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The US Swim Team's Secret Weapon, Science 180

Hugh Pickens writes "When American Swimmer Margaret Hoelzer goes for the gold tonight in the 200-meter backstroke, part of her success will be due to a new system developed by Tim Wei, a mechanical and aerospace engineer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, that uses fluid dynamics to study human movement allowing scientists and coaches to study how fast and hard a swimmer pushes the water as he moves through it. 'Wei uses a tracking technique called digital particle image velocimetry, commonly used to measure the flow of small particles around an airplane or small fish or crustaceans in water.' Wei filtered compressed air in a scuba tank through a porous hose to create bubbles about a tenth of a millimeter in diameter. When an athlete swims through a sheet of bubbles that rises from the pool floor, a camera captures their flow around the swimmer's body and the images show the direction and speed of the bubbles, which Wei then translates into the swimmer's thrust using software that he wrote."
The Almighty Buck

Measuring the "Colbert Bump" 674

An anonymous reader writes "Democratic politicians receive a 40% increase in contributions in the 30 days after appearing on the comedy cable show The Colbert Report. In contrast, their Republican counterparts essentially gain nothing. Moreover, even a cursory analysis demonstrates that despite being a comedy program The Colbert Report appears to exercise 'disproportionate real world influence' — likely due to the 'elite demographic' of its audience." In my home we refer to Stephen as "Loud Daddy" because my child would scream bloody murder when we paused him (and only him) on screen. Even at 8 months old the kid has strange taste.

Genetic Glitch May Prevent Kids From Learning From Their Mistakes 500

jamie pointed out an interesting piece being featured in Newsweek that claims a "genetic glitch" may prevent some kids from learning from their mistakes to the same degree as others. "If there is one thing experts on child development agree on, it is that kids learn best when they are allowed to make mistakes and feel the consequences. So Mom and Dad hold back as their toddler tries again and again to cram a round peg into a square hole. [...] But not, it seems, all kids. In about 30 percent, the coils of their DNA carry a glitch, one that leaves their brains with few dopamine receptors, molecules that act as docking ports for one of the neurochemicals that carry our thoughts and emotions. A paucity of dopamine receptors is linked to an inability to avoid self-destructive behavior such as illicit drug use. But the effects spill beyond such extremes. Children with the genetic variant are unable to learn from mistakes. No matter how many tests they blow by partying the night before, the lesson just doesn't sink in."

New Study Finds Low Interest In Blu-ray 895

PHPNerd writes "A new consumer survey recently released chronicles the woes of the winner of the hi-definition format war: nobody wants it. While consumers were very happy to embrace the DVD standard when it came about because it brought a huge jump in quality over VHS, the pros of switching to Blu-ray are not as obvious. From the article: 'In contrast, while half of the respondents to our survey rated Blu-ray's quality as 'much better' than standard DVD, another 40% termed it only 'somewhat better,' and most are very satisfied with the performance of their current DVD players." Another reason cited was that a Blu-ray investment also dictates an HDTV purchase, something consumers are reluctant to do.'" Maybe it's also that line-doubling DVD players can be had for less than a hundred dollars.

The War Against Virtual Beer Pong 368

Michelle Shildkret, 360i on behalf of writes "JV Games was all set to release 'Beer Pong' for the Nintendo Wii when parents and lawmakers got a whiff, forcibly renaming the game to Pong Toss and filling its pixelated cups with water instead. But the game is still rated 'T' for teen, and anybody who encounters it will be able to draw clear conclusions as to its intended purpose (drink and get drunk)." Lesson: Don't play games that simulate drinking before you play games that simulate driving, or larceny.

What Is the Best Way To Disinfect Your Laptop? 545

akutz writes "I've had the flu since Tuesday afternoon. My wife picked me up from work with a temperature of 103.6 and it finally broke at 98.7 around 3am this morning. Yay. The problem is that I used my laptop during my periods of feverish deliriousness, contaminating my shiny 15" MacBook Pro with the icky influenza virus. I am asking my fellow Slashdotters if they have ever sought out a good way of disinfecting their lucky laptops after an illness. Do you use soap? A light acid bath? Just get the family dog to lick it until it looks clean?"

A 3-D Holographic Display 53

ZonkerWilliam sends along a link to a Wired writeup on a novel 3-D holographic display developed at USC. Be sure to watch the video at the bottom of the page. "The process is not simple but can be defined through a few key concepts: Spinning mirrors, high-speed DLP Projections, and very precise math that figures out the correct axial perspective needed for a 360-degree image (even taking into account a viewer's positioning.)"

