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Media

Sultan of Sound, Dr. James Flanagan, Passed Away Aged 89 7

An anonymous reader writes: A pioneer in the field of acoustics, Dr. James L. Flanagan provided "the technical foundation for speech recognition, teleconferencing, MP3 music files, and the more efficient digital transmission of human conversation." The NYTimes covered his recent passing: "His innovations included preserving the sound of a human voice while crunching it digitally, as well as teaching computers to articulate — converting sound waves into digital pulses. He also helped devise a 'force-feedback' tactile glove, similar to today’s video game accessories, that enabled medical students to simulate hands-on examinations when a live patient or cadaver was not available (or to mimic a game of handball). Dr. Flanagan also played a minor role in the drama surrounding the downfall of President Richard M. Nixon." An older (2005) article from IEEE Spectrum titled "Sultan of Sound" provides background on his work and impact. An interview (1997) discussing his WWII service, research at AT&T Bell Labs & Rutgers University is part of the IEEE oral history series.
Medicine

Sensor Predicts Which Donated Lungs Will Fail After Transplant 21

the_newsbeagle writes: A lung transplant can be a life-saving intervention—but sometimes the donated lung stops working inside the recipient's body. This "graft dysfunction" is the leading cause of death for transplant patients in the early days after surgery. While lab tests can look for genetic biomarkers of inflammation and other warning signs in a donated lung, such tests take 6-12 hours in a typical hospital. That's too slow to be useful. Now, researchers at University of Toronto have invented a chip-based biosensor that can do quick on-the-spot genetic tests, providing an assessment of a lung's viability within 30 minutes.
Medicine

Implanted Optogenetic Light Switch Lets Scientists Flip Neurons On and Off 26

the_newsbeagle writes: Optogenetics is a fairly new (and fairly awesome) research tool for neuroscientists: By using light to jolt certain neurons into action, they can study how those neurons function in the mouse brain. But getting the light to those neurons has been difficult. Previous systems have required either fiber optic cables that tether the mouse to a computer, or heavy head-mounted receivers. Now Stanford's Ada Poon has invented a tiny and fully implantable system that wirelessly receives the signal to stimulate, and uses a micro-LED to activate the neurons. The device will let researchers study brain function while mice are running around, interacting socially, etc.
Mars

Mars One CEO Insists, Our Mars Colonization Plan Is Feasible 147

szotz writes: Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp has a bizarre definition of the word "plan". Last week he debated two MIT aerospace engineers who were co-authors on a report that said that astronauts would suffocate on Mars if they tried to grow their own food with existing tech. The question on the table: Is the Mars One plan feasible? And the answer seemed to be "it depends on what your definition of a plan is". The stated plan is to send the first humans to Mars for $6 billion by 2027 (twice delayed already). Lansdorp admits they probably won't stick to that schedule or that budget, but that has nothing to do with whether they're going or not. IEEE Spectrum has a write-up of the debate and a link to the MIT team's presentation. It seems the company's looking for $15 million now to fund--you guessed it--more studies.
Communications

New Rules From the FCC Open Up New Access To Wi-Fi 64

CarlottaHapsburg writes: White space — unused channels in the VHF and UHF spectrum — is already part of daily life, from old telephones to going online at your coffee shop or plugging in baby monitors. The time has come to 'permit unlicensed fixed and personal/portable white space devices and unlicensed wireless microphones to use channels in the 600 MHz and television broadcast bands,' according to the FCC. One of the ramifications is that Wi-Fi could now blanket urban areas, as well as bringing it to rural areas and machine-to-machine technology. Rice University has tested a super Wi-Fi network linked by next-generation TV or smart remotes. Carriers are sure to be unhappy about this, but consumers will have the benefit of a newly open web.
Space

Samsung Researchers Propose 4,600 Micro-Satellite Space Network 75

Bismillah writes: Samsung Electronics has proposed a network consisting of 4,600 micro-satellites that could act as backhaul for terrestrial cellular networks and take low-cost internet access worldwide. They project that by 2028, cellular and Wi-Fi traffic will exceed 1 zettabyte/month, and their goal is to design a system with equivalent capacity (PDF). "With the satellite-based backhaul, cellular and wi-fi deployments become practical in remote regions of the earth where there is no wired Internet infrastructure." The plan would require significant amounts of wireless spectrum, as well as satellites capable of 1 Tb/s or higher.
Technology

Sounds Can Knock Drones Out of the Sky 120

angry tapir writes: Next week at the USENIX Security Symposium, researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejon, South Korea, are presenting research into knocking drones out of the sky using directed sound waves. They target a component crucial to every drone's ability to fly: its gyroscope. "A gyroscope keeps a drone balanced, providing information on its tilt, orientation and rotation, allowing for micro-adjustments that keep it aloft. Hobbyist and some commercial drones use inexpensive gyroscopes that are designed as integrated circuit packages." For some drones, the gyroscope and its housing have a resonant frequency that's within the audible spectrum. By targeting the drone with sound waves of that frequency, the gyroscope will begin to generate erroneous data, leading to a crash.
ISS

