Is it fair to imagine that some people just don't want to know about how certain things are done? If they did, perhaps their irrational side might overwhelm the blinkered side that helps them get through each and every painful day.
Does everyone want to know, for example, that the Boeing 737 in which they are strapped is flying on the detritus of some very fine french fries?
In the last few days, KLM and Thomson Airways, two European airlines, announced that they would be flying a plane or two using cooking oil.
If you're freaked out either by humanoid robots or the thought of dental work, proceed with caution. If both make your skin crawl, you might want to reach for the nitrous oxide.
Showa Hanako, a robotic dental patient out of Japan we told you about last year, has been reborn as Showa Hanako 2. Now the android can not only open and close her mouth, move her tongue, shake her head, blink, cough, sneeze, choke, roll her eyes, and tell her dentist, "Ouch! It hurts!" She can look ultra-realistic doing it.
Jointly developed by Showa, Waseda, and Kogakuin universities and produced by Japanese robot maker Tmsuk, Showa Hanako 2 was created to be a training robot for dental students. But where her elder sister looked like a stiff plastic doll tethered to a dental chair, Showa Hanako 2 looks like a stiff real woman tethered to a dental chair. That's largely because where she used to be made of PVC plastic, she now features silicone skin, tongue, and mouth lining made by Orient Industry, a creator of sex dolls. Needless to say, Orient has a high stake in making realistic-looking and -feeling body parts. … Read more
The Las Conchas wildfire, a 92,735-acre blaze extending around the community and national laboratory of Los Alamos, N.M., often moves faster than the officials who monitor it. That can be frustrating for people who want to see where the fire is burning.
But NASA has an automated answer for the impatient: the MODIS satellite. It records fire data, and the U.S. Forest Service packages it up so Google Earth users can get a rough but useful view of the fire's behavior.
Here's how to take a look. But first, I'll share a sobering NASA photo taken from the International Space Station on Monday, the second day of the fire.
It's a daunting image for anyone like me who knows the area and the scale involved. There are 752 people fighting the fire right now, including four bulldozers, 28 fire engines, and five helicopters. Since the Cerro Grande fire of 2000, which burned hundreds of Los Alamos homes and thousands of acres of Los Alamos National Laboratory property, the lab has taken new fire counter measures including more forest clearing and automatic fire-suppression systems. So far today, physical risks to the lab are lower than earlier in the week, LANL Director Charlie McMillan said. … Read more
IBM has solved two related problems with phase-change memory and now says the fast next-generation data-storage technology will be ready for use in 2016 in servers.
In a paper for the IEEE International Memory Workshop, Big Blue researchers describe how they squeezed two bits of data into each phase-change memory cell rather than just one. Though that's not the first incarnation of this idea, called multilevel storage, the researchers said they've made it practical by sidestepping a problem called "drift" that otherwise causes data errors the longer data is stored.
The engineering advancements help overcome significant barriers in introducing a technology that holds the potential to significantly transform computer designs. Phase-change memory (PCM), could snuggle up alongside conventional dynamic random access memory (DRAM) to improve computer performance in ways that flash memory so far can't. It's not as fast as DRAM, but IBM says it's 100 times faster at reading and writing data than flash memory, its chief competitor today.
IBM's PCM technology isn't yet ready for real-world use, but the improvements in multilevel storage and drift tolerance means the technology should be competitive in 2016 for the server applications IBM has in mind, said Haris Pozidis, one of the IBM Research paper authors.
"Our main application, being in the server business, is enterprise storage and memory applications," Pozidis said. "In the consumer market, the most important attribute is cost per bit. In enterprise applications, the most important attributes are speed, because [PCM will be] sitting close to the main memory where there are lots of transactions per second, and the endurance of device. We must make sure the device can write and read many numbers of times." … Read more
Ericsson yesterday demoed a new version of LTE technology that's 10 times faster than today's current standard and delivers speeds of nearly 1 gigabit per second.
Conducted in the company's home base of Sweden, the demonstration of LTE Advanced was presented to the Swedish Post and Telecom Agency (PTS). Using existing commercial hardware, Ericsson was able to use a test frequency provided by the PTS to show off certain features of LTE Advanced for the first time.
One feature of LTE Advanced that Ericsson demonstrated was carrier aggregation, which combines signals from multiple carriers to achieve a … Read more
I'm watching my hometown of Los Alamos, N.M., grapple with yet another massive wildfire, and even though I'm 5,000 miles away, the Internet has given me front-row seats.
It's not pleasant to see--but it's better than the alternative.
I'm not a member of the ignorance-is-bliss camp, particularly when friends and my parents still live there. The Las Conchas wildfire blew up to a size larger than Washington D.C. when it started on Sunday, and on Tuesday morning it reached 60,740 acres; Los Alamos National Laboratory is closed to all but essential … Read more
The Las Conchas wildfire has spread to part of Los Alamos National Laboratory property and triggered an evacuation of most of the the Los Alamos town residents nearby.
The fire started yesterday in the mountains southwest of Los Alamos and spread rapidly, stoked by winds, dry conditions, and high temperatures. Today, it grew to 49,000 acres and reached LANL's Technical Area 49, a site on the southern border of the lab's 28,000-acre (43 square mile) property.
"Air crews dumped water at the site within the Lab's Technical Area 49 and brought the blaze under … Read more
Add personality to the list of must-have robot vacuum cleaner features. Turns out that showing some emotion makes you a better service robot, even if you're just a motorized disc that cleans floors for a living.
Researchers from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands determined the personality traits (PDF) that people want to see in a robo-vac, then figured out how to make it display those traits using motion, sound, and lights.
People successfully identified the traits in a video of a fake robo-vac (a remote control box on wheels) going through the motions (see the video below).
People readily anthropomorphize objects, and Robo-vac makers can make their products more predictable by deliberately pulling our strings, according to the researchers, adding that if we know what our little helpers are doing and how they're likely to react, we're more satisfied.… Read more
You can't learn to play the guitar like Eric Clapton by doing nothing, but a new system that controls the muscular movements of your hand might be a step in that direction. The question is, will you want to use a device called "PossessedHand?"
Developed by the University of Tokyo and Sony Computer Science Laboratories, the "hand gesture manipulation system" electrically stimulates muscles in your arm that move your fingers. Once specific movements are programmed into a computerized unit kept in a forearm belt, impulses travel through wires to electrodes attached to the arm. Those charges move the necessary muscles and control hand movements--reportedly more accurately than the human brain alone can guide the fingers.
PossessedHand stimulates each muscle with 28 electrode pads, and muscles at different depths in the forearm can be tapped by varying the stimulation level. Developers' experiments indicate that PossessedHand can control the motion of 16 joints in the hand.
The device is being hyped as a way to teach students how to play the guitar and other instruments more accurately. But it could seemingly also help surgeons and other professionals who need to improve finger dexterity as PossessedHand can automatically calibrate for individual uses and specific skills. However, it's still in the experimental stages. … Read more