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Friday, July 29, 2005

The Loud Report: The Phoenix Foundation, "Lambs"
Do you know or love someone whose life has become controlled by an addiction to Coldplay or Coldplay-like substances? This Wellington, NZ-based organization can help. To detoxify a patient without pain, their six-song program should be started with "Lambs," "This Charming Van," and "Bluesummer." Later, "The Drinker" and "Let Me Die A Woman" can be introduced to gradually ease the patient back into functional society. Just remember: there is hope, with the help of - okay, I don't actually mind Coldplay that much or else I wouldn't be linking to a band that sounds like them, would I? Still, though, they've become one of those bands that people who don't really like music like - and those people need rehabilitation. It's nice to have the occasional fulcrum on hand to remind people who think there are only two or three bands in the world that, actually, there are a couple more.
:: posted by Mike Sugarbaker, 7:14 PM Comments (1)
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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Satellites Show Urban Effects on Climate
It's now commonly admitted that our appetite for fossil fuels is having a strong influence on the Earth's climate -- and our future. But what about the concentration of humans in urban areas? Today, 50% of the world's population is living on about one percent of Earth's surface. Can this extreme concentration lead to other effects on our climate and weather?

In 'Satellites and the city,' NASA says that it can help to provide an answer. "Our research suggests that, using satellite data and enhanced models, we will be able to answer several critical questions about how urbanization may impact climate change 10, 25 or even 100 years from now," says for example a NASA scientist from the Goddard Space Flight Center.

But read more for other details, pictures and references about a phenomenon largely ignored by the majority of meteorologists today -- at least as far I know.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:32 PM Comments (0)
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The Hawaiian Autonomous Undersea Robot
After several years of research, engineers from the University of Hawaii are now testing the first autonomous robotic vehicle for deep-ocean work in the U.S.

This robot is called SAUVIM, short for Semi-Autonomous Underwater Vehicle for Intervention Missions. It's roughly the size of an SUV and it is designed to operate to a depth of about 4 miles. With its computers, its sensors, and a 5-foot, 150-pound autonomous manipulator, or robotic arm, it will be able to move towards a specific target, such as a wrecked pipe laying on the ocean floor -- and maybe fix it.

Right now, this robot has an autonomy of about eight hours, but this range should soon be extended when the researchers move from batteries to fuel cells to power the undersea vehicle. This overview contains other details, references and several pictures of this autonomous submarine engine.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:28 PM Comments (0)
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Monday, July 25, 2005

Yahoo! buys Konfabulator
Macworld reports that Yahoo! has acquired Konfabulator, an application that lets you run so-called "Widgets", or mini-applications, on your desktop. As a result of the deal, Yahoo! will now be giving Konfabulator away for free, instead of charging the US$19.95 the company previously charged for the product. On his blog, Jason Kottke comments that "[t]his could be huge. Aside from the Flickr purchase, this is the first move by Yahoo! that gives them something that Google needs but doesn't have."
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 4:35 PM Comments (0)
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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Augmented Maps
Printed maps are easy to manipulate, provide an easy way of interacting for multiple users, but are static and can be out of date. On the contrary, computer-based map displays can provide dynamic and more recent information than paper-based maps, but do not help a group of people to communicate. So why not mix them?

This is what have done researchers at England's University of Cambridge with their augmented maps, which add digital graphical information and user interface components to printed maps. Here is how this works: the printed maps are placed on a flat surface; an overhead camera linked to a PC tracks the map via the live video stream; and an overhead projector adds graphical information to the maps.

