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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Should Farmers Come Back to Towns?
It's a well-known fact that cities are warmer than their surrounding rural areas. This is because of the so-called 'urban heat island' effect created by buildings, roads and human activities, which absorb heat during the day and release it slowly during nights. But did you know that these warmer conditions also affected plants?

Now, researchers from Boston University have quantified this phenomenon and say that cities are greener longer than neighboring rural regions. Using information from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on the Terra satellite, they found that growing seasons are about two weeks longer in urban areas than in rural ones, one in the spring and one in the fall.

In "Urban heat islands make cities greener," NASA adds that this effect can be seen up to six miles from cities, extending the growing season for people living outside cities. So is this time to transform city parks into corn fields?

Please read this overview for more details and references to answer this question. And more or less unrelated to the subject, NASA also chooses to release a small but very spectacular movie which zooms from Central Park, New York, to the whole city to end by the Earth in space (4.26 MB). Very cool!
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 6:57 AM Comments (0)
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The World's Largest Environmental Experiment
The Amazon in South America is more than a forest or an habitat. It's a climate regulator which has to absorb between 200 and 300 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions produced by the 8,000 square miles of forests destroyed every year. In 1998, the Brazilian community, helped by many international institutions, launched the Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment (LBA). The LBA Experiment is made up of 120 projects, 61 of which are already complete. The status of these projects is currently being reviewed by 800 delegates from 170 Brazilian and foreign institutions at the III LBA Scientific Conference held in Brasilia between July 27 and 29.

NASA says it plays a key role in the LBA experiment through the use of its satellites and its computer scientists. But Inter Press Service reports that the Mega-Amazon Research Project Holds Surprises -- Good and Bad: good because it provides opportunities for 400 researchers to work on postgraduate studies in the area, bad because it's still not known if the forests absorb enough carbon to compensate the emissions caused by deforestation, therefore contributing to global warming.

Please read this overview for more details, references and a map of the LBA sites spanning the Amazon.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 6:51 AM Comments (0)
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Friday, July 30, 2004

U2 May Release Album Early as Result of Theft
A little late with this, but the Telegraph reported last week that U2 may take some drastic measures to prevent their new album from leaking onto the internet after a CD of it was stolen earlier this month.
U2's lead singer Bono has proposed a radical solution. "If it is on the internet this week, we will release it immediately as a legal download on iTunes, and get hard copies into the shops by the end of the month," he told me. "It would be a real pity. It would screw up years of work and months of planning, not to mention fucking up our holidays. But once it's out, it's out."
(via U2log.com)
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6:51 PM Comments (1)
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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Nintendo Finalizes Name, Design of New Handheld
Nintendo unveiled the final design of their new handheld today, and also confirmed that "Nintendo DS" will be the official product name. The new design looks to be a significant improvement over the prototype shown at E3 in May, though you have to question not using the Game Boy name, which is arguably the most successful brand in the history of video games. From the press release:
Nintendo DS, originally chosen as the code name, has been selected as the official product name. The Nintendo DS name evokes the idea of a portable system with "dual screens," providing the rationale for the final name. The hardware also has been redesigned to sport a slimmer, sharper look. The retooled Nintendo DS features a thinner, black base and an angular platinum flip-top cover. The face buttons and shoulder buttons are larger, and some have been reconfigured for optimum use. The unit includes a new storage slot for the touch screens stylus, and the speakers now broadcast in stereo sound, with or without headphones.
An exact launch date and price have yet to be announced, but it is expected to be available by the end of the year and sell for around $150US.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 8:06 PM Comments (0)
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GPS Show that Carrier Pigeons Follow Highways
It has long been suggested that carrier pigeons followed man-made structures, such as highways and railways, during their trips. This theory has now been validated by a team of European scientists.

