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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Towards Pervasive Gaming With NetAttack
When you play a computer game, you interact with what is on your monitor, even if you're outside playing on a mobile phone. You don't interact with your physical environment. Now, computer scientists from Fraunhofer FIT want you to play outside, sharing the outdoor experience offered by children's games. NetAttack "is a new type of indoor/outdoor Augmented Reality game that makes the actual physical environment an inherent part of the game itself."

In this game, two teams are fighting to destroy the central database of a virtual big company. Both teams have indoor players, who control the game from their laptop computers, and outdoor players, equipped with GPS receivers, trackers, sensors and video cameras. This overview contains more details and pictures.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 1:03 PM

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Recent Advances in the Nanotech World
What a flurry of activity in the nanotech world these days. Sandia researchers have unveiled a self-assembly process forming durable nanocrystal arrays, paving the way for laser light, catalysts and new memory storage. The American Chemical Society says that scientists have developed nanotube transistors operating at extremely fast microwave frequencies (2.6 GHz) that could lead to better cell phones and faster computers. At Lehigh University, researchers have found that 'nanogold' does not glitter, but its future looks bright as it turns into a semiconductor. Meanwhile, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a nanobiosensor technology that gives new access to living cell's molecular processes.

You'll find short excerpts of these stories in this news roundup, which also includes images of the nanoprobe from ORNL and of the self-assembled, well-shaped gold nanocrystal arrays from SNL.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 2:10 PM

Astronauts To Eat Italian-Style
Two Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station (ISS) will soon experiment the Mediet (Mediterranean Diet). The Mediet uses only top quality Mediterranean products and will demonstrate that the 'fast food' of the 21st century can be delicious and nutritious at the same time. In "Buon appetito: Russian cosmonauts on a Mediterranean diet," the European Space Agency (ESA) tells us more. The ergonomic tray, made of aluminium, contains five items of Mediterranean food from Italy: dried tomatoes, mature cheese, piadina bread (special Italian white bread), peaches and chocolate.

If the experiment is successful, you might soon find this kind of tray at your local supermarket. This overview contains more details and a picture of the Mediet ergonomic tray with its five delicious items of Italian food.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 8:31 AM

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Laser Based Display System
The BBC is reporting that an American company has developed a display system which utilizes lasers beamed directly into the user's eye. This allows for high-definition, high-quality HUDs (heads-up displays) which don't interfere with the user's perception of the real world.

I remember reading about some research the University of Washington was doing on this years ago...and lo and behold, the article says that the company licensed the tech from U-Dub.

I also remember reading a fictional version of this in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash back in the day. Since Stephenson lives in the Seattle area -- and hangs out with geeky engineering types, as far as I can tell from the little I know about the guy -- I've always assumed he knew somebody at U-Dub who was working on it all the way back in 1991 or so, and incorporated it into his novel.

And now it's upon us. Living in the future is neat.

posted by Joshua Ellis @ 9:11 AM

Spider Legs Lead to Better Post-it Notes
European scientists have found why spiders stick to a ceiling by using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to take pictures of the foot of a jumping spider. According to their findings, a spider can carry 170 times its own weight without falling. As one scientist said, "That's like Spiderman clinging to the flat surface of a window on a building by his fingertips and toes only, whilst rescuing 170 adults who are hanging on to his back!"

One possible application will be to make Post-it notes that don't fall off, even if they're wet. This also paves the way for other new kinds of adhesive materials. This overview contains more details and references, including a couple of pictures taken with a SEM at various levels of magnification.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 5:06 AM

Morphing Plane Wings for Efficient Flights
Airplanes, whether manned or unmanned, need to travel at various speeds. For example, a surveillance plane needs to fly fast to reach its destination point. Then, it needs to reduce its speed to achieve its surveillance mission. But with its fixed wings, it doesn't offer the same level of efficiency during these two phases. That's why Penn State engineers have devised airplane wings that change shape like a bird and have scales like a fish.