This could be useful for many applications, and the researchers have applied it to a flood simulation of the Cambridge area. Read more for selected details, references and pictures.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 7:12 AM Comments (0)
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Friday, July 22, 2005

The Loud Report: Transient, "Palm Cuts" vols. 1 through 5
This week's Loud Report is not about the music as such, although it's competent electronica that reminds me of a low-fi Hexstatic or Wagon Christ at times. What it's about is this: the songs on all five volumes of Palm Cuts were produced entirely on what used to be known as a Palm Pilot. Bhajis Loops is an app of French origin which, out of necessity, beats a lot of PC-based sequencers I've seen for clarity of interface and ease of use. It covers the analog-synth emulation bases a la the now-venerable ReBirth, then gets all the way into high-quality sampled sounds and Acid-style loop-based arrangements - all on a machine not much larger than a pack of cigarettes. So, like the man says, this is what it sounds like when the future lands on you. [Edited to add: oh crap, there's six of them!]
:: posted by Mike Sugarbaker, 1:37 PM Comments (1)
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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Ready for a GM Beer?
If you travel through Sweden this summer, don't forget to try the first genetically modified (GM) beer in the world. According to CNN.com in this short article, the Kenth beer contains "corn that has been genetically modified to protect it against pests."

Sometimes, corn is named maize in Europe, and the brewer chose to use this unusual Bt maize to 'spice up' his beer. Of course, his goal is to produce a great new beer, but he also wants to introduce new technologies that will be good for the environment without compromising the consumers' health -- I guess he based his assumptions on a 'reasonable' number of bottles on a very warm day...

Anyway, GM food products have been approved by the European Union since April 2004 -- if they're properly labeled. So you might find this beer outside Sweden anytime soon. Read more for other details, references and a photo of a bottle of this brand new beer.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 9:23 AM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Cinema-On-Demand: Theater as Social Software

I wrote this bit for Corante's Many-to-Many blog:

Cinema-On-Demand: Theater as Social Software

A darkened theatre. A full house. A heroic act. A mighty roar from the crowd. This is the delight of good cinema.

I love going to the movies with people, even people I donít know. I love to hear othersí reactions, and discuss the movie with people afterwards. In fact, I love it so much, that when my neighbor shows movies in many languages from all over the world in his backyard on Saturday nights during the summer, I often go down for the movie and end up enjoying the wine, cheese, and conversation more than the images flickering across a bedsheet waving gently in the breeze.

So, I got to thinking: What if you could rent a theater for a night? Then I read this: ďAt this yearís Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, filmmaker David LaChapelle screened his new hi-def movie, Rize, by streaming it from Oregon and then transmitting it through a WiMax station in Salt Lake City. It worked flawlessly - soon even theaters wonít have to rely on physical media anymoreĒ (from http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.04/start.html?pg=2).

Improvements in bandwidth and compression will usher in the possibility of streaming movies directly to local theaters...


:: posted by Paul B Hartzog, 4:09 PM Comments (0)
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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Texting Is Too Slow? Draw Your Words!
Admit it, typing an SMS on a cell phone takes time, and writing an e-mail on a PDA is only marginally better. But according to the San Jose Mercury News, a researcher at IBM has found a solution to this vexing problem.

Instead of typing words on these ridiculous small keyboards, with the SHARK, an abbreviation for ShortHand-Aided Rapid Keyboarding, you use a grid and a stylus. The grid appears on the screen of your portable device. You put a stylus on the first letter of the word you want to type. Then you drag the stylus to draw a line connecting all the other letters of the word. When you release the stylus, the word appears almost magically. With SHARK, you can type between 50 and 80 words per minute, which is almost miraculous.

So far, IBM hasn't yet decided to release this software as a product. But if enough of you download it, which is currently free, and say you want it, IBM could release it as a paying product within a few months. Read more for other details and references about this promising new technology.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 6:53 AM Comments (0)
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Chips in Human Brains to Control Prosthesis
You probably remember the story which surfaced in May 2005 about monkeys using robotic arms as their own (check here to refresh your memory).

Now, according to the ANBA press agency, Miguel Nicolelis, the professor of neurology at Duke University who was behind the experiments with the monkeys, wants to go further. He plans to install chips in humans' brains in order to control prosthetic arms.