They equipped 216 pigeons with GPS devices and followed their flying paths by satellites. They studied the behavior of these homing pigeons during trips varying from 20 to 80 kilometers in an area around Rome, in Italy, between 2001 and 2003. In "Putting GPS to work, researchers shed light on road-following by pigeons," you'll learn that "the birds appeared to follow roadways was strongest in the early and middle sections of their homeward journeys, when, the researchers suspect, roads serve to stabilize the birds' innate compass course."

The researchers speculate that by following highways they 'remember,' the pigeons have more time to watch for predators. Please read this overview for more details, references and a map showing the tracks followed by the pigeons.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:08 PM Comments (1)
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Medicine Breakthroughs at Xerox's PARC
The new Scripps-PARC Institute for Advanced Biomedical Sciences (SPIABS for short) is the fruit of the union between Xerox's PARC and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and promises to transform medical research and the practice of medicine.

The Mercury News writes that it's making a big leap to innovation in medicine. SPIABS already announced an enthalpy array, an extremely precise nanocalorimeter. It can detect changes of millionths of a degree in temperature, using samples of only 240 nanoliters. This nanocalorimeter will be used to "help pharmaceutical companies quickly pick out the best drug candidates and get improved medications to market sooner."

Earlier this year, SPIABS unveiled the FAST cytometer, a laser scanning device so precise it can spot a single cancerous cell in the middle of the ten other millions contained in a standard blood sample. And SPIABS is working on other projects, such as sutures sewn on the perimeter of a removed tumor, equipped with laser diodes to spot and kill new cancerous cells as soon as they appear. Please read this overview for more details, references and pictures.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:01 PM Comments (0)
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U.S. Nuclear Cleanup Carries Major Risks
New Scientist reports in this pretty alarming article that there is a 50-50 chance of a major radiation or chemical accident during the cleanup of the dirtiest nuclear site in the U.S. There are indeed lots of things to clean at the Hanford complex in Washington state: 67 tons of plutonium and 190 million liters of liquid radioactive waste stored in underground tanks.

A third of them, dating from the Cold War, have already leaked 4 million liters in the environment, contaminating the groundwater and a river. Meanwhile, officials at the DOE, who'll spend $50 billion between now and 2035 on this cleanup, seem less worried than the different specialists interviewed by New Scientist.

Please read this overview for selected quotes from the article and from the Hanford site. You'll also find a slide from the DOE showing the timeframe for the cleanup.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 12:48 PM Comments (0)
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Sunday, July 25, 2004

BlogOn Wrap-up
The BlogOn conference on "the business of social media" wrapped up on Friday. J.D. Lasica has some good coverage of the event as well as a photo album on his blog.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 10:14 PM Comments (0)
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Slate for Sale
Reuters reports (CNET link) that Microsoft is looking to sell its online magazine, Slate, which the company launched in 1996. According to the report, there are five or six potential buyers and a deal could be signed in weeks or months (and no, Mindjack is not one of the suitors).
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:17 PM Comments (0)
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NASA's Proteus Plane Studies Air Quality, but who's the Pilot?
NASA's Proteus aircraft is an unusual plane designed by Burt Rutan, from Scaled Composites. It is 56-feet-long, 78-feet-wide and flies at almost 70,000 feet high to study air quality and improve weather forecasts. And who's one of the pilots? This is 63-year-old Michael Melvill who flew up to 60 miles high in June 2004 aboard SpaceShipOne, reports the Hampton Roads Daily Press, Virginia, in this article.

And Proteus is apparently much easier to control than SpaceShipOne. "It's like a big old Cadillac," he said Friday while Proteus received prep work inside a Langley hangar. "It's very quiet. The engine is way in the back."

But if it feels like driving an old Cadillac, Proteus carries the next generation of climate observation instruments which will be deployed on new satellites launched starting in 2006. Please read this overview for more details, references and photographs.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 2:11 PM Comments (0)
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Saturday, July 24, 2004

Tracking the Tour de France Riders from Space
It was just a matter of time before someone gets the idea of using satellite localization to map the positions of the cyclists of the Tour de France. In a first test on July 21 during the ascension to l'Alpe d'Huez, ten riders were equipped with receivers and tracked by the EGNOS European satellite positioning system, a preparatory programme for the Galileo system. The European Space Agency (ESA) reports about this first test in "The best view of the Tour is from space."