Right now, the team has only built a tabletop model. So it will be a long time before you catch a plane and watch the wings disappear by looking through the window. This overview contains more details and references, including a couple of images describing the work done so far.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 5:02 AM

Monday, April 26, 2004

In the new issue of Mindjack
For those reading the RSS, the new issue of Mindjack is now online. In this issue: Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture reviewed by J.D. Lasica.
posted by Donald Melanson @ 10:02 PM

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Mindjack on Flickr

Flickr is one of the better Social Networking Services for Fun (as opposed to business) I've come across. I've started a Mindjack group there for anyone interested.

Posted by Don Melanson from Flickr.


posted by Donald Melanson @ 8:41 PM

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Supersonic Planes Go Silent
There is no longer a single commercial supersonic airplane since the retirement of the Concorde last year. And even during its years of glory, the Concorde was not a commercial success, mainly because it was not allowed to cruise at supersonic speed over land. Why? Because of the sonic 'boom' which arises when you break the sound barrier. Now, a joint program between NASA, the military and the aerospace industry wants to remove, or at least reduce, this sonic boom, by changing the shape of supersonic planes.

It seems to work. After a 'nose job' on a Northrop Grumman F-5E, about a third of the pressure released when breaking the sound barrier has already been suppressed. This overview contains more details. It also includes a photograph of the modified Northrop Grumman F-5Ea aircraft flying off the wing of the F-15B research testbed aircraft, along with an unidentified third plane.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 3:32 PM

Satellites Show Earth Has a Fever
A recent study from NASA says that satellites are acting as thermometers in space. Contrary to meteorological ground stations which measure the air temperature around two meters above the ground, satellites can accurately measure the temperature of the Earth's skin. And this new study, which covers the 18-year period going from 1981 to 1998, shows that the Earth's temperature is rising 0.43C per decade instead of the O.34C found by previous methods.

Unfortunately for us, if satellites can more precisely measure this rise of the Earth's temperature, they cannot cure this fever. This overview contains more details and a spectacular image showing the European heat wave of the summer of 2003.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 3:28 PM

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

This Robot Collects Fingerprints
When police officers found suspicious packages today in an airport or a train station, they destroyed them immediately, along with potential fingerprints on them. A new robotic device, dubbed RAFFE (short for "Robot Accessory for Fuming Fingerprint Evidence), developed by scientists from the University of Toronto (U of T) and the University of Calgary, offers a solution to this problem.

Mounted on an ordinary robot, it will reveal fingerprints by releasing Super Glue™ on the object. Then it will take pictures of these fingerprints. The Calgary Police Service is already using RAFFE for field tests. This overview contains more details and extra references.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 11:33 AM

Stephenson Interview in Salon
There's a great interview with Neal Stephenson in Salon this week (subscription or sit through an ad). I'm about halfway through the second book of his Baroque Cycle, Confusion, and so far it's pretty badass -- more exciting than its predecessor, Quicksilver. I just hope he doesn't pull a Matrix: Revolutions with the third one and have all the characters die stupidly for no apparent reason.
posted by Joshua Ellis @ 8:36 AM

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Dodgeball.com is yet another social networking service, only this one's for your mobile phone. Here's what Dodgeball's Dennis Crowley says about it:

The pitch: "Friendster for you mobile phone" - tell us where you are and we'll tell you who and what is around you. We'll ping your friends with your whereabouts, let you know when friends-of-friends are within 10 blocks, allow you to broadcast content to anyone within 10 blocks of you or blast messages to your groups of friends. Currently up and running in 5 cities - NYC, SF, LA Boston and Philly.

We'll be playing around with it and will try to have a report at a later date.

posted by Donald Melanson @ 7:23 PM

Googling Our Genome
Computers only understand binary code (0 and 1). Still, we can use Google to search for our personal information. Similarly, the structure of our DNA is represented by sequences of molecules labeled A, C, G and T. In this eye-opening article, the Guardian argues that we'll soon be able to search our personal genome for a susceptibility to a certain disease. This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. After all, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is already looking at the $1,000 genome. And prices will inevitably drop. Soon, you'll have all your personal genome, your code of life, on a CD-ROM.

