Tag Archives | Science & Technology

Turning E-Waste into Light

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

via IEEE Spectrum:

Bangalore-based IBM Research India has a bright idea for keeping discarded lithium laptop batteries out of landfills: repurposing their cells as energy supplies for the powerless. The idea, presented at this weekend’s fifth annual Symposium on Computing for Development (DEV 2014) in San Jose, has passed a small proof-of-principle test run with Bangalore’s working poor.

The IBM researchers used disused lithium batteries to create a new device they dubbed the UrJar—a multilingual monicker uniting the Hindi word urja for energy with jar. Hardware R&D firm Radio Studio, India, built the units. The first phase was tear-down. Radio Studio disassembled laptop batteries to isolate those cells that could still hold several hours’ worth of charge—over 60 percent of cells on average, according to their sampling.

Cells that passed quality control were repackaged in a housing with basic electronics, starting with a charging circuit to limit the rate and level of charge on the lithium cells and thus minimize fire risk.

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The Game Is Rigged: Why Americans Keep Losing to the Police State

Tony Webster (CC BY 2.0)

Tony Webster (CC BY 2.0)

via Canada Free Press:

“The truth is that the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens.”—Leo Tolstoy

My 7-year-old granddaughter has suddenly developed a keen interest in card games: Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Old Maid, Blackjack, and War. We’ve fallen into a set pattern now: every time we play, she deals the cards, and I pretend not to see her stacking the deck in her favor. And of course, I always lose.

I don’t mind losing to my granddaughter at Old Maid, knowing full well the game is rigged. For now, it’s fun and games, and she’s winning. Where the rub comes in is in knowing that someday she’ll be old enough to realize that being a citizen in the American police state is much like playing against a stacked deck: you’re always going to lose.

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The Time Traveler: George Church Plans to Bring Back a Creature That Went Extinct 4,000 Years Ago


via Recode:

The engineers and scientists spilling out of Greater Boston’s world-class universities built the foundations of the modern computing era and amassed the densest cluster of life sciences companies in the world. The region lost some of its most promising startups to Silicon Valley, famously including Facebook. But business is booming — and researchers and entrepreneurs there are aiming far higher than the next social network. This Re/code special series takes a closer look at past, present and future innovation in the region.

On March 15, 2013, genetic engineer George Church stood in the middle of a circular red rug onstage at the Gilbert H. Grosvenor Auditorium in Washington, D.C., describing a detailed plan for bringing a six-ton, 10-foot, fur-covered creature back from the dead.

By splicing genes responsible for traits like thicker hair, subcutaneous fat and curving tusks into the DNA of an Asian elephant, Church hopes to revive the long-extinct woolly mammoth, or at least create a version of the modern elephant that really likes the cold.

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Many memories, many rooms

Maxwell Hamilton (CC BY 2.0)

Maxwell Hamilton (CC BY 2.0)

via Gemini:

Since the time of the Greeks, people have used a special memory trick called the method of loci,  which links memories to familiar places. You retrieve the memory by thinking of the place and calling up the associated memory.

Now researchers from NTNU’s Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and Centre for Neural Computation have published new findings on how the brain is able to store many separate but similar events, which helps explain how this trick works. Their results have just been published in the 8 December issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

“We are extremely good at remembering places and we are very visual creatures,” says PhD candidate and first author of the paper Charlotte Alme. “Rats (and most likely humans) have a map for each individual place, which is why the method of loci works.

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French Publishers Think They Can Fix Online Advertising By Suing The Company Behind AdBlockPlus

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via Tech Dirt:

The debate over ad blockers continues, all without gaining much ground in terms of coherence. Most people still find ads annoying, something that plays hell with websites’ attempts to make money by utilizing them. Ad blockers kick these intrusive nuisances to the curb (and block questionable scripts), prompting website owners to make regrettable decisions like blocking users of ad blockers or banning any discussion of ad blocking software, etc. Responses like these seem to emanate from the brainstem rather than from careful consideration, and generally do more to alienate readers than screen-eating splash ads and flash-heavy sidebars that slow systems to a crawl.

So, who’s going to pay for all of this “free” content? That’s the question on many site owners’ minds. Subscriptions, paywalls, data mining, patronage, physical goods tie-ins… all of these are options. Not a single one of these is perfect and none of them have enough pull of their own to completely displace ad revenue.