It's highly possible that all riders can get receivers as soon as next year. And this data will be available on the Web, so you will know in real time the exact location of your favorite champion. Read this summary for more details and a computer-generated image showing the respective positions of Lance Armstrong and Richard Virenque, the top-ranked climber, while climbing to the top of l'Alpe d'Huez.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:30 PM Comments (1)
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Friday, July 23, 2004

Do the Nano-Locomotion
It's widely accepted today that nanotechnology will soon be able to deliver medicine inside the human body or to do research on cells. But to achieve this goal, you need nano-cargos moving through liquid environments, such as blood. And this is a very difficult challenge because the nano-swimmers have to struggle with blood's viscosity, which has very large effect in a nanoscale environment.

But now, two Iranian researchers have found a simple and elegant solution to this problem, based on the principle of non-reciprocal motion and described in "Teaching Nanotech to Swim" by Technology Review. Their nano-swimmer consists of three aligned spheres connected by two rigid rods which can contract and expand. The nano-cargo then advances in the blood like an earthworm inside the soil.

Even if these nano-swimmers look promising, nobody knows when they will be able to deliver drugs in our bodies. Read this summary for more details and references. You'll also find an illustration showing how the nano-swimmer moves.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:38 PM Comments (0)
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Space Technology Helps Save Lives on Earth
Technology developed for space travel has been adapted for uses on Earth for a long time. But now, three articles report that some current customizations can save lives. For example, SPACE.com writes that space technology is entering hospitals. It says that a system originally intended to keep clean the space station Mir, and later the International Space Station (ISS), is now used in hospitals to build temporary 'clean rooms' -- virtually bacteria-free -- around patients.

And a video infrared camera developed by NASA's JPL to study Earth is being modified into a brain scanning device searching for tumors. Elsewhere, National Geographic is saying that satellites are starting to aid earthquake predictions. And ESA's satellites are looking at the 'rogue' monster waves which have has sunk many of the 200 supertankers and container ships exceeding 200 meters in length during the last two decades.

You need to read the articles mentioned above to realize how all these bleeding edge technologies can really help us on Earth, but if you have a limited time, please read this summary for selected excerpts and photos.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:35 PM Comments (0)
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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A Meeting with the Makers of a New TDA, the Jackito
A week ago, I wrote a column about a new Tactile Digital Assistant (TDA), the Jackito. Many readers questioned the existence of the product and thought it might be an elaborate scam. I also had serious doubts.

But as both the company behind this TDA, Novinit, and myself are French, I decided to investigate and contacted the company. And I spent several hours with the CEO and the CTO. I told them about the mistakes they made in their early announcement and asked what kind of corrective actions they were taking to fix the situation and build trust in their product. I also discussed their vision of this TDA, the history of the project and its possible future.

But more importantly, I used an early prototype. I don't know if this TDA will be a success, but one thing is sure: it's real. Read this interview for more details.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:44 PM Comments (0)
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Nanotech Leads to Magnetic Fridges
Magnetic refrigerators offer significant advantages when compared with current vapor-compression ones, such as gains in energy efficiency, lower cost of operation or elimination of environmentally damaging coolants. Unfortunately, all the materials which have been tested in the last fifty years suffer from hysteresis losses, lowering the energy available for cooling.

But now, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers have found a solution, reported in "Nanomaterial Yields Cool Results." By adding a small amount of iron to a gadolinium-germanium-silicon alloy, they enhanced the cooling capacity by 30 percent.

