Tag Archives | Science & Technology

Advocacy Groups Plan Day of Protest Against NSA Surveillance

Pic: DWFB (C)

Pic: DWFB (C)

As football season gears up for its climax, many people are overlooking a much bigger game that is being played at the moment.  Grant Gross for PC World reports on the Day We Fight Back protest:

A group of activist groups and Internet companies are planning a coordinated protest of U.S. National Security Agency surveillance on Feb. 11, with the hope that millions of people will join them.The protest, called the Day We Fight Back, comes a month after the anniversary of Internet activist Aaron Swartz’s death. Swartz committed suicide last January while facing a 35-year prison sentence for hacking into a Massachusetts Institute of Technology network and downloading research articles.Among the organizations participating in the protest are Demand Progress, an activist group Swartz co-founded, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, Reddit and Mozilla.”Today the greatest threat to a free Internet, and broader free society, is the National Security Agency’s mass spying regime,” David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, said in a statement.… Read the rest
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Cameras And Devices Will Soon Decode, Store, And Track Your Emotions

Emotient is one of many companies that plan to capture, analyze, and sell emotional information:

Emotient is the leading authority on facial expression recognition and analysis technologies that are enabling a future of emotion aware computing.

The company began at the Machine Perception Lab at University of California, San Diego, and has since attracted industry leaders across the realms of business, technology and science.

Emotient’s flagship products are the FACET™ SDK, a high-accuracy, cost effective and adaptive software development kit, and FACET™ Vision, a fully featured desktop application for automated facial expression analysis and video annotation. With a camera-enabled device, our system can quickly process facial detection and automated expression analysis in real-time.

Our leading-edge software detects and tracks primary expressions of emotion and blended composites of multiple emotions. Fortune 500 companies, market research firms, and a growing number of vertical markets are ideally suited to leverage facial expression data.

 

emotient

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Mars One Mission Selection Will Be A Reality TV Show

mars oneEver wish that reality TV stars could be hurtled off to Mars with no possibility of ever coming back? They've made a show out of it. Via the Telegraph:
Mars One hopes to announce a Big Brother-style reality show to help choose which of the 1,058 candidates for the one-way trip to Mars in 2025 will be among the 40 who make the final selection, with viewers voting on who should colonise the Red Planet. Paul Römer, co-creator and the first producer of The Big Donor Show and the Big Brother, is an ambassador for the project. CEO Bas Lansdorp has said: "We're in advanced negotiations with a major studio for an overall deal for film and television properties." 1,058 candidates survived the round one application process, which has weeded out more than 200,000 people since April last year. Organisers said they ruled out anyone "not taking the mission seriously". The shortlisted candidates come from 107 countries.
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Polish Company Developing A Star Wars-Style Hologram Phone

Leia Display Systems is working on reducing the size of their impressive hologram-video machines to the point where you will make three-dimensional phone calls. Via the Mirror:
A Star Wars-style phone which allows users to see 3D hologram images of the person on the other end of the line has been pioneered by experts at Leia Display Systems, a Polish company named after the film’s heroine. To make a call, the person sits in front of a camera which has two lenses and a microphone. The two images formed by the lenses are streamed through to the person on the other end. A hologram machine then projects them onto a screen of water vapour. “At the moment, our holograms are made using machines that are more than six feet high but we are designing smaller versions. We hope to sell hologram telephone devices within the next five years,” Chief executive Marcin Panek said.
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Epilepsy Drug Allows Adults To Learn Perfect Pitch And New Languages As If They Were Children

valproateEarly childhood-style learning abilities as a side effect? Via NPR:

Takao Hensch, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard, is studying a drug which might allow adults to learn perfect pitch. Hensch says the drug, valprioc acid, allows the brain to absorb new information as easily as it did before age 7.

“It’s a mood-stabilizing drug, but we found that it also restores the plasticity of the brain to a juvenile state,” Hensch says.

Hensch gave the drug to a group of young men who had no musical training as children. They were asked to perform tasks to train their ears, and at the end of a two-week period, tested on their ability to discriminate tone.

