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MIT Unveils Oil-Skimming Robot Swarm Prototype 123

destinyland writes "Today MIT reveals a swarm of autonomous floating robots that can digest an oil spill. The 16-foot robots drag a nanowire mesh that acts like a conveyor belt to soak up surface oil 'like paper towels soak up water,' absorbing 20 times its weight and then harmlessly 'digesting' the oil by burning it off. Powered by 21.5 square feet of solar panels, the 'Seaswarm' robots run on the power of a lightbulb, and with just 100 watts 'could potentially clean continuously for weeks' without human intervention, MIT announced. The swarm uses GPS data and communicates wirelessly to move as a coordinated group to 'corral, absorb and process' oil spills, and MIT researchers estimate that a fleet of 5,000 could clean up a gulf-sized spill within one month."

Scientists Unveil Structure of Adenovirus 20

An anonymous reader contributes this snippet from Medical News Daily, which begins a story of some interesting medical detective work: "After more than a decade of research, Scripps Research Institute scientists have pieced together the structure of a human adenovirus—the largest complex ever determined at atomic resolution. The new findings about the virus, which causes respiratory, eye, and gastrointestinal infections, may lead to more effective gene therapy and to new anti-viral drugs."

Gaming Without a Safety Blanket 79

Hugh Pickens writes "IGN has an interesting interview with Tom Bissell, author of the recently published Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, in which Bissell uses his experience in investigative journalism and as a war correspondent to describe his years playing games. Bissell talks about the difficulties in describing gameplay to non-gamers. 'A lot of casual games sort of submerge their storytelling to an almost subliminal level while upping the gameplay sophistication,' says Bissell. 'Writing about pure gameplay is tough. ... I say in the book that's one of the most suspect things about the form; a game with [an] incredibly dopey story but a really compelling mechanical set of resonances can still be a great game. I don't know if there's really a way to talk about that with people who aren't sold on the form.' Bissell adds that it's easier for many to find meaning in the more traditional delivery systems of entertainment and compares writing about games to the difficulty in describing rock & roll to an older generation. Bissell's background as a war correspondent, traveling to regions of conflict, has also translated into the games he likes."

Nuclear Power Could See a Revival 415

shmG writes "As the US moves to reduce dependence on oil, the nuclear industry is looking to expand, with new designs making their way through the regulatory process. No less than three new configurations for nuclear power are being considered for licensing by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The first of them could be generating power in Georgia by 2016."

Google Releases Wi-Fi Sniffing Audit 198

adeelarshad82 writes "In the wake of the controversy surrounding its Street View data collection processes, Google has published an independent audit of its practices, prompting a London-based privacy group to accuse Google of a 'criminal act.' The report provided some more in-depth, technical details (PDF) about what Google has already admitted to doing: storing wireless data packet information that was collected over unencrypted networks. According to the report, Street View cars collect data sent over wireless networks, and associate this information with data from a GPS unit in the vehicles. The technology used, known as gslite, then parses and stores certain identifying information about these wireless networks to a hard drive. That information includes the MAC address and the SSID amongst other things like e-mails addresses and browser history." Google also sent a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders acknowledging their mistake and claiming they have not "conducted an analysis of the payload data in a way that allows us to know exactly what was collected."

AI Astronomer Aids Effort To Analyze Galaxies 40

kkleiner writes "Scientists are teaching an artificial intelligence how to classify galaxies imaged by telescopes like the Hubble. Manda Banerji at the University of Cambridge, along with researchers at University College London, Johns Hopkins, and elsewhere, has succeeded in getting the program to agree with human analysis at an impressive rate of more than 90%. Banerji used data from Galaxy Zoo, a massive online project that has used more than 250,000 volunteers to analyze more than 60 million galaxies. The new automated astronomer will help with even larger analytical projects on the horizon, taking care of trivial classifications and leaving the tough cases to humans."

