sciencehabit writes "Here's a twist: Scientists have designed a flexible, yarn-like artificial muscle that can also pack a punch. It can contract in 25 milliseconds—a fraction of the time it takes to blink an eye—and can generate power 85 times as great as a similarly sized human muscle. The new muscles are made of carbon nanotubes filled with paraffin wax that can twist or stretch in response to heat or electricity. When the temperature rises, the wax melts and forces the nanotubes to contract. Such artificial muscles, the researchers say, could power smart materials, sensors, robots, and even devices inside the human body."
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Dupple writes in with a story about the uncertain future of a proposed bio lab in the heart of cattle country. "Plans to build one of the world's most secure laboratories in the heart of rural America have run into difficulties. The National Bio and Agro defense facility (NBAF) would be the first US lab able to research diseases like foot and mouth in large animals. But reviews have raised worries about virus escapes in the middle of cattle country. For over fifty years the United States has carried out research on dangerous animal diseases at Plum Island, just off the coast of New York. However after 9/11 the Department of Homeland Security raised concerns about the suitability of the location and its vulnerability to terrorist attack."
First time accepted submitter yvajj writes "According to a techcrunch interview, Woz believes that Microsoft is now more innovative than Apple. Per the interview, it seems as though Apple is now just doing newer versions of the iPhone, and are potentially headed into a rut. Another gem from Woz is the fact that he treats all new hardware as something new to learn from and does not approach it with any preconceptions (irrespective of who the manufacturer is / what OS etc.). A great short interview from Woz."
jfruh writes "Google TV, despite bold predictions from the company's execs, has singularly failed to take over the TV world. Nevertheless, the company is still plugging away, and one development that might have far-reaching implications is its new context-aware voice search. 'Context aware' is the key to revolutionizing the TV-watching experience: you can say the name of a TV show, the name of a channel, the description of a show, or the description of a kind of video you'd like to find on YouTube, and the TV will show it to you."
OverTheGeicoE writes "The Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security held a hearing on TSA's recent decision to move X-ray body scanners from major airports to smaller ones, which the subcommittee refers to as a 'Scanner Shuffle.' John Sanders, TSA's assistant administrator for security capabilities, testified that 91 scanners recently removed from major airports were now in storage due to 'privacy concerns.' Although TSA originally planned to relocate the scanners to smaller airports, those plans have been shelved because smaller airports don't have room for them. The subcommitteee is also investigating allegations that the machines' manufacturer, Rapiscan, 'may have falsified tests of software intended to stop the machines from recording graphic images of travelers' (VIDEO). Coincidentally, shares of Rapiscan's parent company, OSI Systems Inc., dropped in value almost 25% today, its biggest intraday decline in about 12 years. If wrongdoing is proven, Rapiscan could face fines, prison terms and a ban on government contracting, according to a former head of federal procurement."
SternisheFan writes "Google has expanded its legal agreement with developers working on Android applications to specifically prohibit them from taking any action that could lead to a fragmentation of the operating system. The prohibition was added to the terms and conditions for Google's Android SDK (software development kit), which developers must accept before using the software to build Android apps. The previous version of the terms of service, published in April 2009, didn't address the issue, but the new terms published on Tuesday include this new paragraph: 'You agree that you will not take any actions that may cause or result in the fragmentation of Android, including but not limited to distributing, participating in the creation of, or promoting in any way a software development kit derived from the SDK.' Google did not respond to several requests for comment. The issue of Android fragmentation has been gaining increased attention, but it's happened largely as a result of actions taken by Google and Android handset makers, not developers. It's a problem because it means that Android applications may not run properly across all Android devices. 'It continues to be a problem, both on smartphones and tablets,' said Avi Greengart, research director at Consumer Devices. 'Google has talked about multiple initiatives for dealing with it, but none of them have successfully addressed it.'"
First time accepted submitter Nexus Unplugged writes "Free domain provider co.cc seems to have quietly and mysteriously disappeared. No official explanation has yet been provided, but a cached copy suggest that they stopped accepting new registrations some time ago. Speculation, however, seems to come to a single conclusion. From the article: 'Due to its free nature (and it's $10 for as many as you want), Co.CC was abused and used for scams and spamming and was even de-listed by Google at one point although they did re-enable it. Getting back to the article on hand a few days ago Co.CC seems to have removed its DNS records which ultimately has stops its own site from working and every sub domain it provided.' It's worth noting that free domains are still easily obtainable from places like DotTK."
