science + technology news

What the Web knows about you

January 28, 2009

Much of the publicly available information on individuals online is sourced from online county, state and federal government records databases, with little or no attempt made to redact sensitive personal data such as Social Security numbers — a treasure trove for data aggregators, brokers and criminals.

A Computerworld special report explains how individuals can play a role in reducing their information footprint and shaping the information that is available… read more

What the net did next

January 7, 2004

The Internet is set to become the basis for just about every form of communication, according to net pioneer Vint Cerf.

The Enum initiative attempts to turn phone numbers into net addresses and give people a universal way of contacting anyone, provided they know at least one e-mail, address, phone or pager number for them.

Naming Authority Pointer (NATPR) allows almost anything, such as book or magazine ISBN… read more

What technology from science fiction would you most like to see as science fact?

June 17, 2012

Stargate (credit: MGM)

Friday, @DARPA asked the twitterverse, “What technology from science fiction would you most like to see as science fact?

Amusing answers, ranging from Stargate to “very tiny Rick Moranis” and Andy Levy’s “Black goo that tears apart your DNA.”

Your ideas?


What technologies will crowdfunding create?

September 17, 2012


Inventor Jay Silver, creator of MaKey MaKey, an “invention kit” consisting of a processor board and alligator clips that turns objects with high electrical resistance — bananas, Play-Doh, human flesh — into computer controllers, listed the project on Kickstarter this year hoping to raise $25,000.

He ended up with $568,106 from 11,124 people, Technology Review reports.

In the U.S., Internet funding occurs on Indiegogo,… read more

What running robots can learn from turkeys

October 30, 2014

Model of motion (Credit: OSU)

With an eye toward making better running robots, researchers from from Oregon State University, the Royal Veterinary College and other institutions have made surprising new findings about some of nature’s most energy-efficient bipeds — running birds.

These are some of the most sophisticated runners of any two-legged land animals, including humans, the researchers found in a study published Wednesday (Oct. 29) in the Journal of Experimental Biology, with an… read more

What Other People Say May Change What You See

June 29, 2005

A new study used advanced brain-scanning technology to cast light on a topic that psychologists have puzzled over for more than half a century: social conformity.

They found evidence that other people’s views can actually affect how someone perceives the external world, implying that truth itself is called into question.

What makes us decide to stay or go?

June 16, 2011

Michael Platt and colleagues at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University have found that a small group of neurons in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) of the primate brain steadily increases its firing rate during foraging until a threshold is reached and the animal moves on.

The experimenters had the rhesus macaque monkeys direct their gaze to selected portions of a computer screen to… read more

What makes Paris look like Paris? CMU software uncovers stylistic core

Visual data mining of Google Street View identifies cities' distinctive details
August 8, 2012

These two photos might seem nondescript, but each contains hints about which city it might belong to. Given a large image database of a given city, our algorithm is able to automatically discover the geographically-informative elements (patch clusters to the right of each photo) that help in capturing its “look and feel”. On the top, the emblematic street sign, a balustrade window, and the balcony support are all very indicative of Paris, while on the bottom, the neoclassical columned entryway sporting a balcony, a Victorian window, and, of course, the cast iron railing are very much features of London.


Paris is one of those cities that has a look all its own, something that goes beyond landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and INRIA/Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris have developed visual data mining software that can automatically detect these sometimes subtle features, such as street signs, streetlamps and balcony railings, that give Paris and other… read more

What Kind of Genius Are You?

July 12, 2006

A new theory suggests that creativity comes in two distinct types — quick and dramatic, or careful and quiet.

“Conceptual innovators” make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young.

“Experimental innovators” proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and thus do their important work much later in their careers.

What it’ll take to go exascale

January 30, 2012

The K computer (credit: RIKEN)

The next generation of powerful supercomputers will be used to design high-efficiency engines tailored to burn biofuels, reveal the causes of supernova explosions, track the atomic workings of catalysts in real time, and study how persistent radiation damage might affect the metal casing surrounding nuclear weapons.

Those uses require supercomputers more powerful than any yet designed: These “exascale” computers would be capable of carrying out 1018 floating point operations per… read more

What is your dog thinking? Brain scans unleash canine secrets

May 7, 2012

Callie training in a scanner mock-up (credit: Carol Clark)

Emory Center for Neuropolicy researchers at Emory University have developed a new method to scan the brains of alert dogs and explore their minds. The technique uses functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the same tool that is unlocking secrets of the human brain.

“It was amazing to see the first brain images of a fully awake, unrestrained dog,” says Gregory Berns, director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy and… read more

What Is Your Dangerous Idea?

January 4, 2006

The “third culture thinkers” in the Edge community of scientists and science-minded thinkers have written 117 original essays in response to the 2006 Edge Question: “What is your dangerous idea?”.

The answers include “The self is a conceptual chimera” (John Allen Paulos),”We are all virtual” (Clifford Pickover), and “The near-term inevitability of radical life extension and expansion” (Ray Kurzweil).

What is Traitorware?

December 28, 2010

Your digital camera may embed metadata into photographs with the camera’s serial number or your location. Your printer may be incorporating a secret code on every page it prints which could be used to identify the printer and potentially the person who used it. If Apple puts a particularly creepy patent it has recently applied for into use, you can look forward to a day when… read more

What is the optimal size of a power grid?

April 14, 2014

Areas affected by the blackout of 2003 (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

David Newman, a physicist at the University of Alaska, believes that smaller grids would reduce the likelihood of severe outages, such as the 2003 Northeast blackout that cut power to 50 million people in the United States and Canada for up to two days.

Newman and co-authors make their case in the journal Chaos.

North America has three power grids that transmit electricity from hundreds of… read more

What is the ‘Higgs Boson’ and why is it important?

Articles and videos for non-physicists
July 5, 2012


What It Means to Find ‘a Higgs’ — Scientific American 

Physicists Find Elusive Particle Seen as Key to Universe — The New York Times

Howard Bloom, author of the forthcoming book, The God Problem: How A Godless Cosmos Createscomments: “The god particle, the Higgs boson, is a bit of a red herring. It’s an… read more

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