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+ - Neural implants let paralyzed man take a drink->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: Erik Sorto was shot in the back 13 years ago and paralyzed from the neck down. Yet recently the father of two lifted a bottle of beer to his lips and gave himself a drink, even though he can’t move his arms or legs.

Mr. Sorto, 34, picked up his drink with a robotic arm controlled by his thoughts. Two silicon chips in his brain read his intentions and channeled them via wires to the prosthetic arm on a nearby table. The team that developed the experimental implant, led by researchers at the California Institute of Technology, reported their work Thursday in the journal Science.

“That was amazing,” Mr. Sorto said. “I was waiting for that for 13 years, to drink a beer by myself.”

Mr. Sorto’s neural implant is the latest in a series of prosthetic devices that promise one day to restore smooth, almost natural movement to those who have lost the use of their limbs through disease or injury, by tapping directly into the signals generated by the brain.

For years, laboratories at Brown University, Duke University and Caltech, among others, have experimented with brain-controlled prosthetics. Those devices include wireless implants able to relay rudimentary mental commands, mind-controlled robotic leg braces, and sensors that add a sense of touch to robotic hands. In 2012, University of Pittsburgh researchers demonstrated a brain implant that allowed a paralyzed woman to feed herself a chocolate bar using a robot arm.

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+ - Mansion Fire: DNA on Pizza Crust Led Authorities to DC Murder Suspect->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: Authorities searched a Maryland home overnight in the investigation of a deadly mansion murder, going through the trash and removing bags of evidence — but in the end it was a piece of pizza crust that could lead to the suspect's arrest.

Daron Dylon Wint, 34, was identified on Wednesday as the key suspect in the quadruple slaying and arson attack in Northwest, a section of Washington, D.C. A court issued an arrest warrant for Wint with “murder one while armed,” authorities said.

Two sources familiar with the case told ABC News that DNA found on the crust of a Domino's pizza that had been delivered to the house led authorities to identify Wint as the suspect.

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+ - FBI Use of Controversial Patriot Act Section Expands->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: Lower legal threshold and wider availability of electronic information cited in report on greater use of Section 215

The Federal Bureau of Investigation used a controversial section of the Patriot Act to gather information more than 50 times in a three-year period, according to a new internal review released as Congress debates whether to let the law expire.

The FBI’s use of Section 215 of the Patriot Act “continues to expand,” according to the report released Thursday by the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz. The expansion is in part because the legal threshold for its use has been lowered and because society’s use of the Internet has also “expanded the quantity and quality of electronic information available to the FBI,’’ the report states.

Section 215 authorizes the government to collect “tangible things” such as business records with an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The types of information sought with such orders range from “hard copy reproductions of business ledgers and receipts to gigabytes of metadata and other electronic information,’’ the report found. The FBI has been “broadening the scope of materials sought in applications,’’ in part because they are not limited to requesting information only about suspects.

The FBI uses Section 215, the report said, “in investigations of groups comprised of unknown members and to obtain information in bulk concerning persons who are not the subjects of or associated with any FBI investigation.’’

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+ - Rand Paul wraps up NSA "filibuster" after 10 hours->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: After standing on the Senate floor for more than 10 hours in protest of the National Security Agency's sweeping surveillance programs, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, wrapped up his so-called "filibuster" just after Midnight on Thursday morning.

NSA illegal spying and data collection of innocent Americans must end. Thank you all for standing with me. #StandwithRand

— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 21, 2015
The senator and 2016 presidential candidate staged the talkathon ahead of the Senate's consideration of legislation to extend the NSA's authority to collect phone records in bulk. The controversial surveillance program — which has been deemed illegal by one federal court — is supposedly authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act. That section of the law is set to expire on June 1, giving Congress little time to renew it.

Paul started his "filibuster" against an extension of the Patriot Act on Wednesday afternoon, even though the Senate was actually in the middle of debate time on an entirely different issue — trade authority. Paul's efforts likely slowed down Senate business — lawmakers are trying to finish a few important bills before taking off for a weeklong recess — but the Senate is still expected to take up legislation to deal with the expiring NSA program.