The results were that those who took the valproate scored much higher on pitch tests than those who underwent similar training but only took the placebo. In other words, Hensch gave people a pill and then taught them to have perfect pitch.

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NSA Trying To Build Quantum Computer That Could Break All Forms Of Encryption

quantum computingTrying to maintain your privacy? Consider just giving up. The Washington Post reports:

In room-size metal boxes ­secure against electromagnetic leaks, the National Security Agency is racing to build a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world.

According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the effort to build “a cryptologically useful quantum computer” — a machine exponentially faster than classical computers — is part of a $79.7 million research program titled “Penetrating Hard Targets.” Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park, Md.

The development of a quantum computer has long been a goal of many in the scientific community. With such technology, all current forms of public key encryption would be broken, including those used on many secure Web sites as well as the type used to protect state secrets.

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Dogs Poop In Line With Earth’s Magnetic Field

dogsAre other species engaging in advanced behaviors related to Earth’s magnetic field to which we are oblivious? Will humanity’s pooping without regard to planet-level electromagnetic fluctuations eventually be our undoing? Motherboard writes:

A team of Czech and German researchers found that dogs actually align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field when they poop.

The researchers measured the direction of the body axis of dogs during 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations over the course of two years, and found that dogs “prefer to excrete with the body being aligned along the North-south axis under calm magnetic field conditions.”

It is still enigmatic why the dogs do align, whether they do it ‘consciously’ (i.e., whether the magnetic field is sensorial perceived (the dogs ‘see,’ ‘hear’ or ‘smell’ the direction) or whether its reception is controlled on the vegetative level (they ‘feel better/more comfortable or worse/less comfortable’ in a certain direction). Dogs not only prefer N-S direction, but at the same time they also avoid E-W direction.

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Glow-In-The-Dark Pigs Birthed Using Jellyfish DNA

Introducing what is sure to be this year's must-have rave accessory. Via The Verge:
Scientists at the South China Agricultural University announced last week that they had successfully engineered 10 piglets that could glow green under black light. By using a technique pioneered by the University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Medicine, the researchers were able to isolate a fluorescent protein in jellyfish DNA and inject it into pig embryos. Turkish researchers were able to raise fluorescent rabbits with the University of Hawaii's technique earlier this year.  
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Could Living Dinosaurs Be Bred From The DNA Of Birds?

dinosaursAre the species of the ancient past lying in wait, encoded in plain sight? The Telegraph writes:

Oxford biochemist Dr Alison Woollard said it would be theoretically possible to recreate ancient animals, through the DNA of birds. By identifying and altering certain genes found in the DNA of modern birds, she believes scientists may be able to “design” genomes of the prehistoric creatures.

“We know that birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs, as proven by an unbroken line of fossils which tracks the evolution of the lineage from creatures such as the velociraptor or T-Rex through to the birds flying around today,” said Dr Woollard. “This evolution implies that buried deep within the DNA of today’s birds are switched-off genes that control dinosaur-like traits.”

The difficulty, claims Dr Woollard is finding and understanding the full length of a dinosaur’s genome in order to know which edits to make to a bird’s genome.

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Majority Of Americans Say They Do Not Trust Scientists

scientistTo some degree, are Americans correct in believing that scientific findings are swayed by ideology and agenda? Or do they simply long for a return to the Dark Ages? The Huffington Post reports:

How much faith do Americans have in scientists and science journalists? In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, only 36 percent of Americans reported having “a lot” of trust that information they get from scientists is accurate and reliable. Fifty-one percent said they trust that information only a little, and another 6 percent said they don’t trust it at all.

What’s more, many Americans worry that the results of scientific studies are sometimes tainted by political ideology — or by pressure from the studies’ corporate sponsors. A whopping 78 percent of Americans think that information reported in scientific studies is often (34 percent) or sometimes (44 percent) influenced by political ideology. Similarly, 82 percent said that they think that scientific findings are often (43 percent) or sometimes (39 percent) influenced by the companies or organizations sponsoring them.

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