Velcroman1 writes "Invisibility cloaks and deflector shields, once a staple of popular science-fiction, are now the real deal, researchers say. But here on Earth, top researchers have been battling too, not over the fate of the empire but over whose tech will someday shield U.S. ships. Fractal Antenna Systems came out swinging Wednesday over a 'perfected' invisibility cloak by researchers at Duke and Imperial College. Company CEO and inventor Nathan Cohen issued a scathingly critical press release throwing very visible zingers — and claiming he invented it first. '[Their tech] makes you more, not less, visible,' Cohen said. The company says a patent-pending deflector shield built off a variant of the technology can divert electromagnetic radiation around an object — and they plan to show it off Friday in New York City, at the Radio Club of America."
wbr1 writes "I just received an email from Amazon Payments, the Amazon competitor to PayPal, stating among other things, that they were changing and simplifying their policies. It should be no surprise then, that similar to what PayPal and many others have already done, they have added language removing the right to class action lawsuits. See specifically section 11.3 (edited for brevity): '1.3 Disputes. Any dispute or claim relating in any way to your visit to the Site or Seller Central or to products or services sold or distributed by us or through the Site or Seller Central (including without limitation the Service) will be resolved by binding arbitration, rather than in court, except that you may assert claims in small claims court if your claims qualify. The Federal Arbitration Act and federal arbitration law apply to this agreement... ... You and we each agree that any dispute resolution proceedings will be conducted only on an individual basis and not in a class, consolidated, or representative action. If for any reason a claim proceeds in court rather than in arbitration you and we each waive any right to a jury trial. You and we also both agree that you or we may bring suit in court to enjoin infringement or other misuse of intellectual property rights.' This is becoming more and more common, and while the end user normally doesn't make out well in a class-action suit, large settlements do provide a punishment and deterrent to corporations that abuse their power. The question becomes, what do we do to fix this so that consumers are truly protected?"
DeptofDepartments writes "With Kindles and ebooks on everyone's lips (sc. hands) nowadays, this might come as a surprise to some, but besides being a techie, I have also amassed quite a collection of actual books (mostly hardcover and first editions) in my personal library. I have always been reluctant to lend them out and the collection has grown so large now that it has become difficult to keep track of all of them. This is why I am looking for a modern solution to implement some professional-yet-still-home-sized library management. Ideally, this should include some cool features like RFID tags or NFC for keeping track of the books, finding and checking them out quickly, if I decide to lend one." For more on what DeptofDepartments is looking for, read on below.
Nerval's Lobster writes "When Steven Sinofsky stepped down as head of Microsoft's Windows division earlier this week, multiple publications cited friction with other executives as the primary reason behind the departure. Whether or not that's the case—neither Sinofsky nor Microsoft has offered an official explanation, aside from the usual platitudes—someone with connections to Microsoft is claiming that Sinofsky's departure stemmed from a failed attempt to bring additional parts of the company under his control. 'Steven had apparently lost recent battles to bring both Windows Phone and the Developer Division under his control,' Hal Berenson, president of consulting group True Mountain Group and a former Microsoft executive, wrote in a Nov. 13 blog posting. 'I suspect that he saw those [losses] both as a roadblock to where he wanted to take Windows over the next few years, and a clear indication that his political power within Microsoft had peaked.' The departure, he added, was the 'outgrowth of conflict.' Berenson's claim was enough to draw Sinofsky himself into the discussion. In the comments section below the posting, Sinofsky left a short note suggesting that rumors of a multi-product takeover were, frankly, malarkey."
New submitter diabolicalrobot writes "The Robotics Institute at CMU has been developing systems to learn from humans. Using a Machine Learning class of techniques called Imitation Learning our group has developed AI software for a small commercially available off-the-shelf ARdrone to autonomously fly through the dense trees for over 3.4 km in experimental runs. We are also developing methods to do longer range planning with such purely vision-guided UAVs. Such technology has a lot of potential impact for surveillance, search and rescue and allowing UAVs to safely share airspace with manned airspace."
eldavojohn writes "Gartner's released a report on worldwide numbers of 2012 3Q phone sales and the staggering results posted from Android have caused people like IW's Eric Zeman to call for sanity. Keep in mind these are worldwide numbers, which might be less surprising when you realize that the biggest growth market of them all is China, which is more than 90% Android. It's time to face the facts and realize that Android now owns 73% of the worldwide smartphone market. While developers bicker over which platform is best for development and earnings, the people of the world may be making the choice based on just how inexpensive an Android smartphone can be. This same time last year, Gartner reported Android at 52.5% of market share and it now sits at 72.4% market share with over 122 million units sold worldwide."
First time accepted submitter stanlrev writes "When is software, or content generated by software, 'speech' for First Amendment purposes? That is the question that Andrew Tutt seeks to answer in an article published today in the Stanford Law Review Online. He argues that the two approaches commentators and the Supreme Court have proposed are both incorrect. Software or software-generated content is not always speech simply because it conveys information. Nor is software only speech when it resembles traditional art forms. Instead, the courts should turn to the original purposes of the First Amendment to develop a new approach that answers this question more effectively."
concealment writes with this excerpt from an Associated Press story, as carried by the Houston Chronicle:"In Britain, hundreds of people are prosecuted each year for posts, tweets, texts and emails deemed menacing, indecent, offensive or obscene, and the number is growing as our online lives expand. 'Fifty years ago someone would have made a really offensive comment in a public space and it would have been heard by relatively few people,' said Mike Harris of free-speech group Index on Censorship. People take it upon themselves to report this offensive material to police, and suddenly you've got the criminalization of offensive speech. Figures obtained by The Associated Press through a freedom of information request show a steadily rising tally of prosecutions in Britain for electronic communications — phone calls, emails and social media posts — that are grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character — from 1,263 in 2009 to 1,843 in 2011. Justice Igor Judge said in his judgment that the law should not prevent 'satirical or iconoclastic or rude comment, the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, banter or humor, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it.'"