This raises difficult and ethical questions. Will the government, the insurance companies, your employer or your life partner be able to access your personal genome? Frightening, isn't? Read this overview for some essential excerpts of this must-read article. It also contains some extra references about what might become a major concern soon.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 2:50 PM

Monday, April 19, 2004

In the new issue of Mindjack
For those reading the RSS, the new issue of Mindjack is now online. In this issue: Linked Out: blogging, equality and the future by Melanie McBride. Plus Kill Bill Vol. 2 reviewed by Jesse Walker.
posted by Donald Melanson @ 5:42 PM

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Going to a Virtual Church
It's Sunday and some of you might go to a church. But starting on May 11, and for a duration of three months, you'll be able to go to a virtual church. Only the building, with its altar and pews, will be virtual. The preacher, congregation and prayers will be real, according to this BBC News article, "Glimpse inside the virtual church."

This experiment is launched by a Christian website, Ship of Fools, and will be named Church of Fools. Even with such a foolish name, the virtual church project has been approved by the church hierarchy. This overview contains other details and references about the Church of Fools project.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 2:09 PM

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Would You Buy a $400 Yo-Yo?
Unless you're a dedicated yo-yo fan and a serious competitor, I doubt that you'll hand over $400 for a yo-yo. Even if it's a state-of-the-art high-tech yoyo made with a forged-magnesium-alloy and coming with the latest in axle technology. With this one, you can use the freehand style, meaning that your hand is not connected to the yo-yo, but is replaced by a small counterweight.

In "Reinventing the Yo-Yo," Science News Online says "its balance is ensured with precision tooling to micrometer tolerances by a computer-controlled lathe." This long article doesn't solely focus on this luxury item. Instead, it looks at the history and the physics of the yo-yo, and includes many references. A good read for a weekend!

This overview contains other details and extra references about the Freehand yo-yo.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 2:29 PM

Friday, April 16, 2004

Space Technology Goes Up and Down Mountains
These days, the European Space Agency (ESA) is busy sharing its space technologies. Last week, in "Space technology hits the slopes," it said that the ski maker Rossignol hopes to beat the world speed skiing record of 250 km/h by using skis stabilized by a mechanism developed for ESA's Rosetta spacecraft (Even if you don't like skiing, don't miss the funny animation on the above link).

And today, the ESA announced that a satellite-based Health Monitoring Kit developed by the Canadian company March Networks and co-funded by ESA, will help climbers to escalate the Everest. Of course, this kind of technology can be applied at lower altitudes. This overview contains other details and references about the March Networks Health Monitoring Kit.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 1:31 PM

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Sound Waves 'Scream for Ice Cream' at Ben & Jerry's
In order to boost its environmental image, Ben & Jerry's teamed with Penn State University to build 'green'-technology freezers which will replace existing ones inside its stores. These new greener chillers use sound waves for cooling instead of environment-damaging chemical refrigerants linked to global warming.

In this article, the Wall Street Journal (sorry, paid subscribers only) reports that Ben & Jerry's invested $600,000 in the project and that the first acoustic chiller will be installed in New York next week. And these sound waves will really 'scream for ice cream': they will be attached to amplifiers generating 183 decibels, a sound level thousands of times beyond rock concert levels.

This overview contains other details and references about the 'green' chiller.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 1:48 PM

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Amazon's A9 Search Goes Live
Amazon's new search engine, A9.com, launched today and search guru John Battelle has the scoop.

A9, Amazon's much discussed skunk works search project goes live today, so I can finally write about it. I saw it last month (caveat: unbeknownst to me until recently, Amazon targeted me as their conduit to break this news - I think they wanted it to move from the blogosphere out, as opposed the WSJ in) and had to keep the damn thing to myself, it was hard, and here's why: On first blush it's a very, very good service, and an intriguing move by Amazon. It raises a clear question: How will Google - and more broadly, the entire search-driven world - react?

My gut tells me the public face will be one of partnership: After all, A9 uses Google' search results and displays at least two paid AdWord listings per result (I've requested comment from Google, you can imagine I'm not the only one...). But I have to wonder: What business is Google in, after all? Is it still in the business of just search - as it was back when it was cutting search provisioning deals right and left, with Yahoo (already ended), AOL (arguable imperiled due to Gmail and other trends), Ask, and Amazon? Is it really still in the business of being an OEM to others, a strategy which allowed it to steal those portals' customers? Or...has it evolved, to a business where it owns a large customer base, one it must now position itself to defend?

