tesmar tips a report up at TechCrunch that begins "Here come the robo sports journalists. While people in the media biz worry about content mills like Demand Media and Associated Content spitting out endless SEO-targeted articles written by low-paid Internet writers, at least those articles are still written by humans. We may no longer need the humans, at least for data-driven stories. A startup in North Carolina, StatSheet, today is launching a remarkable network of 345 sports sites, one dedicated to each Division 1 college basketball team in the US. For instance, there is a site for the Michigan State Spartans, North Carolina Tar Heels, and Ohio Buckeyes. Every story on each site was written by a robot, or to put it more precisely, by StatSheet's content algorithms. 'The posts are completely auto-generated,' says founder Robbie Allen. 'The only human involvement is with creating the algorithms that generate the posts.'"
The article makes the case that Jobs has been hinting that he wants to actually spend some of the $51 billion Apple has been sitting on, and that Facebook is a likely candidate. Considering how thin the Ping social network is, and the integration issues the two companies have had, there are some good reasons for such a deal. And a heck of a lot of reasons why not.
eldavojohn writes "As we strive closer and closer to quantum computing, physics may need to be improved. A paper released in Nature Physics suggests that the limit defined by Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle can be beaten with quantum memory. From the article, 'The cadre of scientists behind the current paper realized that, by using the process of entanglement, it would be possible to essentially use two particles to figure out the complete state of one. They might even be able to measure incompatible variables like position and momentum. The measurements might not be perfectly precise, but the process could allow them to beat the limit of the uncertainty principle.' Will we find out that Heisenberg was shortsighted in limiting the power of quantum physics or will the scientists be surprised to find that such a theoretical scenario — once conducted — performs unexpectedly in Heisenberg's favor?"
CWmike writes "Mozilla has shipped a release candidate build of Firefox 3.6 that, barring problems, will become the final, finished version of the upgrade. Firefox 3.6 RC1, which followed a run of betas that started in early November, features nearly 100 bug fixes from the fifth beta that Mozilla issued Dec. 17. The fixes resolved numerous crash bugs, including one that brought down the browser when it was steered to Yahoo's front page. Another fix removed a small amount of code owned by Microsoft from Firefox. The code was pointed out by a Mozilla contributor, and after digging, another developer found the original Microsoft license agreement. 'Amusingly enough, it's actually really permissive. Really the only part that's problematic is the agreement to "include the copyright notice ... on your product label and as a part of the sign-on message for your software product,"' wrote Kyle Huey on Mozilla's Bugzilla. Even so, others working on the bug said the code needed to be replaced with Mozilla's own."
MaryBethP writes "Scientists in Italy announced Wednesday that Pierpaolo Petruzziello, a 26-year-old Italian who had lost his left forearm in a car accident, was successfully linked to an artificial limb that was controlled by electrodes implanted in his arm and connected to the median and ulnar nerves. He has learned to control the artificial limb with his mind. According to CNet, Petruzziello says he could feel sensations in it, as if the lost arm had grown back again. The BBC has a brief video showing the arm in operation."
miller60 writes "'Google is seeking to patent a system that provides precision cooling inside racks of servers, automatically adjusting to temperature changes while reducing the energy required to run chillers.' The cooling design uses an adjustable piping system featuring 'air wands' that provide small amounts of cold air to components within a server tray. The cooling design, which could help Google reduce the power bill for its servers, reinforces Google's focus on data center innovation as a competitive advantage. Check out the patent application and a diagram of the system."
jtavares2 writes "In what is being dubbed Throttlegate, scores of users on many message boards have been complaining about nexplicably aggressive throttling policies on their Dell Latitude E6500 and E6400 laptops which cause their CPUs to be throttled to less than 5% of their theoretical maximums even while at room temperatures. In many cases, the issue can be triggered just by playing a video or performing some other trivial, but CPU intensive, task. After being banned [PDF] from the Dell Forums for revealing 'non-public information,' one user went so far as to write and publish a 59-page report [PDF] explaining and diagnosing the throttling problem in incredible detail. Dell seems to be silent on the issue, but many users are hoping for a formal recall."
