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Microsoft

Microsoft Research Takes On Go 175

mikejuk writes "Microsoft Research has used F# and AI to implement a consumer-quality game of Go — arguably the most difficult two-person game to implement. They have used an interesting approach to the problem of playing the game, which is a pragmatic cross between tree search with pruning and machine learning to spot moves with a 'good shape.' The whole lot has been packaged into an XNA-based game with a story."
Medicine

Artificial Cornea To Reach Patients This Year 94

kkleiner writes "A German-led team of researchers has developed a new version of an ophthalmological polymer to which the eye will bond and still function normally. 'The new polymer could help restore sight to thousands waiting for corneal transplants around the world. The artificial cornea has passed clinical trials and is ready to see expanded use in patients this year. ... In order to work in the human body, an artificial cornea has to meet some stringent requirements. First, it has to bond to the human eye around its edge. ... The center of the artificial cornea, however, does not promote cell growth and remains clear so that it can be seen through. The artificial cornea also has to move freely with the eyelid and balance moisture on its faces.'"

Comment Re:Importance of Competitive Choices (Score 3, Insightful) 406

No, they conquered the market by abusing their dominance of the desktop OS market to crush competition, by twisting the arm of vendors to make them ship all their computers with the MS inferior product preinstalled.

If it had really been a superior product, nobody would have been making a fuss. It wasn't.

Possibly you also believe that Windows' stranglehold on the desktop is due to the intrinsic virtues of the OS too?

Comment Very misleading media reporting (Score 4, Informative) 95

This has been disgracefully overhyped by all the news media that I've seen that have picked it up, often in very similar words, suggesting that the ultimate blame lies with the original press release.

The fact is that the technique hasn't even been *tried* yet on Macular Degeneration, much less been shown to actually work.

All that's been done is some studies on a quite different disease for which quite effective treatments already exist.
The history of efforts to treat Macular Degeneration is full of false hopes, and it is desperately cruel to grieving patients and relatives to put out seriously premature press releases like this. I am an eye surgeon specialising in these conditions and I had to deal with some very upset people because of this only today.

Prof Marshall is a very eminent figure in the development of laser treatments for eye disease, but if he had much to do with the way this has been presented to the media he should do some hard thinking about his responsibilities.

There's a brief press release about this on the website of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (British eye surgeons' professional organisation)
http://www.rcophth.ac.uk/about/press/
The Media

A.P. To Distribute Nonprofits' Investigative Journalism 56

The NY Times is reporting on the Associated Press's decision to distribute the investigative journalism of four nonprofit groups. This ought to benefit both struggling newspapers, which have cut investigative staff, and the nonprofits where, we can hope, many of those laid-off journalists are plying their trade. It's refreshing to see this kind of forward thinking coming out of an organization not normally known for its progressiveness. "Starting on July 1, the A.P. will deliver work by the Center for Public Integrity, the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and ProPublica to the 1,500 American newspapers that are A.P. members, which will be free to publish the material. The A.P. called the arrangement a six-month experiment that could later be broadened to include other investigative nonprofits, and to serve its nonmember clients, which include broadcast and Internet outlets."
Earth

A Supervolcano Beneath Mt. St. Helens? 180

We've discussed the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone a few times here (not going to blow, 2004; going to blow, 2008). Now scientists are pondering whether a large area of conductive material beneath Mt. St. Helens might contain enough magma that the area could be classed a supervolcano. The jury is still out on this one. Reader nhytefall sends us a New Scientist progress report. "Magma can be detected with a technique called magnetotellurics, which builds up a picture of what lies underground by measuring fluctuations in electric and magnetic fields at the surface. The fields fluctuate in response to electric currents traveling below the surface, induced by lightning storms and other phenomena. The currents are stronger when magma is present, since it is a better conductor than solid rock. ... [M]easurements revealed a column of conductive material that extends downward from the volcano. About 15 km below the surface, the relatively narrow column appears to connect to a much bigger zone of conductive material. This larger zone was first identified in the 1980s by another magnetotelluric survey, and was found to extend all the way to beneath Mount Rainier 70 km to the north-east, and Mount Adams 50 km to the east. It was thought to be a zone of wet sediment, water being a good electrical conductor. ... [Some researchers] now think the conductive material is more likely to be a semi-molten mixture. Its conductivity is not high enough for it to be pure magma.. so it is more likely to be a mixture of solid and molten rock."
Privacy