This very significant step may help move the promising technology of magnetically generated refrigeration closer to market. This overview contains more details and references.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:36 PM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Securing ATMs From Solenoid Fingers
People want your ATM card and PIN number. Badly. An article in SecurityFocus lists some of the low and high-tech ways thieves try to get your card and PIN. While this isn't new information, it is surprising to read the level of security in place on the PIN entry device (PED). PEDs can't give away the number being pressed by sound or EM emission, and should be able to stand a repetitive attack by solenoid fingers.
:: posted by Doug, 10:14 PM Comments (0)
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Now in Mindjack
Tony Walsh joins Mindjack this issue with an article on Multiplayer Gaming's Quiet Revolution.
The bleachers at Stage Four in Dore are always a good place to avatar-watch, particularly during fashion-shows. Dressed as a tree-man, I am sandwiched between a blue, demon-winged lad and an attractive woman sporting a revealing red jump-suit. I take a moment to appreciate her outfit, and realize she's giving me an appraising glance. Her gaze sweeps from my bark-covered feet to leafy noggin. "Hi, Zero," she says. I grin. Her blue eyes lock onto my yellow ones and she blinks a couple of times, the corners of her mouth appearing to turn up slightly. It takes a few heartbeats before I realize I've been staring. With a flick of the mouse, I break eye-contact. I've blushed in real life.

Virtual environments historically haven't given players the ability to connect in such subtle ways. Although we know what a picture is worth, it took years before graphics supplemented typed words as a means of communication. Today's graphics and animation technologies are poised to irrevocably change the face of human interaction in cyberspace, allowing us not just to share, but to create wordless, realistic and powerful moments.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 12:46 AM Comments (0)
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High-Speed Internet for Every Canadian, via Satellite
At least that's the promise of Telesat's Anik F2 satellite, which succesfully launched Saturday evening aboard an Ariane 4 rocket from the launch zone in Kourou, French Guiana. The Toronto Star has the details:

Canadians should care about this moment — about this particular satellite. Anik F2 is more than just the largest and heaviest of commercial satellites in the world, it's also the first to combine cutting edge Ka-band technology with older and less powerful Ku- and C-band transponders.

The latter two will continue to carry Canada's television and telecommunications signals, but the powerful Ka-band "spot beams" will, for the first time, let an Anik satellite deliver two-way, broadband Internet service to any location in North America at a price that's competitive with residential cable or DSL high-speed services.

Previously, you'd have to spend at least a couple hundred dollars a month to get high-speed access to your cottage or rural business. Bush estimates Telesat's consumer high-speed Internet service, which will be sold through a distribution network yet to be announced (but likely to include Bell Canada), will cost only 5 to 10 per cent more than what Torontonians pay for high-speed services from Sympatico and Rogers.
This can't come soon enough.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 12:41 AM Comments (0)
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Monday, July 19, 2004

Half of Cell Phones Will Be RFID-Enabled by 2009
Three months ago, Nokia introduced the first RFID phone kit (check "RFID Coming to a Cell Phone Near You" for more). Now, in "Developing RFID-Enabled Phones," RFID Journal says a new report from ABI Research predicts that within 5 years, 50% of cell phones will include RFID chips to use Near Field Communication (NFC), a two-way technology.

Here is how you'll use it. While walking down the street, you'll see a poster for a movie you want to see. By pointing your phone at the poster, you will be connected to a website, buy the ticket and be charged through the credit card information stored in your smart phone.

Of course, other usages might severely affect your privacy. But as the technology is already being tested, I guess we'll have to deal with it. This overview contains more details and references.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 2:41 PM Comments (0)
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Sunday, July 18, 2004

Nano Tetrapods With Tunable 'Legs'
A team of chemists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), working with computer scientists, has discovered a new kind of adaptable nanoscale compounds. They previously devised tetrapods, structures with four 'arms' or 'legs', from materials such as cadmium telluride. But they now found that by using different materials, like selenium, tellurium or sulfur, to produce crystals of different cadmium compounds, each 'leg' could acquire different electronic properties. After isolating these 'legs,' they were able to produce 'nanorods' with specific properties.

In "Nanotech Branches Out with New Discovery," NewsFactor Network says that this discovery will have important consequences, leading to the development of new solar cells, quantum computers or simply very small and fast transistors.

This overview is more technical and contains additional references. You'll also find an image showing you the kind of nano tetrapods built at LBNL.

:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:26 PM Comments (0)
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Saturday, July 17, 2004

MUM, the Mars Underground Mole, Goes to Work
People at NASA never stop to surprise me. Searching for water or presence of past life of Mars obviously needs drilling beneath the surface. So NASA is developing the Mars Underground Mole (MUM), based on a previous device used for the European Beagle 2 mission. But here is the twist. MUM will include sensors which were previously used to collect spectral imagery of Earth from pilotless aircrafts, especially Hawaii, according to NASA.

While the Mole will stay on the surface on Mars and drill up to 5 meters deep, it will transmit data via a fiber optic cable to a digital array scanning interferometer (DASI). And the spectral images produced by the DASI will enable researchers to identify possible water, ice, organics and minerals under the surface on Mars. And this MUM will be a small one, weighing less than a kilogram for a length of only 50 centimeters. For more details and pictures about MUM, please read this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:55 AM Comments (0)
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An Artificial Brain with 20 Billion Neurons
A California-based company founded in 2003, Artificial Development, is developing neural network cognitive systems and wants to introduce "the first 5th Generation computer to the world." According to e4engineering.com, the company recently completed a representation of a functioning human brain. This project, named CCortex, has vast ambitions. The company hopes that their "software may have immediate applications for data mining, network security, search engine technologies and natural language processing."

This software runs on a Linux cluster with 1,000 processors and the CCortex system has 20 billion neurons and 20 trillion connections. The company says this is "the first neural system to achieve a level of complexity rivaling that of the mammalian brain." For more details about this project, please read this overview.

:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:49 AM Comments (0)
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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Quantum Cryptography Network Unveiled
Quantum cryptography has reached another big step towards potentially perfect secure communications. BBN Technologies, Harvard University and Boston University researchers have built a six-node quantum cryptography network in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The network, which is operational since December 2002, "operates continuously to provide a way to exchange secure keys between BBN and Harvard, which is about 10 kilometers away," providing a totally secure virtual private network.

In "Quantum crypto network debuts," Technology Research News (TRN) reports that this network uses existing Internet protocols including the secure Internet Protocol (IPsec). In other words, this technology is ready for practical applications as soon as today. For more details, references and pictures, please read this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 12:07 PM Comments (1)
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You'll Have to Wait for Corny CDs
In September 2003, Sanyo Electric introduced the concept of a new optical disc, dubbed 'MildDisc' and based on poly lactid acid produced from corn. These discs will have a lifetime of 50 to 100 years and are biodegradable. At that time Sanyo anticipated that mass production would start in the first half of 2004. But now, IDG News Service reports that these corn-based CDs are delayed.

These discs would not work correctly when facing a heat of 50°C. So Sanyo is refining the technology and says it doesn't know when the corny discs come to market. For more details and a 'childish' illustration from Sanyo, please read this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 12:02 PM Comments (0)
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Hi-Fi Research Leads To Better Beer
This week, New Scientist reports on how a technology intended to solve a problem can be successfully used ten years later to solve a totally different one. In "Hi-fi failure helps to brighten beer," the magazine says that in the early 1990s, Philips developed a technology to enhance the sound quality of audio tapes. As tapes were dethroned by CDs, Philips didn't have any use for this technology.

But now, a small Dutch company, fluXXion, is using it to develop micro filters. And these filters are currently used by Dutch brewer Bavaria to remove yeast residues from its beers. For more details and pictures, please read this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 11:59 AM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Myths of Biometrics
The Egyptians used biometrics to verify the identities of their workers, and cutting off someone's finger or plucking their eye out won't help you get past a scanner. These are two of the biometric myths that are debunked in a HNS article. However, others have proven that you don't need to go so far as cutting off a finger, making your own gummi replica of a fingerprint will do.
:: posted by Doug, 5:05 PM Comments (0)
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It's time for a nap, Dave

Who says the future hasn't arrived yet? The picture above is of a MetroNap rest pod which, if you live in NYC, can be booked for a 20-minute nap in their Empire State Building office. And if you've got eight grand burning a hole in your wallet, it can be yours to own. Now, let's see some jetpacks!