Video Urthecast Brings You Earth Images and Videos from the ISS (Video) 16

Most of us probably won't ever visit the International Space Station (ISS) and look down at the Earth (motto: "The only planet we know has beer, so let's not ruin it"). Looking at pictures and videos made by cameras mounted on the ISS is about as close as we're going to get. There's already an ISS HD Earth Viewing Experiment on Ustream, but Urthecast is putting out higher-definition images than what you see on Ustream, and has plans to put out even clearer images and video before long. While Urthecast is likely to accumulate plenty of "oohs" and "aahhs" as it rolls along, according to CEO Scott Larson their real objective is to sell imagery -- and not necessarily just from the visible light band of the overall spectrum -- to industrial and government users. People like us are still invited to look at (and marvel at) lovely images of our planetary home.

NOTE: Today's video is about 4:30 long. If you want to watch and listen to more of Mr. Larson, we have a second "bonus" (Flash) video for you. Or you can read the transcript, which covers both videos.
Shark

Researchers Demonstrate the World's First White Lasers 118

An anonymous reader writes: Scientists and engineers at Arizona State University, in Tempe, have created the first lasers that can shine light over the full spectrum of visible colors. The device's inventors suggest the laser could find use in video displays, solid-state lighting, and a laser-based version of Wi-Fi. Although previous research has created red, blue, green and other lasers, each of these lasers usually only emitted one color of light. Creating a monolithic structure capable of emitting red, green, and blue all at once has proven difficult because it requires combining very different semiconductors. Growing such mismatched crystals right next to each other often results in fatal defects throughout each of these materials. But now scientists say they've overcome that problem. The heart of the new device is a sheet only nanometers thick made of a semiconducting alloy of zinc, cadmium, sulfur, and selenium. The sheet is divided into different segments. When excited with a pulse of light, the segments rich in cadmium and selenium gave off red light; those rich in cadmium and sulfur emitted green light; and those rich in zinc and sulfur glowed blue.
Technology

Pocket SCiO Spectrometer Sends Chemical Composition of Anything To Smartphones 82

MojoKid writes: Is that a tricorder in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? All joking aside, the handheld SCiO could truly make you feel like a member Bones McCoy's medical team. The SCiO turns science fiction into science fact by shrinking mass spectrometry technology used in traditional lab settings into a device small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. While pricey handheld spectrometers have been available for researchers, the SCiO is the first such device marketed directly at consumers. To get the SCiO down to a reasonable price point, Consumer Physics uses near-IR spectroscopy and optics typically found in smartphones to measure the light reflected from any given object. Held at a distance of 5 to 15 mm from the intended target, SCiO captures reflected spectrum data and uploads it to its own cloud platform. The company's proprietary algorithms then analyze the data and send the information back down to your smartphone (SCiO require a Bluetooth connection). Reportedly, this whole process occurs within 1.5 seconds. The hope is to empower consumers to learn more about the world around them and even about the things that we put in our mouth. You'll be able to ascertain nutritional information about the foods you eat without having to rely on labels, or even determine the ripeness of fruits and vegetables with the push of a button. The Whole Foods crowd will be all over this, one would think.
Space

Stephen Hawking and Russian Billionaire Start $100 Million Search For Aliens 208

An anonymous reader writes: Stephen Hawking is joining forces with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner to start a $100 million effort to search the skies for signs of alien life. The initiative is called Breakthrough Listen, which will pay for large amounts of access to the Green Bank Telescope and the Parkes Telescope to scan the skies for signals over the next 10 years. They say the search will be 50 times more sensitive than previous attempts, cover 10 times more of the sky, and scan a greater portion of the radio spectrum 100x faster. They add, "All data will be open to the public. This will likely constitute the largest amount of scientific data ever made available to the public. The Breakthrough Listen team will use and develop the most powerful software for sifting and searching this flood of data. All software will be open source." The project is also supported by Frank Drake, Ann Druyan, and Lord Martin Rees.
Supercomputing

Ask Slashdot: Best Bang-for-the-Buck HPC Solution? 150

An anonymous reader writes: We are looking into procuring a FEA/CFD machine for our small company. While I know workstations well, the multi-socket rack cluster solutions are foreign to me. On one end of the spectrum, there are companies like HP and Cray that offer impressive setups for millions of dollars (out of our league). On the other end, there are quad-socket mobos from Supermicro and Intel, for 8-18 core CPUs that cost thousands of dollars apiece.

Where do we go from here? Is it even reasonable to order $50k worth of components and put together our own high-performance, reasonably-priced blade cluster? Or is this folly, best left to experts? Who are these experts if we need them?

