Sprint To Begin Layoffs, Cut $2.5 Billion In Expenses 55

An anonymous reader writes: Sprint's struggles to remain a major carrier continue. Just a few days after announcing that it is dropping out of a major low-band spectrum auction, the company now says it must cut between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in costs over the next six months. The cuts will need to be aggressive — according to the Wall Street Journal (paywalled), Sprint "had $7.5 billion in operating expenses during the three months ended June 30," even as it cut $1.5 billion over the past year. The only good news for Sprint is that its subscriber base is still slowly growing, though not quickly enough to keep pace with T-Mobile, let alone Verizon or AT&T.

Advance In Super/Ultra Capacitor Tech: High Voltage and High Capacity 146

fyngyrz writes: Ultracaps offer significantly faster charge and discharge rates as well as considerably longer life than batteries. Where they have uniformly fallen short is in the amount of energy they can store as compared to a battery, and also the engineering backflips required to get higher voltages (which is the key to higher energy storage because the energy stored in a cap scales with the square of the cap's voltage, whereas doubling the cap's actual capacitance only doubles the energy, or in other words, the energy increase is linear.) This new development addresses these shortcomings all at once: considerably higher voltage, smaller size, higher capacitance, and to top it off, utilizes less corrosive internals. The best news of all: This new technology looks to be easy, even trivial, to manufacture, and uses inexpensive materials — and that is something neither batteries or previous types of ultracaps have been able to claim. After the debacle of EEStor's claims and failure to meet them for so long, and the somewhat related very slow advance of other ultracap technology, it's difficult not to be cynical. But if you read TFA (yes, I know, but perhaps you'll do it anyway) you may decide some optimism might actually be called for.
Input Devices

ALS Patients Use a Brain Implant To Type 6 Words Per Minute 26

the_newsbeagle writes: With electrodes implanted in their neural tissue and a new brain-computer interface, two paralyzed people with ALS used their thoughts to control a computer cursor with unprecedented accuracy and speed. They showed off their skills by using a predictive text-entering program to type sentences, achieving a rate of 6 words per minute. While paralyzed people can type faster using other assistive technologies that are already on the market, like eye-gaze trackers and air-puff controllers, a brain implant could be the only option for paralyzed people who can't reliably control their eyes or mouth muscles.

Hajj Pilgrimage Safety Challenges Crowd Simulator Technology 184

agent elevator writes: In 2010, Saudi Arabia hosted an international design competition aimed at safely accommodating more pilgrims at Mecca's Grand Mosque. One of the participants told IEEE Spectrum that the crowd densities there (6 people per square meter) bogged down off-the-shelf software so badly that simulation run times were about 10 to 20 times slower than real time crowd movement. Nevertheless, he found some workarounds that gave designers a plan to double the Grand Mosque's peak visitor rate from 40,000 to 102,000 people per hour. Last week's stampede took place well away from the mosque, but signals sent to pilgrims telling them when to speed up or slow down could help prevent such a tragedy, the crowd simulation expert said. Other engineers are turning to fuzzy logic as way to predict how crowds will react in a panic.
Hardware Hacking

Brain-Controlled (Inflatable) Shark Attack 17

the_newsbeagle writes: This is a parlor trick, not neuroscience," writes this DIY brain hacker — but it sure is a nifty trick. The hacker put electrodes on his scalp, fed the resulting EEG data into a specialized processor that makes sense of brain signals, and modified the remote control for a helium-filled shark balloon. Soon, he and his buddies were steering the shark around the room. Why did it take his buddies, too? "EEG interpretation is not easy because, to be technical, EEG signals are a crazy mess. EEG recordings are a jumble of the signatures of many brain processes. Detecting conscious thoughts like “Shark, please swim forward” is way beyond even state-of-the-art equipment. The electrical signature of a single thought is lost in the furious chatter of 100 billion neurons." So builder Chip Audette settled on the simplest control system he could, and divvied up the actual controls (left, right, forward, etc.) among several users, so each one's brain signals could be interpreted separately.