Of course, there is still some work to do with animals before this kind of surgery can be practiced on humans. But the first surgery in the world to implant a neuro-prosthesis inside a human being is expected to be performed in a Brazilian hospital by 2008. This overview contains other details, references and a diagram describing how a patient's brain can control the prosthetics.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 6:37 AM Comments (0)
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Friday, July 15, 2005

The Loud Report: Caribou, "Barnowl"
Apparently, it's time for psychedelia to meet hip-hop again, only this time with indie pop thrown in the middle to mediate every last transaction. I can't say I object. Dan Snaith had to change his nom de musique after two-albums-and-change under the name Manitoba - those records are a little more straightforward and DJ-ey... as for this Caribou stuff, he's not quite post-rock yet but, as you're about to hear, he does a mean Stereolab impression. Good fun. More to listen to over here.
:: posted by Mike Sugarbaker, 6:08 PM Comments (0)
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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Transparent Patient
Several companies are currently developing 'augmented reality' systems to help surgeons to simultaneously see inside and outside their patients. In this short article titled "And No, It's Not for Seeing Through Clothes," Fast Company describes a solution from Siemens.

This system consists of a custom video-see-through head-mounted display (HMD), two color video cameras attached to the HMD that provide ultrasound, magnetic resonance (MR), or computer tomography (CT) pre-recorded images, and a third infrared video camera for tracking what's doing the surgeon.

Such systems could become available in three to five years. But they will not be cheap. A complete augmented reality system should cost as much as $400,000. This overview contains other details, references and illustrations of some Siemens technologies that will make patients appear transparent.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:08 PM Comments (0)
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Surf the Web in Your Car -- Hands Free
Because she is concerned about the emerging usage of Internet in cars, Dr. Meirav Taieb-Maimon, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, has designed a new search engine that leaves your hands free. In this article, Discovery News writes that the system is using voice-recognition software, a microphone and speakers.

The software itself is composed of three elements, two speech recognition components from Microsoft and a custom piece of software called 'Maestro.' When a driver says something such as 'nearest gas station,' Maestro converts speech to text, builds a search query and sends it to a search engine. It then converts back the results to spoken instructions for the driver.

More research needs to be done to know if the system is safe for driving. If it proves to be safe, a 'Maestro' might be the Web driver in your next car. Read more for other details.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:05 PM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Technorati selling blog-tracking services
On SiliconValleyWatcher.com, Tom Foremski reports on Technorati's plans to offer its blog-monitoring services to corporations so they can track what is being said about them, and their products, among bloggers, giving them the ability to quickly respond to criticism. Occasional Mindjack contributor Tony Walsh comments on the development on his blog, saying "Many bloggers (such as myself) notify Technorati automatically when new blog entries are posted, and "tag" these entries specifically to help Technorati file away the blogosphere. Now that Technorati will be monetizing this good will, I suspect its relationship with the blogosphere will be affected adversely."
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 7:23 PM Comments (0)
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Friday, July 08, 2005

The Loud Report: Hella, "Song From Uncle" and "We Was Just Boys..."
Hella hails from the capital of California and, as you might guess from the name, is a California band in every way: bearded and crunchy, neon-colored and showy, digital and frivolous as a 3D remake of Frogger and yet suspiciously redolent of D&D... and finally just really loud, messy and monstrous. Hella's debut album Hold Your Horse Is was totally chaotic and totally anthemic all at once. It made you want to lift a lighter in the air and then flail wildly with it, igniting the hair of your neighbors in the stadium crowd. With their new double album, Church Gone Wild/Chirpin' Hard, the duo is pulling an Outkast, giving each disc over to the creative direction of one member. If the sample tracks "We Was Just Boys, Living in a Dead Ass German Shepard" and "Song From Uncle" are any evidence, drummer Zach Hill handles Church according to the (still glorious) math-psych-noise arrhythmia script, whereas guitarist Spencer Seim pushes the band's always-latent lust for Nintendo soundtracks to new heights of - dare I say it? - accessibility. Check them both out along with other delights at the band's media page.
:: posted by Mike Sugarbaker, 1:37 PM Comments (0)
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Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Bomb Blasts Flickr Pool
In the wake of this morning's tragedy in London, someone on Flickr already set up a photo pool. So far, it appears that the photos are generally just screen grabs of the TV news, perhaps those who were there, and those who operate security cameras in the stations could post their photos from before the attacks, and try to identify the perpetrators. A warning - the pictures don't appear graphic as yet, but as the day progresses, I expect that they will get to be so.
:: posted by Jonathan Swerdloff, 9:36 AM Comments (0)
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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The World's Most Efficient Cars
Like every year, this is the season for the Shell Eco-Marathon annual fuel-economy competition. Last week, the hydrogen-powered Swiss PAC-Car II broke a new record, using 1.02 gram of hydrogen to finish the race. This is the equivalent of 5,385 kilometers per liter of gasoline. For users of other units, this translates to a whopping 15,210 miles per British gallon or 12,670 miles per U.S. gallon.

