Provided by Vanarama
Provided by Vanarama
This afternoon, NPR spoke with Marian Bechtel, the 17-year-old inventor of a device that can detect land mines using sound waves. Earlier this year, Bechtel was awarded a fellowship from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. Her science fair project -"A Stand-off Seismo-Acoustic Method for Humanitarian Demining" – has won her recognition for her innovation from science contests and from the US Army.
Listen to the interview as Marian describes how she discovered this innovative capability to help detect landmines.
I’m a big fan of crows, they’re all around me in the Pacific Northwest, they’re intelligent and I love seeing them solve puzzles. Most geeks are probably already aware that crows are pretty unique in the animal kingdom known to create tools and use them (if you’re not aware of this, you can see a short snippet of this tool creation in the following video).
Hacker and writer Joshua Klein is fascinated by crows. (Notice the gleam of intelligence in their little black eyes?) After a long amateur study of corvid behavior, he’s come up with an elegant machine that may form a new bond between animal and human.
After watching the video, check out these links if you want more on this vending machine:
–Gizmodo did a review of the device
–A paper written about the concept
–Josh is also seeking support to make this device more readily available, he needs electrical and mechanical engineers to join him and needs a little funding to support it.
Treehugger gives us a recap of the year in innovative solutions to the sanitation issues facing us here on Earth and in space. The slideshow covers systems purifying human pee so astronauts can stay hydrated, to mushrooms that decompose diapers to the DIY rainwater-flushing toilet.
There’s some cool stuff in that presentation, check it out.
Note to the Navy: When trucking a giant flying robot with a rounded fuselage across the country, people are going to think they’re looking at an artifact from Area 51.
As the local news coverage above shows, residents of Cowley County, Kansas, were freaked out to see a truck rumbling down U.S. 77 towing what looks a whole lot like a 32-foot spaceship. “People were calling in saying, ‘Oh they think they found a flying saucer,’” Donetta Godsey of the Winfield Daily Courier told the ABC News affiliate
If I saw this I wouldn’t think it was a UFO because surely the gov’t has been doing an outstanding job keeping their alien discoveries suppressed from the public view and they wouldn’t have been stupid enough to truck it through a town in broad daylight….or would they?
I’m a few months late in recognizing this good article from Geek Wire, it takes a look at the Project Manager skills that Darth Vader exhibited. Since I’m currently training my team to prepare for a transition to Agile software development model, I got a particular kick from thinking of Vader as the Product Owner in a SCRUM project.
Number 8: Vader made commitments, and worked hard to keep them. If you think of the Galactic Empire as something of a SCRUM project, the Emperor would have to be playing the Product Owner role. Of course, in SCRUM/Agile, the team makes commitments to achieve predefined goals over the course of any given sprint or iteration. Darth did this with the Emperor many times, and he worked REAL hard to make sure those commitments were met. I mean, how did he manage to get that second Death Star operational so quickly anyway? Hard work, that’s how. Vader understood the importance of commitments, and more importantly, the significance of fulfilling them. Trust in teams is built on commitments.
Here’s an interesting article taking us behind the scenes of a large banana distributor in New York. It also touches on the history of banana transportation and how refrigeration transformed this snack.
During our visit, Paul Rosenblatt told us that he aims to ripen fruit in five days at 62 degrees, but, to schedule fruit readiness in accordance with supply and demand, he can push a room in four days at 64 degrees, or extend the process to seven days at 58 degrees.
“The energy coming off a box of ripening bananas could heat a small apartment,” Rosenblatt explains, which means that heavy-duty refrigeration is required to keep each room temperature-controlled to within a half a degree. In the past, Banana Distributors of New York has even experimented with heating parts of the building on captured heat from the ripening process.
To add to the complexity, customers can choose from different degrees of ripeness, ranging from 1 (all green) to 7 (all yellow with brown sugar spots). Banana Distributors of New York proudly promise that they have “Every Color, Every Day,” although Rosenblatt gets nervous if he has more than 2000 boxes of any particular shade.
Got a desire for banana now? Here’s 100 things to do with the banana (a carefully curated list), with lots of photos.