Cloth Successfully Separates Oil From Gulf Water 327

Chinobi writes "Di Gao, an assistant professor at the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, has developed a method of separating oil from water within just seconds using a cotton cloth coated in a chemical polymer that makes it both hydrophilic (it bonds with the hydrogen atoms in water) and oleophobic (oil-repelling), making it absolutely perfect for blocking oil and letting water pass through. Gao tested his filter successfully on Gulf Oil water and oil and has an impressive video to demonstrate the results." This is a laboratory demonstration; the technology hasn't been tested at scale.
Role Playing (Games)

Dungeon Siege III Being Developed by Obsidian 84

Square Enix has announced that it will be publishing Dungeon Siege III, which is in development at Obsidian Entertainment, makers of Alpha Protocol, Neverwinter Nights 2, and the as yet unfinished Fallout: New Vegas. Obsidian will be receiving input from Gas Powered Games, the developer behind the first two installments in the Dungeon Siege series. No release date has been set, but the game is planned for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360, and it will include a co-op mode.

Plotting a Coup In the Internet Age 183

chrb writes "The Guardian is reporting on the attempts of an exiled Sheikh to regain power in a bloodless coup. The plot, led by British solicitor Peter Cathcart, involves the use of Washington political lobbyists, PR agencies writing fake blogs and Twitter accounts, and a newspaper advertising campaign in the US. The coup attempt is remarkable in its choice of modern communications and political lobbying, rather than the traditional resort to violence."

Google-Backed Wind-Powered Car Goes Faster Than the Wind 393

sterlingda writes "A wind-powered car has been clocked in the US traveling downwind 2.85 times faster than the 13.5 mph wind. The definitive research by Rick Cavallaro of is being funded by Google and Joby Energy. The run should now settle the DWFTTW (downwind faster than the wind) debate that has been raging for some time on the Internet about whether or not such a feat was possible."

Quantifying, and Dealing With, the Deepwater Spill 343

Gooseygoose writes with a link to this analysis by Boston University professor Cutler Cleveland. "Some reports in the media attempt to downplay the significance of the release of oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident by arguing that natural oil seeps release large volumes of oil to the ocean, so why worry? Let's look at the numbers." Read on for a few more stories on the topic of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Input Devices

New Radar Device Helps Blind People 'See' 73

greenrainbow writes "Students in Israel at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have developed new technology that allows blind people to 'see' objects around them through a simple radar system. The device consists of a computer, two video cameras, and a scanning light source; it audibly alerts the individual of objects that are in close proximity. The system scans surrounding objects and their distance from two points, much like the human eyes. Unlike current sensor canes, this new light scanning device is a hands-free system that can sense objects on the ground, overhead, and in the periphery."

"Argonaut" Octopus Sucks Air Into Shell As Ballast 72

audiovideodisco writes "Even among octopuses, the Argonaut must be one of the coolest. It gets its nickname — 'paper nautilus' — from the fragile shell the female assembles around herself after mating with the tiny male (whose tentacle/penis breaks off and remains in the female). For millennia, people have wondered what the shell was for; Aristotle thought the octopus used it as a boat and its tentacles as oars and sails. Now scientists who managed to study Argonauts in the wild confirm a different hypothesis: that the octopus sucks air into its shell and uses it for ballast as it weaves its way through the ocean like a tiny submarine. The researchers' beautiful video and photographs show just how the Argonaut pulls off this trick. The regular (non-paper) nautilus also uses its shell for ballast, but the distant relationship between it and all octopuses suggests this is a case of convergent evolution."

Seeing the Forest For the Trees 64

swframe writes "A new object recognition system developed at MIT and UCLA looks for rudimentary visual features shared by multiple examples of the same object. Then it looks for combinations of those features shared by multiple examples, and combinations of those combinations, and so on, until it has assembled a model of the object that resembles a line drawing. Popular Science has a summary of the research. I've been working on something similar and I think this accomplishment looks very promising."

Submission + - New, cheaper Solar-Hydrogen catalytic process (

Nefarious Wheel writes: "A group of researchers has taken another step towards directly converting solar energy into fuel, in this case, hydrogen. A new system that converts light and water into hydrogen is less expensive than many others, and the photoelectrochemical platform it uses is more reactive, efficient, and has a much longer lifetime."

Let's organize this thing and take all the fun out of it.