An AI Hunts the Wild Animals Carrying Ebola 45

the_newsbeagle writes: Outbreaks of infectious diseases like Ebola follow a depressing pattern: People start to get sick, public health authorities get wind of the situation, and an all-out scramble begins to determine where the disease started and how it's spreading. Barbara Han, a code-writing ecologist, hopes her algorithms will put an end to that reactive model. She wants to predict outbreaks and enable authorities to prevent the next pandemic. Han takes a big-data approach, using a machine-learning AI to identify the wild animal species that carry zoonotic diseases and transmit them to humans.
United Kingdom

Does IoT Data Need Special Regulation? 99

dkatana writes: As part of the UK's Smart Meter Implementation Programme, Spain's Telefonica is deploying a M2M solution, using its own proprietary network, to collect and transmit data from 53 million gas and electricity smart meters. The most troubling issue is that the UK government awarded the contract to a private telecom that uses a proprietary network rather than to an independent organization that uses freely available spectrum and open source solutions. Those Smart Meters are supposed to be in operation for more than three decades, and rely on a network that can cease to exist. On top of that, the network, running proprietary protocols, can be hacked, and "will be hacked". Only Telefonica will be able to fix it.

US Restarts Hunt For Gravitational Waves With Advanced LIGO 72

schwit1 writes: The hunt for gravitational waves began again for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)-the largest instrument of its kind. The restart follows a five-year-long, US $200-million project to overhaul the experiment's detectors. Many physicists believe the revamped experiment, dubbed Advanced LIGO, will be the first to find direct evidence of gravitational waves: ripples in the fabric of space-time that can be created by, among other things, a pair of neutron stars or black holes orbiting each other. Gravitational waves were first theorized in 1916 by Albert Einstein as a consequence of his general theory of relativity, which celebrates its centennial this year.

Former NASA Mission Controller James Oberg Lauds 'The Martian' 55

At IEEE Spectrum, James Oberg gives high praise to the upcoming film The Martian (release date: October 2). Oberg doesn't have much to say about the acting; he concentrates on the physics and plausibility of the plot and the technology portrayed, which beat those of most Hollywood space epics, and notes in particular "There’s no cheating on even highly-technical spaceflight topics, as shown in the treatment of the so-called “Rich Purnell maneuver,” wherein the Hermes slingshots past Earth back to Mars for a desperate pickup attempt. ... The basic strategy of the Rich Purnell maneuver is not fictional—a crippled Japanese Mars probe named Nozomi actually used a similar Earth-flyby scheme to set up a second chance for its own faltering unmanned Mars mission a dozen years ago." Oberg's background gives his appraisal some weight -- he's a former NASA mission controller who specialized in orbital rendezvous maneuvers. He has some quibbles, too, with the way mission personnel are depicted, and notes one excursion into "fantasy mode" near the fim's close, but concludes that it's a fair trade for the overwhelming sense of realism.

Twitter's Tech Lead On Making Software Engineers More Efficient 146

Tekla Perry writes: "Engineering productivity is hard to measure," said Peter Seibel, the tech lead of Twitter's engineering effectiveness group. "But we certainly can harm it." Seibel spoke this week at the @Scale conference in San Jose, hosted by Facebook. He says in large companies one third of software engineers shouldn't be working on the company's products, but should be dedicated to making other engineers more effective. "As an industry we know how to scale up software," he said. "We also know how to scale up organizations, to put in management that lets thousands of people work together. But we don't have a handle on how to scale up that intersection between engineering and human organization. And maybe we don't understand the importance of that. We massively underinvest in this kind of work."

Damaged Spinal Cord "Rewires" Itself With Help of Electrical Stimulation 30

the_newsbeagle writes: Many prior experiments that tried to restore function after a spinal cord injury have used electrical stimulation to replace the signals from the brain, essentially implanting a replacement nervous system. But a new project instead used electrical stimulation to encourage the natural nervous system to adapt to a severe injury. When researchers repeatedly jolted a rat's damaged spinal cord at the precise moment that it tried to move a paralyzed limb, its nervous system developed new neural pathways that detoured around the site of injury in the spine. Researchers don't think it grew new neurons, but think instead that new connections formed between surviving neurons.
United States

Law Professor: Genetic Engineering Is (Probably) Protected By the First Amendment 127

Jason Koebler writes: The dawn of cheap genome editing techniques such as CRISPR understandably have people across the political spectrum worried about what a future of designer babies, more pathogenic viruses, deextincted species, clones, and glow-in-the-dark sushi might look like. But does putting limits on genetic engineering violate scientists' constitutional rights? The First Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to encompass not just the freedom of speech, but also the freedom of expression and expressive conduct, which likely includes acts of science, according to Alta Charo, a bioethicist and law professor at University of Wisconsin Law School, who says that science is inherently political.
Wireless Networking