“We have built a virtual slow motion camera where we can see photons, or light particles, moving through space.”
Science Blog has the details on this bold new concept to bring comet material back to earth for research. Now this is what I’m talking about, a manly method of collecting samples from a comet is to harpoon it. This is much more interesting to me than to land the probe.
Phil Menard (aka “The Chatty DM”) posted his twitter exchange with a fellow that turned into a very cool RPG-type adventure via twitter posts. I love this as an idea, why aren’t more of us doing this? This is more like the old school text based adventure games, with the difference being you are communicating with people or someone like a DM.
Dang, now I have a hankering to go play Zork again…
Here’s a snippet from Phil’s exchange:
FDL: Ok. you see a grue. What do you do?
Chatty: Wave torch
FDL: As you wave your torch, you set your furniture delivery guys on fire. Game over. Restart? [y/n]
(I fell down my flimsy beach chair onto my hardwood floor laughing. This could become fun.)
Chatty: LOL yes. Talk Grue.
FDL: The grue says she’s your upstairs neighbor and she hopes her noisy Angry Birds parties won’t bother you too much. What next?
Chatty: examine exits
FDL: There is only one exit, a hangar bay door.
Chatty: kick door
FDL: Door says “Ow!” and kicks back. Grue looks at you in disgust.
Chatty: Apologize door.
(I was still playing it old school with 2 words)
Anyone know of Twitter adventures or TwitRPGs going on?
Fellow citizen scientists, the call is out asking for your assistance at whale.fm.
Did you know that Killer Whales (Orcas, which are actually the largest dolphin species) can talk to each other in quite sophisticated ways? Each family of Killer Whales has its own dialect and closely-related families share calls. We know this because biologists have begun to categorize the complex calls of Killer Whales and to try and understand what they mean.
Pilot Whales (again, actually a dolphin species) have dialects and calls similar to those of Killer Whales, but biologists have not categorized them. Scientists have assembled recordings of both species, and they’re asking us to help them put their sounds into categories. They want us to help them understand what Whales are saying.
After a little online training in their tutorial, you listen to the their recording of an Orca and find a similar one that matches it best. This helps categorize it as the same whale, or from the same family or region.
Check it out at whale.fm.
Being a software tester myself I found this request for proposal interesting. DARPA is seeking ways of testing complex software systems by employing non-specialists through crowd sourcing. I have to admit, this is a bold, bold idea when you read their vision in how to employ this. Note, crowd sourcing to test your app is not new. Google has been doing that for years, but this is about something much more complex than a web app.
Here’s the press release.
Here’s the details on the proposal.
Unreliable software places huge costs both on the military and the civilian economy. The current state of practice contains about one to five bugs per thousand lines of code. Formal program verification is the only way to be certain that a given piece of software is free of errors that could disrupt military operations in the field. Formal verification is currently done manually by specially-trained engineers. Consequently, formal verification has been too costly to apply beyond small, critical software components.
The Crowd Sourced Formal Verification (CSFV) program seeks to make formal program verification more cost-effective by reducing the skill set required for verification. The approach is to transform verification into a more accessible task by creating a game that reflects the code model, is intuitively understandable, and is fun to play. Completion of the game effectively helps the program verification tool complete the corresponding formal program verification proof.
I stumbled on this great Tweet today, posted by Bob Walton a few months ago.
@bobspace : I’ll bet that 500 years from now, there will be orthodox robots who believe the universe was created on January 1st, 1970.
@alasdair53 No, none of those robots will ever believe the world is more than 2^32 seconds old
While browsing technical articles tonight I stumbled upon a new term called the ‘Lumpy cloud’ in reference to an aberration of the classic cloud we think of today.
The article in question with this term is just a short debate on whether mainframes have any place in the cloud or if it’s expected to be x86 based. There’s nothing earth shattering here but the article is worth taking the 5 minutes to read.