An anonymous reader writes to tell us that finding malicious code might have just become a little harder. Last week at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, security researchers Joshua Mason, Sam Small, Fabian Monrose, and Greg MacManus presented a method they developed to generate English shell code [PDF]. Using content from Wikipedia and other public works to train their engine, they convert arbitrary x86 shell code into sentences that read like spam, but are natively executable. "In this paper we revisit the assumption that shell code need be fundamentally different in structure than non-executable data. Specifically, we elucidate how one can use natural language generation techniques to produce shell code that is superficially similar to English prose. We argue that this new development poses significant challenges for in-line payload-based inspection (and emulation) as a defensive measure, and also highlights the need for designing more efficient techniques for preventing shell code injection attacks altogether."
Lucas123 writes "Scientists at Intel are working on developing sensors that would be implanted in a person's head in order to harness brain waves that could then be used to control computers, televisions, cell phones and other electronic equipment. Intel has already used Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) machines to determine that blood flow changes in specific areas of the brain based on what word or image someone is thinking of. People tend to show the same brain patterns for similar thoughts. 'Eventually people may be willing to be more committed ... to brain implants. Imagine being able to surf the Web with the power of your thoughts.' said Intel research scientist Dean Pomerleau."
bth writes "A computer with the power of a human brain is not yet near. But this week researchers from IBM Corp. are reporting that they've simulated a cat's cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, using a massive supercomputer. The computer has 147,456 processors (most modern PCs have just one or two processors) and 144 terabytes of main memory — 100,000 times as much as your computer has."
samzbest writes "According to ComScore's qSearch, Microsoft's retaliation against Google search, Bing, has gained significant market share, now facilitating close to 10% of US searches. That's a gain of two large points in five months."
eldavojohn writes "Uranium mines provide us with 40,000 tons of uranium each year. Sounds like that ought to be enough for anyone, but it comes up about 25,000 tons short of what we consume yearly in our nuclear power plants. The difference is made up by stockpiles, reprocessed fuel and re-enriched uranium — which should be completely used up by 2013. And the problem with just opening more uranium mines is that nobody really knows where to go for the next big uranium lode. Dr. Michael Dittmar has been warning us for some time about the coming shortage (PDF) and has recently uploaded a four-part comprehensive report on the future of nuclear energy and how socioeconomic change is exacerbating the effect this coming shortage will have on our power consumption. Although not quite on par with zombie apocalypse, Dr. Dittmar's final conclusions paint a dire picture, stating that options like large-scale commercial fission breeder reactors are not an option by 2013 and 'no matter how far into the future we may look, nuclear fusion as an energy source is even less probable than large-scale breeder reactors, for the accumulated knowledge on this subject is already sufficient to say that commercial fusion power will never become a reality.'"
CNet reports on hearings scheduled to open tomorrow in the US Senate on mysterious charges on thousands of consumers' credit cards. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has been investigating online loyalty programs, which shoppers encounter (often with little comprehension) on the sites of online retailers such as as Continental Airlines, FTD, and Classmates.com. "At the center of the federal probe are Webloyalty, Affinion, and Vertrue, companies that make 'cash-back' and coupon offers to consumers and charge them monthly fees to enroll in their loyalty programs. ... In August, as the government's investigation rolled on, Webloyalty announced that it would alter its ads to require that consumers 'enter the last four digits of their credit or debit card to confirm' they wish to pay the membership fees. Last week, Affinion made similar changes. During the hearing, when the Senate committee is expected to make public the results of a six-month investigation, it will also likely say the alterations made by Webloyalty and Affinion don't go far enough. "
At a UN-sponsored Internet Governance Forum in Egypt, anti-censorship group Open Net Initiative was startled by a demand from UN officials to remove a poster mentioning Chinese Net censorship. When ONI refused the request, security personnel arrived and took away the poster. The group was promoting a new book, Access Controlled, a survey of Internet censorship, filtering, and online surveillance. A witness said, "The poster was thrown on the floor and we were told to remove it because of the reference to China and Tibet. We refused, and security guards came and removed it. The incident was witnessed by many." Here is a video of the removal.