jumped from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.8 seconds—as fast as a sports car—and went from 0 to 30 in just 1.8 whiplash-inducing seconds. The light, stiff hull was so nimble, I felt like I was riding on rails even as I cranked a sharp turn at 50 miles an hour. All this helps with fuel efficiency, too, but that was the last thing on my mind as I blew past the Yamaha guys who were trying in vain to wave me back to the dock. —Mark Anders
By Dawn Stover
Posted 08.20.2007 at 1:11 pm 2 Comments
Yes, according to scientists at Louisiana State Universitys Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.
At an American Chemical Society symposium this morning, they reported that human adenovirus-36, a common virus that causes respiratory and eye infections, can transform adult stem cells into fat cells. In controlled studies, stem cells that were not exposed to the virus did not develop into fat cells.
An earlier study at Louisiana State showed that 30 percent of obese people were infected with the virus, while only 11 percent of lean people were infected. But until the new study was done, there was no proof that the virus can actually cause fat levels to increase.
Not everyone infected with adenovirus-36 will put on pounds, the scientists say, but it is one potential cause of the nationwide obesity epidemic. And its a cause that might eventually be treatable with antiviral medications or vaccines.—Dawn Stover
Not every student falls asleep at the thought of doing another lab. For a fortunate few, homework means setting off bombs, making lightning, crashing cars, and unleashing 100mph winds. Come meet the luckiest students in the country inside (with video)
By Annalee Newitz
Posted 08.20.2007 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
Wanna be an aquanaut? How 'bout an alien hunter? A sports stat guru? Disease detective? Launch the slideshow to learn what the prereqs are for the greatest jobs in science.
By Gregory Mone
Posted 08.17.2007 at 2:08 pm 1 Comment
The annual back-to-school sale has acquired a greenish tinge. The Boston Globe has an interesting piece detailing how stores across the country are offering more environmentally-conscious products to their student consumers, including solar-powered backpacks (pictured here) that can re-charge an iPod, plus loads of school supplies made from recycled materials.
Most of these products come at a premium, but Wal-Mart, of course, is still managing to keep even its green goods cheap. The retail giant is selling an inexpensive computer that it says consumes far less electricity than the average box. Colleges themselves have also started trying to mend their ways, as a number of schools across the country are beginning to shrink their environmental footprints.—Gregory Mone
By Gregory Mone
Posted 08.17.2007 at 2:06 pm 0 Comments
The massive earthquake that struck just off Peru's coast Wednesday night has killed at least 510 people, and scientists say that powerful aftershocks could continue for weeks. The initial quake, which registered 8.0 on the Richter Scale, has given way to smaller but still forceful aftereffects in the magnitude-6 range.
The epicenter was 95 miles from Lima - if it had occurred any closer it surely would have taken more lives in the city of millions - but it has still left a huge section of the country in chaos. The port city of Pisco bore the brunt of the damage. At last count, 300 were killed there. Nearby, the quake knocked down a wall in a prison, allowing 680 prisoners to escape, only 29 of whom have been recaptured. The details in this New York Times story are absolutely frightening.—Gregory Mone
The incredible innovations, like drone swarms and perpetual flight, bringing aviation into the world of tomorrow. Plus: today's greatest sci-fi writers predict the future, the science behind the summer's biggest blockbusters, a Doctor Who-themed DIY 'bot, the organs you can do without, and much more.