25 Years Ago, a Meeting Spawned Wi-Fi 75

alphadogg writes: It was retail remodeling that spurred NCR, a venerable cash-register company, to find out how it could use newly opened frequencies to link registers and mainframes without wires. Its customers wanted to stop drilling new holes in their marble floors for cabling every time they changed a store layout. In 1985, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to leave large blocks of spectrum unlicensed and let vendors build any kind of network they wanted as long as they didn't keep anyone else from using the frequencies. NCR jumped at the chance to develop a wireless LAN, something that didn't exist at the time, according to Vic Hayes, a former engineer at the company who's been called the Father of Wi-Fi.

Miami Installs Free Public Sunscreen Dispensers In Fight Against Cancer 210 writes: If you walk along South Beach in Miami right now, you will notice something strange, even by Florida standards: Dotting the sandscapes are sky-blue boxes that supply free sunscreen. In a novel experiment this year, the City of Miami Beach has put 50 free sunscreen dispensers in public spaces, and those dispensers are full of radiation-mitigating goo, free to any and all passersby. BBC reports that one in five people living in Florida will eventually suffer from skin cancer but the new campaign hopes that increasing people's awareness will lead to a change in behavior. "[The sunscreen dispensers'] visibility — even without additional messaging — could be a good cue to action," says Dr Richard De Visser, a psychologist who has researched health campaigns.

The sunscreen is the type that is effective at preventing cancer and premature skin aging: Broad-spectrum, water resistant, and SPF 30. You can buy a product that is labeled as higher than SPF 30, but it's almost always a waste, and potentially harmful. Above SPF 30, the difference is essentially meaningless. SPF 15 filters out about 93 percent of UV-B rays, SPF 30 filters out 97 percent, SPF 50 filters out 98 percent, and SPF 100 might get you to 99. The problem, though, is the psychology of the larger number. "We put on the "more powerful" sunscreens and then suddenly think we're Batman or some other superhero who can stay out in the sun indefinitely." says James Hamblin. "But no sunscreen is meant to facilitate prolonged exposure of bare skin to direct sunlight." Dr. Jose Lutzky, head of the melanoma program out Mount Sinai, says Florida is second behind California in incidence of melanoma but the trend is going in the wrong direction. "Unfortunately, our numbers are growing. That is really something we do not want to be first in."

Researcher Hacks Self-Driving Car Sensors 122

An anonymous reader writes: Jonathan Petit, security researcher at Security Innovation, has created an electronics kit that costs only $60, which can flood LiDAR sensors on self-driving cars with a laser beam that contains fake data, making them think they have objects in front of them. This forces the self-driving car to slow down and sometimes abruptly stop. Affected cars include all manufacturers that deploy LiDAR sensors. As of now, Google and Apple are affected. According to this article, so may be Toyota's upcoming car.

Robot Submarine Poisons Sea Stars To Save Coral Reefs 106

schwit1 writes: A 30-kilogram robotic yellow submarine is keeping sea stars in check with poison. The sea stars periodically have huge population booms, and a square kilometer of reef can be home to 100,000 of them. They'll kill off the reefs if left unchecked, but humans can only kill a couple sea stars per minute. The task is overwhelming but simple and repetitive, and thus ripe for automation. The COTSBot has "a maximum speed of over two meters per second and an endurance of over six hours. Five thrusters give it the capability of briefly hovering in the water column, giving it time to attack crown of thorns sea stars with an integrated poison injection system. It's completely autonomous, down to the identification and targeting of [sea stars] lurking among coral."

Toyota To Spend $50 Million On Self-Driving Car Tech 53

An anonymous reader writes: Toyota is the latest automaker to see which way the wind is blowing; they've committed $50 million over the next five years to build research centers for self-driving car technology. They'll be working with both Stanford and MIT, and their immediate goal is to "eliminate traffic casualties." "Research at MIT will focus on 'advanced architectures' that will let cars perceive, understand, and interpret their surroundings. ... The folks at Stanford will concentrate on computer vision and machine learning. ... It will also work on human behavior analysis, both for pedestrians outside the car and the people 'at the wheel.'" Toyota's efforts will be led by Gill Pratt, who ran DARPA's Robotics Challenge.

Sultan of Sound, Dr. James Flanagan, Passed Away Aged 89 13

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.

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.

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.