And what is the better choice here? 16-core Opterons at 2.6 GHz, 8-core Xeons at 3.4 GHz? Are power and thermals limiting factors here? (A full rack cupboard would consume something like 25 kW, it seems?) There seems to be precious little straightforward information about this on the net.
Government

Antineutrino Detectors Could Be Key To Monitoring Iran's Nuclear Program 79

agent elevator writes: Tech that analyzes antineutrinos might be the best way to keep tabs on Iran's nuclear program. The technology, which can tell how much of and what kind of plutonium and uranium are nearby, should be ready to serve as a nuclear safeguard in less than two years, according to IEEE Spectrum. In a simulation of the Arak nuclear plant, which the Iran deal requires be redesigned to make less plutonium, a detector parked outside in a shipping container could do the job.
Transportation

Plastic Roads Sound Like a Crazy Idea, Maybe Aren't 183

schwit1 writes with news that the Dutch city of Rotterdam is looking at partnering with a company called VolkerWessels to test a prototype plastic road for safety and durability. "They envision pulling waste plastic out of the oceans, and then processing it into prefabricated sections of road with integrated utility channels and drainage. The composition and structure of the plastic makes it more durable than traditional asphalt, and VolkerWessels estimates that their plastic roads should last about three times as long as traditional roads." The roads are manufactured at a factory, and then hauled in a mostly finished state to where they'll end up. This could dramatically reduce the time during which drivers are inconvenienced by road construction efforts.
Technology

Paralyzed Man Hits the Streets of NYC In a New Exoskeleton 38

the_newsbeagle writes: Robert Woo was paralyzed in 2007 when a construction crane dropped a load of steel on him. Yesterday, he put on the newest "exoskeleton," essentially a pair of smart robotic legs, and strolled out into a busy Manhattan sidewalk. He was demoing the ReWalk 6.0, a $77,000 device that he plans to buy for home use.
Medicine

Robot Performs Prostate Surgery Inside an MRI 64

the_newsbeagle writes: Researchers have developed a non-metallic robot with ceramic piezoelectric motors that functions inside an MRI machine, allowing surgeons to perform procedures guided by real-time imaging. It's now being tested in prostate biopsies. Doctors say this system will let them aim their needles more precisely and reduce the number of times they stick them in. The NIH thinks such systems could come in handy for neurosurgery too. Gregory Fischer, a professor of mechanical engineering at WPI whose Automation and Interventional Medicine Robotics Lab led the research says: "You can bring it into any MRI room and have it up and running in an hour. It can locate the target, track the needle, and if it deflects during insertion, it can steer the needle to hit the target. We’re taking baby steps to get the robot into clinical use."
Technology

The Real-Life Dangers of Augmented Reality 52

Tekla Perry writes: Today's augmented reality devices have yet to go through extensive tests of their impact on their wearers' health and safety. But by looking at existing research involving visual and motor impairments, two Kaiser Permanente researchers find they can draw conclusions about the promise and perils of augmented reality, and point to ways wearable developers can make these devices safer. The researchers write: "Peripheral vision is more important than you might think, because it provides a wealth of information about speed and distance from objects. Central vision, despite the great detail it offers, gives you only a rough estimate of movement toward or away from you, based on changes in size or in the parallax angle between your eyes. But objects moving within your peripheral vision stimulate photoreceptors from the center of the retina to the edge, providing much better information about the speed of motion. Your brain detects objects in your peripheral field and evaluates if and how they (or you) are moving. Interfering with this process can cause you to misjudge relative motion and could cause you to stumble; it might even get you hit by a car one day."
Space

Black Hole Awakens After 26 Years 58

schwit1 writes: For the first time since 1989, the black hole in V404 Cygni, a system comprising a black hole and a star, has reawakened, suddenly emitting high energy outbursts beginning on June 15. The outbursts are probably occurring because the black hole is gobbling up material that has fallen into it. While the 1989 outburst helped astronomers gain their first understand of the behavior of a black hole in a star system, this outburst will help them understand how such systems evolve and change over time. The European Space Agency (ESA) reports: "First signs of renewed activity in V404 Cygni were spotted by the Burst Alert Telescope on NASA's Swift satellite, detecting a sudden burst of gamma rays, and then triggering observations with its X-ray telescope. Soon after, MAXI (Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image), part of the Japanese Experiment Module on the International Space Station, observed an X-ray flare from the same patch of the sky. These first detections triggered a massive campaign of observations from ground-based telescopes and from space-based observatories, to monitor V404 Cygni at many different wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum."
Medicine

Triggering a Mouse's Happy Memories With Lasers Gives It the Will To Struggle On 66

the_newsbeagle writes: With optogenetics, scientists can tag neurons with light-responsive proteins, and then trigger those neurons to "turn on" with the pulse of a light. In the latest application, MIT researchers used light to turn on certain neurons in male mice's hippocampi that were associated with a happy memory (coming into contact with female mice!), and then tested whether that artificially activated memory changed the mice's reactions to a stressful situation (being hung by their tails). Mice who got jolted with the happy memory struggled to get free for longer than the control mice. This tail-suspension test was developed to screen potential antidepressant drugs: If a rodent struggles longer before giving up, it's considered less depressed.