I've only played around with it a bit myself, but it is quite slick, with tightly integrated book results along with the search results. Although, for the moment at least, it is only book results. For instance, searching for Alfred Hitchcock brings up a list of biographies, but no Hitchcock DVDs.

posted by Donald Melanson @ 4:17 PM

RFID Coming to a Cell Phone Near You
In "RFID Goes Mobile", Red Herring reports that Nokia has quietly launched last month the first RFID-enabled cell phone. The Mobile RFID Kit will be available later this year and only for the 5140 model. This accessory allows the user to easily launch services and conveniently access phone functions simply by touching the phone to an RFID tag. The phone accesses the RFID tag data when an RFID reader emits a short-range radio signal that powers a microchip on the tag, allowing the ID information and other stored data to be read.

Nokia doesn't intend to sell this kit to ordinary consumers like you and me. Instead, the RFID kit is designed to extend the mobility of workforce already on the move, such as security guards or maintenance people. This overview contains other details and references about the kit.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 1:34 PM

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Robots With Team Building Skills
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is sponsoring an effort by three universities to allow teams of small robots to collaborate and to coordinate their actions at a disaster site. The NSF reports on this work in progress in "Turning robots into a well-oiled machine."

These small robots have a cylindrical shape with a diameter of 3.5 cm and a length of 10 cm. Named Scouts, they are built with commodity-off-the-shelf (COTS) electronics and equipped with a video camera, several infrared range finders and many sensors. A dozen of them can perform complex tasks in actions controlled by a human operator through a team leader, the MegaScout, which is about 37 cm long.

This overview contains more details and references about these collaborative robots.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 12:46 PM

Because They're Not Irritating Enough Already
Clear Channel, purveyors of fine radio and First Amendment protection, are rolling out digital billboards whose messages will appeal to different target audiences at different times of day.

I'm trying to imagine what products they'd sell at four in the morning. Nyquil? Crack?

posted by Joshua Ellis @ 5:11 AM

Monday, April 12, 2004

In the new issue of Mindjack
For those reading the RSS, the new issue of Mindjack is now online. In this issue: "The Killing Fields": Copyright Law and its Challengers by J.D. Lasica, plus DVD reviews of Breathless, Russian Ark and Z.
posted by Donald Melanson @ 8:03 PM

Researchers have invented a plastic called Oligotron that conducts electricity. In theory, such a material could be used to create paper thin televisions, as well as "smart" clothing.

I think I had Oligotron when I was a kid, though. Wasn't he one of the Decepticons?

posted by Joshua Ellis @ 6:18 PM

The 'Pervasive Computing' Community
Most of us are using computers, but also PDAs and cell phones. And this trend is accelerating in our increasingly networked wireless world. We might use hundreds of computing devices by the end of this decade. Still, we are slaves to our machines. With every new device, we have to learn new commands, languages or interfaces.

The Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI), a strategic alliance between the University of Cambridge in the UK and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S., has enough of it and wants to give back control to the users.

So it launched its 'Pervasive Computing' initiative with the intention to tackle this challenge. In particular, the group wants to develop new technologies to make easier for us to interact with all these computers. This overview contains more details and references about this initiative.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 7:35 AM

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Fun With RSS
ebaylistings.net lets you create custom RSS feeds based on eBay searches. (via boing boing)

update: We were just informed that, due to legal issues, ebaylistings.net is now known as freebiddingtools.com.

posted by Donald Melanson @ 8:24 PM

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Scaled Composits Gets OK for Spaceflight
A day late on this one but worth noting. The US Federal Aviation Authority has given Burt Rutan's Scaled Composits a green light for a sub-orbital launch of their privately funded spacecraft SpaceShipOne, BBC NEWS reports. Rutan's company is favored to win the $10 million X-prize, for the first privately funded group to reach space twice within two weeks.
posted by Donald Melanson @ 11:39 PM

Pearl, a Robot for the Elderly
The world population is rapidly aging -- at least in developed countries. The number of seniors will explode in the next two decades. So researchers everywhere are trying to find new ways to help elderly people to continue to live at home. This is why a team from Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, University of Michigan and Stanford University has spent the last four years to design Pearl, a robot specifically designed to help old people. Pearl has a humanoid aspect and is 4-feet high.

