jzoom555 writes "In an interview with Discover Magazine, Gerald Edelman, Nobel laureate and founder/director of The Neurosciences Institute, discusses the quality of consciousness and progress in building brain-based-devices. His lab recently published details on a brain model that is self-sustaining and 'has beta waves and gamma waves just like the regular cortex.'" Edelman's latest BBD contains a million simulated neurons and almost half a billion synapses, and is modeled on a cat's brain.
Guanine writes in with a follow-up to our discussion a few months back on the SheevaPlug: 1.2-GHz ARM-compliant processor, 512 MB DDR2, 512 MB flash, USB 2.0, gigabit ethernet, in a package the size of a wall wart, for $99. Saul Hansell's Bits Blog in the NY Times talks about a few applications for such a device, whose price point Hansell claims will drop to $40 before too long. "The first plausible use for the plug computer is to attach one of these gizmos to a USB hard drive. Voila, you've got a network server. Cloud Engines, a startup, has in fact built a $99 plug computer called Pogoplug, that will let you share the files on your hard drive, not only in your home but also anywhere on the Internet. ... [Marvell's CEO said] 'Eventually you won't see the plug. We want this device to be in your TV, your stereo system, your DVD player.'"
bowman9991 writes "Dan Aykroyd reveals that all the original cast have now signed on for Ghostbusters 3, including Sigourney Weaver, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson. Apparently Bill Murray, who holds a one-fifth controlling interest, was very reluctant at first, not even willing to read a third draft of Aykroyd's script. Aykroyd would like to see Ivan Reitman or Harold Ramis direct, wants to introduce a 'new generation' of Ghostbusters, and believes they could be filming the new Ghostbuster movie by winter."
heychris writes "Eucalyptus, an ebook app for iPhone, has been rejected from the App Store for 'objectionable content.' What's so objectionable? The Kama Sutra, available from Project Gutenberg, which is available on other ebook readers as well. Not only that, but the screenshot shows that you would have to search for Kama Sutra to get it; it's not built in to Eucalyptus. The author is reasonable but frustrated, while Herr Gruber is more succinct." I wonder how good the now-cheap Nokia 810 is as an e-book reader.
Al writes "Researchers from Swinburne University of Technology in Victoria, Australia, have developed an optical material capable of storing information in five dimensions. Using three wavelengths and two polarizations of light, the Australian researchers were able to write six different patterns within the same area. The material is made up of layers of gold nanorods suspended in clear plastic that has been spun flat onto a glass substrate and multiple data patterns can be written and read within the same area in the material without interference. The team achieved a storage density of 1.1 terabytes per cubic centimeter by writing data to stacks of 10 nanorod layers."
Saint Aardvark writes "The Free Software Foundation has announced that they've settled their lawsuit with Cisco (reported earlier here). In the announcement, they say that Cisco has agreed to appoint a Free Software Director for Linksys, who will report periodically to the FSF; to notify Linksys customers of their rights; and to make a monetary donation to the FSF. An accompanying blog entry explains further: 'Whenever we talk about the work we do to handle violations, we say over and over again that getting compliance with the licenses is always our top priority. The reason this is so important is not only because it provides a goal for us to reach, but also because it gives us a clear guide to choosing our tactics. This is the first time we've had to go to court over a license violation.'"
omz writes "The ODF Alliance has prepared a Fact Sheet for governments and others interested in how Microsoft's SP2 for Office 2007 handles ODF. The report revealed 'serious shortcomings that, left unaddressed, would break the open standards based interoperability that the marketplace, especially governments, is demanding.'"
destinyland writes "As a Rutgers philosopher discusses robot war scenarios, one science magazine counts the ways robots are already being used in warfare, including YouTube videos of six military robots in action. There are up to 12,000 'robotic units' on the ground in Iraq, some dismantling landmines and roadside bombs, but 'a new generation of bots are designed to be fighting machines.' One bot can operate an M-16 rifle, a machine gun, and a rocket launcher — and 250 people have already been killed by unmanned drones in Pakistan. He also tells the story of a berserk robot explosives gun that killed nine people in South Africa due to a 'software glitch.'"
t0mg writes with this news from the top of Slackware.org "from the Slackware64-current changelog: [tap tap tap]... Is this thing on? ;-) Ready or not, Slackware has now gone 64-bit with an official x86_64 port being maintained in-sync with the regular x86 -current branch. DVDs will be available for purchase from the Slackware store when Slackware 13.0 is released. Many thanks go out to the Slackware team for their help with this branch and a special thank you to Eric Hameleers who did the real heavy lifting re-compiling everything for this architecture, testing, re-testing, and staying in-sync with -current. We've been developing and testing Slackware64 for quite a while. Most of the team is already using Slackware64 on their personal machines, and things are working well enough that it is time to let the community check our work. We'd like to thank the unofficial 64 bit projects for taking up the slack for us for so long so that we could take our time getting everything just right. Without those alternatives, we would have been pressured to get things out before they were really ready."