(Via Clive Thompson, who himself seems to be living twenty minutes in the future)
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 4:05 PM Comments (0)
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Monday, July 12, 2004

Now in Mindjack
Throne of Blood (Criterion Collection)
DVD reviewed by Donald Melanson

Akira Kurosawa's highly-regarded adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth gets the Criterion treatment on DVD.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6:37 PM Comments (0)
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Sunday, July 11, 2004

A New Mega Video Camera for $40K
A new high-resolution camera developed by Imaging Solutions Group for the U.S. Navy and NASA should be available in six to nine months, according to this article from Technology Research News. This camera delivers 8.3 million pixels with 24-bit color at a rate of 30 frames per second, about four times the resolution of today's HDTV systems. The complete system includes an IBM T221 9.2-megapixel liquid crystal display.

"The system allows a person with 20/20 vision standing half a meter away from the screen to see a view that is arguably equivalent to looking through a window, according to the researchers." No price has been set, but it should be slightly above US$40,000. In this overview, you'll find more details, references and pictures.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 9:59 AM Comments (0)
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GPS on Mars?
SPACE.com published this week an article named "Red Planet Wayfinder: A GPS System for Mars." You'll read that NASA researchers are studying a "global positioning satellite (GPS) system around Mars that could also function as a communications network."

This would imply "a constellation of microsatellites, or Microsats, and one or more relatively large Mars Aerostationary Relay Satellites, or MARSats," according to the Mars Network website at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

This sounds like a neat idea. In this overview, you'll find some spectacular images.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 9:57 AM Comments (0)
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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Jumping From Computer To Computer
Imagine a world where computers become so ubiquitous that the idea of carrying a laptop will almost be laughable, a world where any computer could be your computer! According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, this is the goal of Intel Research Pittsburgh's Internet Suspend/Resume (ISR) project, a project that may one day let your work jump from computer to computer without interruption by using Internet, distributed file systems, and virtual machines.

When the non-proprietary technology becomes available, a user will suspend a task on the computer he's working on, and resume this work using another computer in another part of a city or several thousand miles away. The second system will look identical to the first one, with the same files and applications opened. This technology would also ease OS upgrades or eliminate the pain coming from a hard disk failure. The project has even a feature named Rollback which would permit to go back in time, eliminating these pesky viruses.

A pilot test will start this fall, so don't expect to be able to use ISR before a while. You'll find more details and references in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 2:01 PM Comments (1)
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'Agrobots' at the Farm
Autonomous robots, dubbed 'ag robots,' are being developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) by agricultural engineers to help farmers to do their duties. Some of them, 'ag ants,' costing only $150, walk through crop rows on their mechanical legs. When one of them detects weed plants, he alerts the other members of the robotic strike force to attack the plants as a team.

These robots, and others developed at UIUC, have sensors to detect the end of crop rows, so they can automatically turn. The engineers also built a high-tech robot, which costs $7,000, uses a laser to estimate the distance to corn plants. Future versions will be used to detect plants diseases or to apply precise amounts of pesticides. More details are included in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:57 PM Comments (0)
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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Rent a Bicycle with your Cell Phone
If you live in West London, more precisely in the Hammersmith and Fulham borough, you can use your mobile phone to unlock and rent a bicycle. In "Phones power bike rental scheme," BBC News Online writes that users receive a PIN via SMS when they want to rent a bicycle and a second one to return it. They also receive the price of the trip via SMS and are charged monthly on their credit cards.

Rates are fairly low, from 30p for less than 15 minutes, up to £8 for one to eight hours. The company behind this new scheme, OYBike, has already 28 docking stations near metro stations or car parks, and expects to extend this service to other areas of London starting this month.

