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Test Driving the Wolfram Alpha 124

SilverMind writes in to note a blog entry at Byte Size Biology describing in detail a few hours spent with Wolfram Alpha (which we have discussed before). "After playing around with Wolfram Alpha for a few hours, I can safely say the following: it's different, it's incomplete, it's idiosyncratic, and it's funky cool. And no, it will not dethrone Google, nor does it aim to do so."
Classic Games (Games)

Storytelling In Games and the Use of Narration 131

MarkN writes "The use of story in video games has come a long way, from being shoehorned into a manual written for a completed game to being told through expensive half-hour cut scenes that put gameplay on hold. To me, the interesting thing about story in games is how it relates the player to the game; in communicating their goals, motivating them to continue, and representing their role as a character in the world. This article talks about some of the storytelling techniques games have employed, and in particular the different styles of narration that have been used to directly communicate information about a story, and how that affects the player's relation to their character and the degree of freedom they're given to shape the story themselves."

Bacteria Could Help Stop Desertification 218

Bridgette Steffen writes "In attempt to slow down desertification, a student at London's Architectural Association has proposed a 6000 km sandstone wall that will not only act as a break across the Sahara Desert, but also serve as refugee shelter. Last fall it won first prize in the Holcim Foundation's Awards for Sustainable Construction, and will use bacteria to solidify the sandstone."

WHO Raises Swine Flu Threat Level 557

Solarch writes "Late in the afternoon on Wednesday, the WHO raised the pandemic threat level for H1N1 "swine flu" to 5. Global media outlets(such as CNN, Fox News, and the BBC) preempted normal broadcast coverage and immediately published stories on their websites. To clarify, the WHO's elevation is mainly a sign to governments that the virus is spreading quickly and that steps should be taken on a governmental level to stage supplies and medicines to combat a possible pandemic. Unfortunately, broadcast coverage focused on phrases like 'pandemic imminent' (CNN marquee). In other news, patient zero, the medical term for the initial human vector of a disease, has been tentatively identified in Mexico."

New Food-Growth Product a Bit Hairy Screenshot-sm 243

MeatBag PussRocket writes "An article from reports, 'A Florida company has developed an all-natural product that it says could revolutionize how food is grown in the US. It's called Smart Grow, but it might be a tough sell. It's inexpensive. It eliminates the need for pesticides, so it's environmentally friendly, but it's human hair. Plant pathologists at the University of Florida have found the mats eliminate weeds better than leading herbicides and can also make plants grow up to 30 percent larger.'"
United States

Obama Says 3% of GDP Should Fund Science Research And Development 753

tritonman writes "Obama wants to set a goal that the US spend 3% of its GDP on scientific research and development. 'I believe it is not in our character, American character, to follow — but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development,' Obama said in a speech at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences."

Music Copyright In EU Extended To 70 Years 395

rastos1 writes "The European Parliament extended the copyright in the EU for the performers of musical works from 50 to 70 years. The legislation will be reviewed in 3 years. The European Commission will consider extending the scope to audiovisual works too." So performers will collect for 20 more years from the date of performance; composers' rights already extend to 70 years beyond their deaths. Update: 4/26 at 12:15 GMT by SS: Reader rimberg points out that while the copyright extension was passed in the European Parliament, it is now being held up in the Council of Ministers awaiting further debate on the issue.

Blackwell Launches Print-On-Demand Trial In the UK 116

krou writes "In Dec. 2006, we discussed the Espresso Book Machine. Well, on April 27 the bookseller Blackwell will launch a three-month trial of the machine in its Charing Cross Road branch in London as a 'print on demand' service for shoppers in an effort 'to consign to history the idea that you can walk into a bookshop and not find the book you want.' When the trial begins, it will be able to print any of some 400,000 titles; Blackwell's overall goal is to extend this to a million titles by the summer, and to spread out more machines to the rest of its sixty stores once it works out pricing. Currently, they charge shelf price for in-print books, and 10 pence per page for those out of print (about $55 for a 300-page book), but are analyzing customer behavior to get a better pricing model. Says Blackwell chief executive Andrew Hutchings: 'This could change bookselling fundamentally. It's giving the chance for smaller locations, independent booksellers, to have the opportunity to truly compete with big stock-holding shops and Amazon ... I like to think of it as the revitalization of the local bookshop industry.' Their website notes that in addition to getting books printed in-store, in future you will be able to order titles via their site. (They also mention that one of the titles you can print is the 1915 Oxford Poetry Book, which includes one of Tolkien's first poems, 'Goblin's Feet.')" You'll also be able to bring in your own book to print — two PDF files, one for the book block and one for the cover.