An anonymous reader writes "Not content to simply follow the 'anything to protect American lives' mantra, freshman Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has introduced a bill to prohibit mandatory full body scans at airports. Chaffetz states, 'The images offer a disturbingly accurate view of a person's body underneath clothing ... Americans should not be required to expose their bodies in this manner in order to fly.' He goes on to note that the ACLU has expressed support for the bill. Maybe we don't need tin-foil sports coats to go with our tin-foil hats. For reference, the Daily Herald has a story featuring images from the millimeter wavelength imager, and we've talked about the scanners before."
langelgjm sends in an update to a story we discussed over the weekend about an extremely well-preserved fossil of an ancient primate, Darwinius masillae, that sheds light on an important area of evolution. The 47 million-year-old specimen has now been officially unveiled, and while many media outlets are stumbling over themselves with phrases like "missing link" and "holy grail," it's clearly a very impressive find. "Discovered two years ago, the exquisitely preserved specimen is not a direct ancestor of monkeys and humans, but hints at what such an ancestor might have looked like. According to researchers, 'The specimen has an unusual history: it was privately collected and sold in two parts, with only the lesser part previously known. The second part, which has just come to light, shows the skeleton to be the most complete primate known in the fossil record.' The scientific article describing the find was published yesterday in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal PLoS ONE. Google's home page is also celebrating the find with a unique image." Science blogger Brian Switek offers some criticism of the academic paper and the media swarm, saying, "I would have hoped that this fossil would receive the care and attention it deserves, but for now it looks like a cash cow for the History Channel. Indeed, this association may not have only presented overblown claims to the public, but hindered good science, as well."
thinker sends in an MSNBC report on the development of ethical guidelines for battlefield robots. The article notes that such robots won't go autonomous for a while yet, and that the guidelines are being drawn up for relatively uncomplicated situations — such as a war zone from which all non-combatents have already fled, so that anybody who shoots at you is a legitimate target. "Smart missiles, rolling robots, and flying drones currently controlled by humans, are being used on the battlefield more every day. But what happens when humans are taken out of the loop, and robots are left to make decisions, like who to kill or what to bomb, on their own? Ronald Arkin, a professor of computer science at Georgia Tech, is in the first stages of developing an 'ethical governor,' a package of software and hardware that tells robots when and what to fire. His book on the subject, Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots, comes out this month."
Hugh Pickens writes "The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, part of the Department of Defense, is using satellites to track the activities of drug cartels operating along the US-Mexican border. The agency is supplying photos to pinpoint Mexican narcotics operations and anticipate smuggling attempts into the United States. During a conference on border security held in Phoenix last week, Scott Zikmanis said his agency already has supplied some data to the El Paso Intelligence Center, a federal clearinghouse for investigating drug cartels. Any border-security surveillance will be done over Mexico, not the US says Zikmanis because a federal law, the Posse Comitatus Act, strictly limits US military operations on American soil unless such operations are authorized by Congress. Civil rights attorneys question the use of satellite technology in law enforcement. 'We are in the midst of a really dangerous time in terms of technology,' said Chris Calabrese, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. 'The idea that such a powerful tool might be turned on US citizens is really troubling.'"
Ant sends us to Maximum PC for an account of the history and current state of 3D video cards (single print page). "Try to imagine where 3D gaming would be today if not for the graphics processing unit, or GPU. Without it, you wouldn't be [trudging] through the jungles of Crysis in all its visual splendor, nor would you be fending off endless hordes of fast-moving zombies at high resolutions. For that to happen, it takes a highly specialized chip designed for parallel processing to pull off the kinds of games you see today... Going forward, GPU makers will try to extend the reliance on videocards to also include physics processing, video encoding/decoding, and other tasks that [were] once handled by the CPU. It's pretty amazing when you think about how far graphics technology has come. To help you do that, we're going to take a look back at every major GPU release since the infancy of 3D graphics. Join us as we travel back in time and relive releases like 3dfx's Voodoo3 and S3's ViRGE lineup. This is one nostalgic ride you don't want to miss!"
CNETNate writes "To advance its Street View service this summer, Google is poised to unleash the unstoppable power of human legs. Google will deploy pedal-powered tricycles — the company calls them 'Google Trikes' — mounted with 360 degree Street View cameras to map areas inaccessible by its fleet of Street View cars." The article indicates that the trikes will first see use in the UK, to map out public walking paths, but one anonymous commenter said: "This must be bogus — you are not allowed to cycle on public footpaths in the UK, I can't believe Google would have overlooked such a fundamental fact. Not to mention that the vehicle pictured wouldn't fit down most paths." PC World features the trikes in Rome.