Anyway, the term ‘Lumpy cloud’ is defined below and I thought it was interesting enough of a term that it deserved to be called out:
It just means that it’s not all four-CPU PCs. Instead, you have lumps that are basically 100 processors and up, whether it’s the mainframe or something else, and 100-virtual-machine-and-up machines. I just don’t think that x86 is there yet.
Most references on the web refer to lumpy cloud in the context of weather, not 100x CPU VM servers.
Nights of the Crusades RPG is ready for broad testing and the call for Beta testers is going out!
Here’s a description of the RPG:
"Nights of the Crusades is a roleplaying game set in a land and time that is familiar on the surface, but within its cracks lie tales of sorcery, madness and violence. It is a world that could have happened and then been lost to barbarity and time. Players take on characters that can explore the places involved in the Crusades, from Egypt, through to Damascus and Jerusalem. The Tale-Weaver is their guide, allowing them to unearth the horrors of war and fanaticism as they pursue their goals. As the main characters come across storytellers in their travels, they will take part in a new story within the story of their main narrative. Magic, djinn and foul beasts lurk within the minds of the storytellers, yet many secrets and shards of knowledge can be found within these tales.
And the real world is not free from horror. The land is rife with dark cults, creatures that dwell in unseen places and bloodthirsty warriors. This is a time when anyone’s thoughts, from king to slave, are enough to condemn them to death and hell, and many are they that will line up to cheer the execution. Nights of the Crusades is a mixture of the Arabian Nights, the history surrounding the Crusades and both modern and ancient tales of terror.
The rules hope to reflect mature and gritty issues that are not catered to in many popular RPGs, such as the psychological impacts of combat and killing. The gameplay also allows for tension in every form of conflict, whether verbal or physical. A group of companions made up of an artist, diplomat and physician will be as enjoyable to play as one made up of a warrior, archer and thief."
You can download the rulebook here: http://www.mediafire.com/?ucehhm0z4byminp
The rulebook is quite large (25MB) because it’s around 100 pages with illustrations, but it’s been compressed as much as possible without impacting the quality.
Stanford University is offering a free online course on Game Theory, class starts in January 2012 and I’m signing up! If you’re not familiar with game theory and how it can be applied to everyday use, here’s the course’s intro:
Popularized by movies such as "A Beautiful Mind", game theory is the mathematical modeling of strategic interaction among rational (and irrational) agents. Beyond what we call ‘games’ in common language, such as chess, poker, soccer, etc., it includes the modeling of conflict among nations, political campaigns, competition among firms, and trading behavior in markets such as the NYSE. How could you begin to model eBay, Google keyword auctions, and peer to peer file-sharing networks, without accounting for the incentives of the people using them? The course will provide the basics: representing games and strategies, the extensive form (which computer scientists call game trees), Bayesian games (modeling things like auctions), repeated and stochastic games, and more. We’ll include a variety of examples including classic games and a few applications.
Visit the Stanford Game Theory course page here and lets sign up together.
This is a great article describing what it is about Windows that drew people into personal computing so long ago and why some concepts of Windows used in the new Windows Phone OS bring the same primal needs.
Just in time for Christmas, a couple of enterprising folks created a simple website to determine whether people have been naughty or nice this year. Simply log in via your Facebook or Twitter account and the website’s server parses all the tweets or posts for the year and determines whether you’ve been naughty or nice.
That’s an objective way of determining whether your stocking will see gifts or coal this year.
Check out the site to see the results of parsing some famous people.
Head injury is a leading cause of morbidity and death, it’s estimated that brain injuries account for 15% of the burden of fatalities and disabilities in people. It’s also a leading cause of death in young adults. However, the woodpecker does not experience any head injury at the high speed of 6 m/s with a deceleration of 1000g when it drums a tree trunk. It’s still not known how woodpeckers protect their brain from injury.
Slow-motion footage, X-ray images and computer simulations have shed light on how woodpeckers avoid injuries to their brains as they peck. The findings could help design more effective head protection for humans.
BBC Science has the details on the investigation, this is good stuff.
The BBC article is based on a paper “Why Do Woodpeckers Resist Head Impact Injury: A Biomechanical Investigation”. You can read the paper and it’s abstract here.