Blimps Monitor Crowds At Sporting Events 180

Death Metal tips news about how defense contractor Raytheon is adapting military-style surveillance packages for use aboard blimps at public events like the Indy 500. "Until recently, Raytheon's eye-in-the-sky technology was used in Afghanistan and Iraq to guard American military bases, working as airborne guards against any oncoming desert threat. Using infrared sensors and a map overlay not unlike Google Earth, the technology scans a large area, setting important landmarks (say, the perimeter of a military base), and constantly relays video clips back to a command center. If a gun fires or a bomb is detonated, the airships can detect the noise and focus the camera — all from a mighty-high 500 feet." Though the technology is expensive, Raytheon is shopping it around to police departments and other organizations that might want to keep an eye on large gatherings of people.
Software

What Open Source Shares With Science 115

An anonymous reader sends in a philosophical piece at ZDNet about the similarities between open source development and the scientific method. Here's an excerpt: "The speed of progress is greatly enhanced by virtue of the fact the practitioners of Science publish not only results, but methodology, and techniques. In programmatic terms, this is equivalent to both the binary and the source code. This not only helps 'bootstrap' others into the field, to learn from the examples set, but makes it possible for others to verify or refute the results (or techniques) under investigation. In an almost guided-Darwinian evolutionary fashion, this makes the scientific process a powerful tool for the highlighting, analysis and possible culling of ideas and concepts; less useful ideas and hypothesEs die, and likely contenders come sharply into focus. Newton made his famous comment about 'standing on the shoulders of giants,' in part, to indicate that his contributions to human knowledge could not have been achieved solely. He needed the 'firmament' beneath him hypothesized, tested and confirmed by generations of scientists, philosophers and thinkers before him, over centuries."
Cellphones

Apple Patent To Safeguard 911 Cellphone Calls 226

MojoKid writes "Engineers from Apple have applied for a patent on an 'emergency' mode for cell phones that would squeeze every last drop of energy out of the batteries. The phone would recognize emergency calls when the user dialed an emergency number, such as 911 in the United States. But another number could also be stored as an 'emergency number' on the phone (a spouse, child, or parent, for example) or the user could manually put the phone in emergency mode. The process would do a variety of things. It would disable 'non-essential hardware components' and applications on the phone, reduce power to the screen and potentially reduce the phone's processor speed. It also would make it harder to disconnect the call and enable 'emergency phrase buttons' on the phone."
Education

Student Who Released Code From Assignments Accused of Cheating 333

Death Metal sends in a story about Kyle Brady, a computer science major at San Jose State University, who recently ran into trouble over publishing the source code to his programming assignments after their due dates. One of Brady's professors contacted him and threatened to fail him if he did not take down the code. Brady took the matter to the Computer Science Department Chair, who consulted with others and decided that releasing the code was not an ethical violation. Quoting Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing: "There's a lot of meat on the bones of this story. The most important lesson from it for me is that students want to produce meaningful output from their course-assignments, things that have intrinsic value apart from their usefulness for assessing their progress in the course. Profs — including me, at times — fall into the lazy trap of wanting to assign rotework that can be endlessly recycled as work for new students, a model that fails when the students treat their work as useful in and of itself and therefore worthy of making public for their peers and other interested parties who find them through search results, links, etc. But the convenience of profs must be secondary to the pedagogical value of the university experience — especially now, with universities ratcheting up their tuition fees and trying to justify an education that can put students into debt for the majority of their working lives."

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