Still, don't rush to the store to buy one for your old folks. According to this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it costs more than $100,000 and is not entirely ready for mass production. This overview contains more details and references. It also includes two pictures of the -- quite cute -- Pearl.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 1:52 PM

Friday, April 09, 2004

Google's Gmail hits trademark problem
The Register reports that Google's Gmail webmail service has run into trademark problems. Seems there's a small British company that has been using the term since 2002. Not suprisingly, shares of the company doubled on the news. But that's not all:

A search on Google (didn't they do this?) shows another Gmail, which claims to have been operating since 1999 out of California from www.usegmail.com. There is at least one other email service called Gmail from a company called Javeo which you can find at www.gmail.net

posted by Donald Melanson @ 4:49 PM

The Hydrogen Economy May be Vaporware
In a 10-page PDF document, Dr. Robert E. Uhrig describes the engineering challenges that will delay the advent of the Hydrogen Economy. He notes that we would need double the amount of electrical generating capacity to generate the hydrogen needed to replace the current demand for oil. The infrastructure to distribute hydrogen to vehicles would likely rival the current electrical grid in terms of scale. In short, it could be 25 years or more before the hydrogen economy is possible and unless it is implemented correctly, it may not be practical.

posted by Doug Roberts @ 2:04 PM

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Have Fun with a Web-Based Asteroid Impact Simulator
Ready to have some fun while learning some physics? Try the new Earth Impact Effects simulator. This news release from the University of Arizona (UA) tells us more about this simulator of a collision between an asteroid and the Earth. You enter several parameters, such as the speed, the size or the density of the asteroid. And bingo! The program tells you the crater size or the seismic magnitude of the impact.

As UA says, if dinosaurs have had this program 65 million years ago, they would have known that the Chicxulub impact generated a seismic shaking of magnitude 10.2 on the Richter scale. This overview contains more details about the program.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 4:30 PM

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Mapping Scientific Topics With Social Networking Tools
In "Mapping the landscape of science," the National Science Foundation discusses the contents of a collection of articles published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), "Mapping Knowledge Domains." Basically, all these scientists are using software social networking tools to build graphical representations of scientific knowledge or science communities. [Please note that the full version of all articles is available.]

This overview contains selected excerpts and illustrations extracted from some of these articles, like the top 50 highly frequent used in the top 10% most highly cited PNAS publications during the 1982-2001 period.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 3:56 PM

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Mindjack is Hiring
I'm looking for someone to be Advertising Director for Mindjack. Must have advertising sales experience and be willing to work on commission. This is a contract job that can be done from home. If you're interested, please email: donald@mindjack.com (no attachments).

Also, we're constantly looking for great new writers. If you want to write for us, drop an email.

posted by Donald Melanson @ 8:04 PM

Why We Need a Second Moore's Law
In its April issue, Wired Magazine argues that we need a second Moore's law, this time about overall efficiencies of our computers and other electronic devices. The subtitle of the article summarizes it: "If we don't do something about increasing battery life, we're toast."

Michael S. Malone, the author, says that the first Moore's law is endangered, not because the semiconductor industry cannot build new generation of chips, but because we will not be able to provide them with enough power. And he contends that the problem arises from the fact that we are using more and more wireless devices, which obviously are not connected to a plug.

This overview contains selected excerpts of this eye-opening article.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 9:57 AM

Friday, April 02, 2004

Porn TV Programs Coming To Your Cell Phone
Once again, the porn industry appears to be an early adopter of new technologies. After taking billions of dollars from Internet users, several companies are starting TV-like adult services for wireless phones. These services will offer 1.5 to 7 frames per second. And the industry expects to make $1.2 billion per year by 2008. But a question remains unanswered, according to this article from the Kansas City Star: how prevent kids to use these services.

More details are available in this overview. I don't know if you plan to use these services, but don't count on me to help you by giving you some links. You'll need to do your own research to find these companies.

posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 1:29 PM

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