And this week, the British Ech2o car will attempt to break this record. Its designers say that this car, also hydrogen-powered, "can travel on less electricity than it takes to power a light bulb." It will be driven by a 13-year old experienced go-kart driver." Read more for other details,references and pictures.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 4:49 AM Comments (0)
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Eastern Ink Painting on a Computer
Traditional Oriental ink painting is more realistically done with real brushes than with a computer program because you need to model how the ink is flowing into an absorbent surface such as paper. In this brief article, Technology Research News writes that "researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have developed a brush-and-ink-style paint program, dubbed MoXi, that uses a model of pigment particles in water flowing into paper."

These virtual Chinese brushes simulate in real time the ink dispersion and could be available on your PC within two years. This longer overview contains more details and references. It also includes pictures generated with MoXi. Finally, it looks at a potential trademark problem over the name MoXi.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 4:46 AM Comments (0)
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The Complexity of City Street Networks
City street networks are similar to other information networks, such as the Internet or social networks. Street and roads are the links while the crossroads are the nodes of these networks. So it is tempting to use physics to map city complexity, as is reporting Technology Research News.

Several physicists from Sweden and Denmark have compared the complexity of finding an address in Manhattan and in several Swedish cities. Not surprisingly, Manhattan, with its checkered grid plan, is easier to navigate than the older European cities. The scientists think their model could be "used to allow city planners to see how street changes affect navigability."

But as cities don't change very fast, it's doubtful that this method can be used efficiently anytime soon. This overview contains more details and references. It also shows you the process used by the researchers to model how a visitor navigates through an unknown city.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 4:42 AM Comments (0)
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Friday, July 01, 2005

Our Brains Don't Work Like Computers
We're using computers for so long now that I guess that many of you think that our brains are working like clusters of computers. Like them, we can do several things 'simultaneously' with our 'processors.' But each of these processors, in our brain or in a cluster of computers, is supposed to act sequentially. Not so fast!

According to a new study from Cornell University, this is not true, and our mental processing is continuous. By tracking mouse movements of students working with their computers, the researchers found that our learning process was similar to other biological organisms: we're not learning through a series of 0's and 1's.

Instead, our brain is cascading through shades of grey. Read more for additional references.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:21 AM Comments (0)
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New Wireless Technology for NASA's Missions
Software Defined Radio (SDR) is an emerging wireless technology which allows an electronic device equipped with a radio chip to be remotely reconfigurable to perform new functions via software downloads. With SDR, instead of having an expensive multifunction device, your cheap cellphone would automatically morph into a camera or an MP3 player.

NASA wants to use this technology to reconfigure its satellites on the fly to perform new tasks. And its engineers have already built an SDR testbed allowing the quick development of new navigation algorithms.

These new communication schemes could be used within 3 to 5 years in SDR-enabled space missions. This overview contains more details about NASA's plans and its A-Train mission.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:18 AM Comments (0)
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