Opting Out Increases Spam? 481

J. L. Tympanum writes "I used to ignore spam but recently I have been using the opt-out feature. Now I get more spam than ever, especially of the Nigerian scam (and related) types. The latter has gone from almost none to several a day. Was I a fool for opting out? Is my email address being harvested when I opt out? Has anybody had similar experience?"

Copyright Lobby Targets "Pirate Bay For Books" 356

An anonymous reader writes "TTVK, a Finnish national copyright lobby, is threatening a book rental service called Bookabooka for allegedly running the 'Pirate Bay for Books.' Bookabooka however does not offer a torrent tracker service, nor does it enable a user in any way to download eBooks; it simply provides a place for book owners to rent textbooks to each other via the traditional mail service. It is mandatory that all textbooks must be originals. The service is used by a lot of School and University students, and it does not handle the shipping or returns of the textbooks. Nevertheless, the Finnish book publishers' association (Suomen Kustannusyhdistys) is convinced the service is breaching the copyright laws and threatening their business. TTVK has given Bookabooka until Friday to cease operations or face a lawsuit. Bookabooka's founders have vowed to keep the service online and ignore the threat."

New Mega-Botnet Discovered 257

yahoi writes "According to the DarkReading article, 'Researchers have discovered a major botnet operating out of the Ukraine that has infected 1.9 million machines, including large corporate and government PCs mainly in the US. The botnet, which appears to be larger than the infamous Storm botnet was in its heyday, has infected machines from some 77 government-owned domains — 51 of which are in the US government. Researchers from Finjan who found the botnet say it's controlled by six individuals, and includes machines in major banks.'"

Intel Cache Poisoning Is Dangerously Easy On Linux 393

Julie188 writes "A researcher recently released proof-of-concept code for an exploit that allows a hacker to overrun an Intel CPU cache and plant a rootkit. A second, independent researcher has examined the exploit and noted that it is so simple and so stealthy that it is likely out in the wild now, unbeknownst to its victims. The attack works best on a Linux system with an Intel DQ35 motherboard with 2GB of memory. It turns out that Linux allows the root user to access MTR registers incredibly easily. With Windows this exploit can be used, but requires much more work and skill and so while the Linux exploit code is readily available now, no Windows exploit code has, so far, been released or seen. This attack is hardware specific, but unfortunately, it is specific to Intel's popular DQ35 motherboards."

Study Claims 8.5% of Young Gamers "Pathologically Addicted" 296

schnucki brings word of new research which claims roughly one in twelve American children between the ages of eight and 18 are "pathologically addicted" to video games. The study, conducted by Douglas Gentile, director of the National Institute on Media and the Family at Iowa State University, says that "pathological status was a significant predictor of poorer school performance even after controlling for sex, age, and weekly amount of video-game play." However, Professor Cheryl Olson, who has conducted her own research into video game use, questioned Gentile's methodology, saying, "The author is repurposing questions used to assess problem gambling in adults; however, lying to your spouse about blowing the rent money on gambling is a very different matter from fibbing to your mom about whether you played video games instead of starting your homework."

Biotech Company To Patent Pigs Screenshot-sm 285

Anonymous Swine writes "Monsanto, a US based multinational biotech company, is causing a stir by its plan to patent pig-breeding techniques including the claim on animals born by the techniques. 'Agricultural experts are scrambling to assess how these patents might affect the market, while consumer activists warn that if the company is granted pig-related patents, on top of its tight rein on key feed and food crops, its control over agriculture could be unprecedented. "We're afraid that Monsanto and other big companies are getting control of the world's genetic resources," said Christoph Then, a patent expert with Greenpeace in Germany. The patent applications, filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization, are broad in scope, and are expected to take several years and numerous rewrites before approval.'"

Google Brings 3D To Web With Open Source Plugin 191

maxheadroom writes "Google has released an open source browser plugin that provides a JavaScript API for displaying 3D graphics in web content. Google hopes that the project will promote experimentation and help advance a collaborative effort with the Khronos Group and Mozilla to create open standards for 3D on the web. Google's plugin offers its own retained-mode graphics API, called O3D, which takes a different approach from a similar browser plugin created by Mozilla. Google's plugin is cross-platform compatible and works with several browsers. In an interview with Ars Technica, Google product manager Henry Bridge and engineering director Matt Papakipos say that Google's API will eventually converge with Mozilla's as the technology matures. The search giant hopes to bring programs like SketchUp and Google Earth to the browser space."

Space is to place as eternity is to time. -- Joseph Joubert