This overview contains more details and references, including pictures and links to the patent behind the service offered by OYBike. If you're curious enough to look at the drawings section, you'll find very refreshing to see that such a simple sketch can be used to deposit a patent in Europe.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 10:27 AM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, July 06, 2004

True or False? Investigating Digital Images
In our world of digital information, everything is described by zeros and ones, even photographs. And it's incredibly easy to use computers to alter an image after it is digitized to produce fake ones, like the recent forged image showing Jane Fonda and John Kerry together at a political meeting.

Now, computer scientists from Dartmouth College have developed an algorithm able to tell the difference between a "real" image and a modified one. They "built a statistical model that captures the mathematical regularities inherent in natural images. Because these statistics fundamentally change when images are altered, the model can be used to detect digital tampering."

The team thinks that their technology, or a similar one, will soon be incorporated in the U.S. legal system to authenticate images. You'll find more details and references here, including an analysis of a forged image.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 9:31 AM Comments (0)
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Sunday, July 04, 2004

French Users of 'Did They Read It?' Face 5 Years in Jail
You might have heard about the Did They Read It? service, which promises to let you know if your email correspondents have opened, read or forwarded your messages (check "Tracking the e-mail you sent" for more details).

If you live in France, I strongly urge you not to use this service. In this privacy alert (in French), the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) says that the service is illegal and breaches French privacy legislation.

A French user of this service faces now up to five years in jail and a fine of 300,000 euros (about US$ 360,000). I would never use this tracking service, but five years in jail seem ridiculous and excessive. You'll find more information here to craft your judgment, but what do you think?
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:40 PM Comments (0)
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Saturday, July 03, 2004

I.T. is it
The LA Times is reporting that nerd is the new black, and that trends in fashion and movies point to a rise in "geek chic." Please. Geeks have been cool since Matthew Broderick almost destroyed the world over a 300 baud modem. We didn't need movies like Napoleon Dynamite, or action figures like Geekman to validate us.
:: posted by Doug, 9:29 PM Comments (0)
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Is This a Video Projector in Your Pocket?
Video projectors able to project high-quality images will be embedded in your cellphones and laptops within two years. This is the promise of a new technology developed at Cambridge University. These pocket projectors will have no lenses and no light bulbs. Instead, these future battery-powered tiny projectors will rely on holographic technology and special algorithms.

In "Holograms enable pocket projectors," Technology Research News explains that a 2D hologram will be created on a microdisplay and projected by using a laser beam. This has been possible because the researchers have written special algorithms which generates the holograms a million times faster than standard ones.

This overview contains more details and includes a photograph of a sport event and of the computer-generated hologram of the same event using these special algorithms.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:40 PM Comments (0)
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A Radar That Can See Through Walls
According to Haaretz, an Israeli start-up has developed a new radar technology to see through walls. This radar system, based on UWB (ultra wideband) technology, can produce 3D images of what stays behind walls. The real breakthrough is that this system can be used from a distance of up to 20 meters, which will benefit rescuers as well as military personnel by providing useful information about the number of people inside a room, their locations and even their weapons.

The newspaper adds that the images are of good quality, allowing the users of the system to follow what is happening behind the wall in real time. However, don't expect to get one today. The first devices are expected to be available within 18 months.

More details are available in this overview, such as other defense technologies currently developed in Israel. For example, an electronic field deployed around a building would permit to detect and monitor all electronic transmissions inside it.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 6:19 AM Comments (0)
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Thursday, July 01, 2004

'Facetop' Blends Screen and Video Images
I'm sure that many of you have had poor experiences when participating to phone or video conferences. Now, a new video conferencing interface, named Facetop, improves the level of collaboration by blending transparent images of the user filmed by a video camera on the computer display. This results in a 'ghost' image of the user on the screen. When he points at something, "his video reflection appears to touch objects on the screen."

The computer scientists also developed a two-user version in which the 'ghost' images of the two users appear side by side. Both can alternatively take control of the desktop, again allowing a better collaboration. You can expect a Mac version within months and a Windows version in two years. You'll find more details and pictures in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 4:41 PM Comments (0)
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