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Anyone Can Now Use IBM’s Watson To Crunch Data For Free

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via ZDNet:

IBM has launched the public beta of Watson Analytics, its set of cloud-based predictive and analytics tools.

The move to public beta for Watson Analytics on Thursday follows its private beta launch this September. IBM said at the time of the beta release the service will be made available under a freemium model through iOS, Android mobile devices and the web.

Watson Analytics is a cognitive service that’s meant to bear some of the load executives face when preparing data, while making it easier to run predictive analyses and use “visual storytelling”, such as using graphs, maps and infographics to illustrate a point.

Watson Analytics is one piece of IBM’s $1bn gamble that it can commercialise Watson. The company claims it has 22,000 registrations for Watson Analytics since launching in September.

Read More: http://www.zdnet.com/article/ibm-watson-analytics-enters-public-beta/

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In world first, researchers convert sunlight to electricity with over 40 percent efficiency

(ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ (CC BY 2.0)

(ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ (CC BY 2.0)

via Science Daily:

Australia’s solar researchers have converted over 40 percent of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported. A key part of the prototype’s design is the use of a custom optical bandpass filter to capture sunlight that is normally wasted by commercial solar cells on towers and convert it to electricity at a higher efficiency than the solar cells themselves ever could.

UNSW Australia’s solar researchers have converted over 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported.

The record efficiency was achieved in outdoor tests in Sydney, before being independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) at their outdoor test facility in the United States.

The work was funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and supported by the Australia-US Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics (AUSIAPV).

“This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity,” UNSW Scientia Professor and Director of the Advanced Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) Professor Martin Green said.

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After 35 Years I Tried Magic Mushrooms Again—Here’s What Happened

Darron Birgenheier (CC by-sa 2.0)

Darron Birgenheier (CC by-sa 2.0)

via Reset.me:

Though I began researching Acid Test, a book about the revival of research into the use of psychedelic drugs for healing, in 2007, my interest in the subject really began 30 years earlier, when I was a college student at the University of Florida. The UF campus is surrounded by a rural landscape, including thousands of acres of palmetto and pine-studded pasturage used to raise cattle. My friends and I had learned to slip gingerly through barbed wire fencing and, keeping an eye out for shotgun-wielding ranchers, hunt for recently deposited piles of cow dung, from which sometimes sprouted the creamy, brown-tipped caps of psilocybin mushrooms. We plucked the mushrooms with rising excitement, as if we were pulling nuggets of pure gold from a mountain stream instead of fungi from cow shit. We knew the power contained within. Steep them in a pot with tea and drink, and before long we would see the world, and ourselves, from a novel vantage point.

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Why Elon Musk’s Batteries Scare the Hell Out of the Electric Company

Robert Scoble (CC BY 2.0)

Robert Scoble (CC BY 2.0)

via Bloomberg:

Climate: Now or Never

Here’s why something as basic as a battery both thrills and terrifies the U.S. utility industry.

At a sagebrush-strewn industrial park outside of Reno, Nevada, bulldozers are clearing dirt for Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA)’s battery factory, projected to be the world’s largest.

Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, sees the $5 billion facility as a key step toward making electric cars more affordable, while ending reliance on oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At first blush, the push toward more electric cars looks to be positive for utilities struggling with stagnant sales from energy conservation and slow economic growth.

Yet Musk’s so-called gigafactory may soon become an existential threat to the 100-year-old utility business model. The facility will also churn out stationary battery packs that can be paired with rooftop solar panels to store power. Already, a second company led by Musk, SolarCity Corp.

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World should be skeptical of China’s announcement to end organ harvesting from executed prisoners by January 1, 2015

Cory Doctorow (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cory Doctorow (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Dafoh:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2014 — Just days before International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10th, the news that the People’s Republic of China will end its internationally-condemned practice of harvesting organs from prisoners by 1 January 2015 is hardly credible given the government’s long history of breaking similar promises, according to the global humanitarian watchdog group Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting.

There is no indication that China, under the current circumstances, will be able to live up to its latest promise, which was reported Thursday in state media. The Chinese Medical Association first made this promise in 2007, a year before the Olympic Games were held in Beijing. Multiple plans to end the inhumane practice that harvests and allocates organs in secrecy—which is disproportionately aimed at political prisoners, and members of ethnic and religious minorities like the Falun Gong—have followed ever since, all of them unfulfilled.

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