Cool/Weird Stuff To Do On a Cluster? 608

Gori writes "I'm a researcher at a university. Our group mainly does Agent Based Modeling of interdisciplinary problems (think massive simulations where technology, policy, and economics meet). Recently, we managed to get a bunch of money for a High Performance Cluster to run our stuff on. The code is mostly written in Java. Our IT support people are very capable of setting up a stable cluster that will run Java perfectly. But where's the fun in that? What I'm trying to figure out are other, more far-out and interesting things to do with this machine — think 500+ Opteron cores, 2 GB RAM per core, a gigabit interconnect with some badass switches, a massive storage array, plus a bunch of UltraSPARC boxes. So at times when there's no stuff to crunch, I'd like to boot the thing up with a 'weird' system image and geek around in the name of science. Try fancy ways of building models, dynamically adding all sorts of hardware to it, etc. Have different schedulers compete for resources. Imagine a Matlab vs. Boinc vs. ProActive shootout. Maybe run plan9 on it? Most of us are not CE/CS people, but we are geeky enough. So, what would be the coolest and most far out thing you would do with this kind of hardware ?"

How To Teach a Healthy Dose of Skepticism? 880

c0d3h4x0r writes "It's no accident that 'whatcouldpossiblygowrong' is one of the most common tags applied by this community to stories about proposed ideas or laws. The ability to spot and predict faults is a big part of what makes a great engineer. It starts with having a healthy skepticism about the world, which leads to actual critical thinking. Many books and courses teach critical thinking skills, but what is the best way to encourage and teach someone to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism? Is it even a teachable skill, or is it just an innate part of the geek personality?"

Douglas Hofstadter Looks At the Future 387

An anonymous reader writes with a link to this "detailed and fascinating interview with Douglas Hofstadter (of Gödel Escher Bach fame) about his latest book, science fiction, Kurzweil's singularity and more ... Apparently this leading cognitive researcher wouldn't want to live in a world with AI, since 'Such a world would be too alien for me. I prefer living in a world where computers are still very very stupid.' He also wouldn't want to be around if Kurzweil's ideas come to pass, since he thinks 'it certainly would spell the end of human life.'"

Nuked Coral Reef Bounces Back 332

sm62704 writes "I found this New Scientist article interesting, as I was actually alive (albeit very small) when Bikini Atoll was H-bombed. The article says that the reason the reefs are now flourishing is because they are mostly undisturbed by humans, who are afraid of the radiation. Background levels there are now 'similar to that at any Australian city,' while nearby islands haven't been so lucky.'When I put the Geiger counter near a coconut, which accumulates radioactive material from the soil, it went berserk,' says Maria Beger of the University of Queensland in Australia."
Role Playing (Games)

Submission + - World of Warcraft Hacker Amassed $2.8 Million

An anonymous reader writes: Game Activist reports that legal documents in the lawsuit between Blizzard and MDY Industries, the creator of World of Warcraft bot Glider (f.k.a WoWGlider), have revealed that MDY generated more than $2.8 million in revenue from selling the bot program. MDY has but one employee/owner, Michael Donnelly. Blizzard claims Glider has lost them $18 million in revenue. As previously reported, Blizzard wants to prevent Donnelly from selling the software and is seeking monetary damages.
Role Playing (Games)

Submission + - WoW Hacker Amassed $2.8 Million (

An anonymous reader writes: Game Activist reports that legal documents made public in the lawsuit between Blizzard and MDY Industries, the creator of World of Warcraft bot Glider (f.k.a WoWGlider), have revealed that MDY generated more than $2.8 million in revenue from selling the bot program. MDY has but one employee/owner, Michael Donnelly. As previously reported, Blizzard wants to prevent Donnelly from selling the software and is seeking monetary damages.

Does It Suck To Be An Engineering Student? 971

Pickens writes "Aaron Rower has an interesting post on Wired with the "Top 5 Reasons it Sucks to be an Engineering Student" that includes awful textbooks, professors who are rarely encouraging, the dearth of quality counseling, and every assignment feels the same. Our favorite is that other disciplines have inflated grades. "Brilliant engineering students may earn surprisingly low grades while slackers in other departments score straight As for writing book reports and throwing together papers about their favorite zombie films," writes Rower. "Many of the brightest students may struggle while mediocre scholars can earn top scores." For many students, earning a degree in engineering is less than enjoyable and far from what they expected. If you want to complain about your education, this is your chance."

Doctors To Control Robot Surgeon With Their Eyes 99

trogador writes "Researchers from Imperial College London are improving the Da Vinci surgical robot by installing an eye-tracker, which allows surgeons to control the robot's knife simply by looking at the patient's tissues on a screen. Tracking the eyes can generate a 3D map, which in turn can make moving organs — like a beating heart — appear to stand still for easier operation. Other features include 'see-through' tissues on the surgeon's screen (so tumors can be seen underneath tissues) and 'no-cut' zones, places where the robot won't allow the surgeon to cut by mistake. Says ICL Professor Guang Zhong Yang, 'We want to empower the robot and make it more autonomous.'"

"Live or die, I'll make a million." -- Reebus Kneebus, before his jump to the center of the earth, Firesign Theater