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+ - Get Ready for Tweets in Google Search Results->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: Twitter and Google are formally getting back together.
The companies said today that Twitter content will show up in Google search results. It's rolling out to the iOS and Android Google apps and the mobile Web in the U.S. The desktop version will arrive "shortly," as will content in other countries.
In a blog post, Twitter pointed to a search for Taylor Swift. In searching her on the iOS app, her tweets appear halfway down the page; swipe left to read her five latest posts and tap her Twitter handle to read more.
Twitter also recommended searching #Madmen, which produced a "Popular on Twitter" box atop the search results with recent tweets about the AMC drama. Searching for "Mad Men" without the hashtag, however, did not produce any tweets.
"By deeply integrating Twitter's real-time content into Google search, we hope you find it easier than ever to explore your interests across both Twitter and Google," Twitter said.

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+ - Robotic Space Plane Launches in Mystery Mission This Week-> 1

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: he United States Air Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane will head to orbit this week for the fourth time.

The unmanned X-37B spacecraft is scheduled to launch Wednesday (May 20) at 10:45 a.m. EDT (1445 GMT) atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The liftoff will begin the reusable space plane’s fourth mission, which is known as OTV-4 (short for Orbital Test Vehicle-4).

Most of the X-37B’s payloads and specific activities are classified, so it’s not entirely clear what the space plane will be doing once it leaves Earth Wednesday. This secrecy has led to some speculation that the vehicle might be some sort of space weapon, but Air Force officials have repeatedly refuted that notion, saying X-37B flights simply test a variety of new space technologies

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+ - International Space Station may get laser cannon to vaporize orbital debris->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: The International Space Station (ISS) has been forced to alter trajectory numerous times over the years, but not for any scientific of logistical reason — it was necessary to avoid collisions with space junk. The day of simply stepping out of the way could be coming to an end, though. Researchers from Japan’s Riken Computational Astrophysics Laboratory have proposed a system that could blast dangerous space debris out of the sky before it comes close to the ISS.

The business end of the proposed laser system would be a Coherent Amplification Network (CAN) laser that can focus a single powerful beam on a piece of debris. The laser would vaporize the surface of the target, causing a plume of plasma to push the object away from the station and toward the atmosphere. The full-scale version of this system would use a 100,000-watt ultraviolet CAN laser capable of firing 10,000 pulses per second. That would give it a range of about 60 miles, which should be more than enough distance to keep the station safe.

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+ - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Gets Death Penalty in Boston Marathon Bombing->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: A federal jury on Friday condemned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a failed college student, to death for setting off bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured hundreds more in the worst terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

The jury of seven women and five men, which last month convicted Mr. Tsarnaev, 21, of all 30 charges against him, 17 of which carry the death penalty, took more than 14 hours to reach its decision.

It was the first time a federal jury had sentenced a terrorist to death in the post-Sept. 11 era, according to Kevin McNally, director of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, which coordinates the defense in capital punishment cases.

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+ - California Senate Approves School Vaccine Bill-> 1

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: The California state Senate has passed a bill aimed at increasing California’s school immunization rates.

The bill approved Thursday would prohibit parents from seeking vaccine exemptions for their children because of religious or personal beliefs.

SB277, sponsored by Democratic senators Ben Allen of Santa Monica and Richard Pan of Sacramento, would make medical waivers available only for children who have health problems, forcing unvaccinated children to be home-schooled.

California would join Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states with such strict requirements if the bill becomes law.

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+ - Scientists have discovered the first fully warm-blooded fish->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: It’s one of the most basic biology facts we’re taught in school growing up: Birds and mammals are warm-blooded, while reptiles, amphibians and fish are cold-blooded. But new research is turning this well-known knowledge on its head with the discovery of the world’s first warm-blooded fish — the opah.

In a paper published today in Science, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describe the unique mechanism that enables the opah, a deepwater predatory fish, to keep its body warm. The secret lies in a specially designed set of blood vessels in the fish’s gills, which allows the fish to circle warm blood throughout its entire body.

Scientists already suspected the opah was special, says Heidi Dewar, a researcher at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center and one of the paper’s authors. Most fish who live where the opah does — that is, hundreds of feet deep, in some of the ocean’s darkest and coldest places — are sluggish, thanks to the low temperatures. At these depths, even predatory fish tend to be slow-moving, waiting patiently for prey to come by rather than actively chasing it down. But the opah, which spends all its time in these deep places, has many features usually associated with a quick-moving, active predator, such as a large heart, lots of muscle and big eyes. These characteristics made the opah “a curiosity,” Dewar says.

