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Comment Interesting for UI fans (Score 1) 89

Since the release of Skype 7.0 (actually the preview version, 6.22), the largest thread on the the Skype community forum has been about one request - can we have our screen space back?

(My take on this at great length at

This news gives me some hope that, with appropriate HTML and RPC chops, we will see third-parties allow users some measure of customization of the Skype UI.

Comment Re:About time (Score 1) 89

This is the equivalent of ray tracing in graphics - nice effect, but very heavy on the computation.

With graphics, rasterization is faster, and the reason is that it can be characterized as "a bunch of cheats that happen to look good". Can we identify some similar cheats for sound?

Yes, I think so. Here's a paper I wrote 16 years ago outlining one possible, very simple, basis for soundscape generation.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to progress with it as VRML faded out pretty quickly after 1998.

Comment Re:Kevin Bloody Warwick (Score 3, Interesting) 57

As a more ragged and old alumnus of the Reading University Cybs Deprtment (1984-1987), I have to add my own observation.

Prior to Prof. Warwick being engaged, we were a backwater department of about 25 students per year, stuck in half of a drafty old WWII building at the Earley end of the campus, equipped wth a heating system inherited from early Pleistocene times. (The other half was the psychlogy department.)

Warwick was appointed one year after I left. Within a year after that, the department moved to a nice shiny new building with hot water and transistors so plentiful that they didn't have to be desoldered and reused at the end of a project. I think that he can be credited with at least some of this upswing in fortune, even if he is a regular figure of fun in the news.

Submission + - Chilean Start-up Prints First Mind-Designed Object 1

seanellis writes: Chilean start-up Thinker Thing has delivered on its promise, and has announced the first real object designed by pure thought. Using an evolutionary algorithm guided by emotional feedback, Thinker Thing's goal is to allow the creation of designs without having to first learn a craft to make them. Their current project is to allow schoolchildren to design toy monsters, which are ideal experimental objects as they are very flexible and emotionally charged.

Comment Re:Chart of the nuclides (Score 1) 368

Master Control P (below) also points out that you need to supply the additional energy (about 0.78MeV) to account for the difference in mass between p+e and n. That sounds like "game over" to me.

Since the ionization energy of hydrogen is around 14eV, there's nowhere near enough energy in a bound electron to do so, by a factor of 50,000 or so.

Also, the photoelectric work function for nickel is of the order of 5eV, so I'm pretty sure that unbound electrons at 100,000x that energy would easily boil off the surface, at least until the nickel got charged up enough to prevent it. But then, this residual positive charge would attract lower-energy electrons from the surroundings, effectively cooling the electron gas.

So, the remaining question is: can the THz radiation boost the energies of sufficient numbers of bound electrons to make the process work?

The more I look at it, the more skeptical I get.

Comment Re:Chart of the nuclides (Score 5, Interesting) 368

Nickel-64, at a natural abundance of about 1%, would be a better candidate, as neutron capture would result in Nickel-65 which decays to stable Copper-65 with a very short half-life of 2 hours. This is a "clean" beta-emitter with an energy of about 2.1MeV.

The overall reaction seems to be p + Ni-64 -> Cu-65 + ve + anti-ve + 2.1MeV. This is at least physically plausible as a reaction. The electron (removed from both sides above) acts as a sort of catalyst, a way to get the proton through the coloumb barrier by transforming it into a neutron.

Getting the neutrons to collide with Ni-64 nuclei rather than escaping implies a lot of Ni-64, and any escaping neutrons would irradiate everything else nearby, or impurities in the nickel such as the aforementioned Ni-62, or worse Ni-58 which would produce Ni-59, a positron emitter with a half-life of 76000 years.

But to me, the real red flag on this is getting the hydrogen atoms to collapse into neutrons, a process which I've never heard of before. Even if it's possible, can you get a net gain? Does it take more than 2.1MeV? Slashdot - educate me!

Comment Pre-VRML (Score 1) 320

I've been involved with the 3D-browser market since before VRML. Does anyone remember the Superscape VRT, Visualizer plugin, and the Virtual World Wide Web? The VWWW was a linked 3D world, spanning multiple websites - you could walk from one site to another in a virtual world, back in 1996 or thereabouts.

There's a problem with the economics of 3D content, but in my view it is beginning to shift.

On the one hand, creating 3D content is hard. There's a lot more effort in creating a model of a toaster for an online catalog, as opposed to taking a photo (even a nicely lit, airbrushed, professionally produced one). Time means money.

On the other hand, there is your market. VWWW required a rather hefty download - about an hour on a 28.8kbps modem - and a separate installation process. This limited the number of people who could see the content.

The tools for creating 3D content are also getting more available, and more automatic, and more pre-built models are available than in the VRML days.

WebGL has the possibility to crack the audience side of the equation. Three of the big four browser manufacturers are behind it. It just needs a very successful browser game to force the hand of the fourth. What if the next Minecraft was a browser game?

3D will never replace 2D. But it will become a useful tool alongside it, just as video and Flash do today. WebGL will be an important part of that process.

Comment Art as prior art? (Score 1) 89

The Personal System glasses from "Norbert and the System", a short story by Timons Esaias from 1993, may anticipate some of the features of this system. I haven't read the patent, but the overlay of contextual social information sounds a lot like what the original poster describes.

(Here's a link:

"It's like deja vu all over again." -- Yogi Berra