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+ - Amazon drone patent application imagines delivery with one click->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: Delivering packages wherever you want it, through the air, via drone in just 30 minutes — that's Amazon's vision and the company just made another step forward.

On the heels of getting FAA permission for experimental test flights in the United States in March, the U.S. Patent and Trademark office has published Amazon's patent application for its drone delivery system.

The patent application reveals new details on just how this delivery by drone would work.

For starters, Amazon is thinking beyond home delivery. They're thinking delivery to wherever you are at the moment.

The patent application describes a customer option called "Bring It To Me." With this option, using GPS data from the consumer's mobile device, the drone locates and delivers the item to that location. Once the customer places the order he or she does not have to remain in one place.

The patent application describes one instance where the user places an order while at home, selects to have the item delivered to their current location (delivery within 30 minutes of the order) and then leaves to go to their friend's house, which is three blocks away from their home.

"As the ordered item is retrieved from inventory, the current location of the user's mobile device may be determined and the delivery location correspondingly updated. As such, the ordered item will be delivered to the user while the user is at their friend's house, or any other location."

But deliveries aren't just restricted to homes. There's even mention of drone deliveries to boats.

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+ - Biologist Creates Self-Healing Concrete->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: It's the world's most popular building material, and ever since the Romans built the pantheon from it some 2,000 years ago, we've been trying to find ways to make concrete more durable.

No matter how carefully it is mixed or reinforced, all concrete eventually cracks, and under some conditions, those cracks can lead to collapse.

"The problem with cracks in concrete is leakage," explains professor Henk Jonkers, of Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands.

"If you have cracks, water comes through — in your basements, in a parking garage. Secondly, if this water gets to the steel reinforcements — in concrete we have all these steel rebars — if they corrode, the structure collapses."

But Jonkers has come up with an entirely new way of giving concrete a longer life.

"We have invented bioconcrete — that's concrete that heals itself using bacteria," he says.

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+ - MH370 search teams find shipwreck->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: Search teams scouring the floor of the Indian Ocean for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have come across some wreckage — just considerably older than the airliner which disappeared in March 2014.

Startlingly clear images of a previously uncharted wreck, most likely from the 19th century, emerged after underwater drones were dispatched to investigate the potential lead.

Search vessel Fugro Equator's deep tow system "detected a cluster of small sonar contacts" of potential interest near the so-called 7th arc before another Fugro ship was dispatched to take a closer look, resulting in the images, according to Australian authorities.

An anchor, as well as parts of a destroyed hull, can clearly be seen in the photos. The wreck lies at a depth of 3,900 meters (12,795 ft).

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+ - Wal-Mart challenges Amazon with unlimited shipping service for $50 per year->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: Wal-Mart Stores Inc is planning to test a new unlimited online shipping service this summer for $50 per year, a move that may hurt Amazon's annual $99 Prime shipping service.

Wal-Mart's service, which will be by invitation only for now, will offer selected products on the company's website to customers within three days or less, company spokesman Ravi Jariwala told Reuters. Wal-Mart offers more than 7 million products on its website.

"Depending on customer feedback we will see how the programme evolves," Jariwala said.

The move underscores Wal-Mart's efforts to scale its online business rapidly and gain a share of a market dominated by Amazon.

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+ - Nasdaq will start using Bitcoin technology->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: The Nasdaq stock exchange is tapping Bitcoin's powerful new transaction technology to create a more secure, efficient system to trade stocks.

Most people have heard of Bitcoin (XBT) as a system of electronic money — one that hasn't really caught on yet.

But what gets less attention is blockchain, the technology that powers the Bitcoin system. It's a computer program that automatically processes transactions and creates a perfect, reliable digital record.
High-tech bankers are starting to realize this could revolutionize trading. Nasdaq (NDAQ), a favorite exchange among many technology companies, is making the first move.

On Monday, the stock market announced it will start using a blockchain system to keep records for its Nasdaq Private Market, which handles trading of shares in the pre-IPO phase before a company goes public.
Nasdaq sees the blockchain's perfect recordkeeping as a major step in the right direction for more transparency. The pre-IPO market doesn't typically see as much trading and what does occur is often by a tight circle of employees and early investors.

"Blockchain technology will provide extensive integrity, audit ability, governance and transfer of ownership capabilities," Nasdaq said in its public announcement.

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Money can't buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you're being miserable. -- C.B. Luce