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Science

Dolphins' Hunting Technique Inspires New Radar Device 79

minty3 writes "The twin inverted pulse radar (TWIPR) made by a team from the University of Southampton in England uses the same technique dolphins do to capture prey. Like dolphins, the device sends out two pulses in quick succession to cancel out background noise. The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences, explained how the device resembles the way dolphins send out two pulses in quick succession to cancel out background noise."
Technology

New Goggles Offer Minority Report-Style Interface With Heads-Up Display 67

Lucas123 writes "A Taiwanese non-profit R&D organization is demonstrating a new heads-up type display that allows users to interact with the floating virtual screens using finger swipes. The new i-Air Touch technology from the Industrial Technology Research Institute is being developed for an array of devices, including PCs, wearable computers and mobile devices. The technology allows a user's hand to be free of any physical device such as a touchpad or keyboard for touch input. ITRI plans to license the patented technology to manufacturers. The company sees the technology being used in not only consumer arenas (video), but also for medical applications such as endoscopic surgery and any industrial applications that benefit from hands-free input."
The Internet

Top US Lobbyist Wants Broadband Data Caps 568

sl4shd0rk writes "Michael Powell, A former United States FCC chairman, is pushing for 'usage-based internet access' which he says is good for consumers who are 'accustomed to paying for what they use'. Apparently Time Warner and Comcast (maybe others) are already developing plans to set monthly rates based on bandwidth usage. The reasoning on the NCTA website lays out the argument behind Powell's plan."

Submission + - Book Review: The App Generation

Sara Konrath writes: Review of The App Generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world, by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis

I recently saw my 17-year old cousin for the first time in two years. The interactions that we had that weekend were perplexing. Emma and I are Facebook friends and we occasionally chat online, but it had been a long time since we had seen each other in person. Although she stood comfortably close to me in the kitchen the first morning, she had her eyes on her smartphone the whole time. She wasn’t avoiding me or being antisocial – instead she was finding funny off-color jokes or pictures online, laughing out loud, and then sharing them with me. In my foggy caffeine-deprived state, it took me awhile to realize that this was Emma’s way of connecting. We share a similar sick sense of humor, and I appreciated the jokes, but there was something a bit odd about our interaction: it could have just as easily occurred online. There was no eye contact or even conversation, just what we psychologists call "joint attention," which is when two people focus on the same object together. Joint attention is an important social and relational skill. It emerges within the first year of life and is impaired in individuals with social deficits, such as autism. But it is just a foundation for more intimate social contact – that which connects us directly to each other (rather than indirectly via an object).

That same weekend, I happened to be reading The App Generation (Yale University Press, October 2013), which gives an overview of how digital media and technology may affect young people’s perceptions of themselves, their ability to relate to others, and their creativity. As the director of the Interdisciplinary Program on Empathy and Altruism Research (iPEAR), my research finds that there have been generational changes in personality traits related to social functioning. For example, we find that narcissism has been rising while dispositional empathy has been declining in recent generations. I also study the relationship between such traits and the use of social media. Considering this, I was excited to get a copy of the book ahead of its release date.

The book does a good job of outlining the latest research on the topic of how digital technology and media have changed fundamental aspects of the way young people relate to themselves and others. Considering that the authors are academics, I commend them for adopting an everyday conversational style, although at times this comes across as awkward. The book title is not quite right, since it’s really about the broader topic of how new technology and media affect us, unfortunately forcing the authors to squeeze in the app metaphor whenever possible to make the title work. The larger point of the book is that it is easy to become "app-dependent," allowing ourselves to be controlled and limited by technology, rather than "app-enabled," using it to reach our highest potential selves – to creativity connect and engage with ideas and other people. The historical examples from other times of technological change are amusing, and provide an interesting context for their discussion.

Howard and Katie (as they call themselves in the book) argue that the new media landscape indeed affects the way young people see themselves, or at least present themselves – what they call identity. In the early days of the internet, there was a feeling that one could go online and be someone else. With chat rooms and multiplayer role play games (and their customizable avatars), the internet allowed people to safely play with their identities and perhaps discover new aspects of themselves. Sherry Turkle, covered this topic quite early (1995) in her book, Life on the Screen: Identity in the age of the internet, and The App Generation gives her an appreciative nod. But the authors suggest that although this type of identity play still occurs, it is more common for young people to use social media to be "themselves, only better," considering that social networking sites often use people’s real names.

In terms of intimacy, Howard and Katie cite much research (including my own) finding that young people today may have more difficulty deeply connecting with others than those in past generations. The "odd" interaction between myself and Emma are apparently quite normal among teens and young adults, and the authors suggest that new media might be in part to blame for such changes in social interactions. Again, a book by Sherry Turkle (Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other) has both preceded them and gone into more satisfying depth on the topic. The problem Howard and Katie acknowledge is that it is hard to conduct experimental studies, the gold standard for making causal claims. Yet I wish the authors would have discussed the vast amount of research on the effects of other media (e.g. television, violent video games), which has grappled with these problems for decades and has come up with some solutions.

The most novel and interesting part of the book, which alone makes it worth reading, is the chapter on creativity (which they self-consciously label imagination, in order to have three neat "Is" in the subtitle). This chapter is refreshingly different from the others, partly because the authors draw on their own research expertise here, rather than simply providing a cursory review of others’ work. But here again, the discussion is too brief and superficial, as if the book is intended to be read on a screen. Still, I was intrigued by their finding that while the visual art of young people seems to be increasing in creativity and complexity in recent years, their written work shows marked declines in the same domains. This reminded me of Leonard Shlain’s book, The Alphabet versus the Goddess, which posited that there would be a rise in the dominance visual images (which he sees as signifying feminine preeminence) over the written word (signifying masculine hierarchical systems of power).

Overall, The App Generation seems to be packaged directly to the "app generation," in its tendency to skim across facts rather than using them as a starting point for further analysis. But despite my criticisms, I still enjoyed reading it and it made me think more about how such technologies could be designed to help enhance social relationships rather than diminish them. My criticisms come partly from my experience studying this topic, and what seems like a criticism could actually be a strength for more novice readers. The book accurately gives an overview of scientific research on this topic, and with all of the electronic research tools available in recent years, it is up to the reader to "google it" if they want to go deeper.

Bio: Sara Konrath is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan. Email: skonrath.at.umich.dot.edu
United States

NSA Director Keith Alexander Is Reportedly Stepping Down 92

Daniel_Stuckey writes "Keith Alexander will step down by April or May of next year. What's more, the agency's deputy director Chris Inglis also plans to retire by the end of next year, anonymous US officials told Reuters today. Though the news comes in the midst of a global public backlash over the NSA's widespread surveillance programs, it's worth pointing out that Alexander had revealed his plans to retire before Edward Snowden leaked details of PRISM in June. Officials didn't give a reason for his departure."
Privacy

Oakland Is Building a Big Data Center For Police Surveillance 92

rjmarvin writes "$7 million in federal grant money originally tasked with terrorism prevention is now being used to fund construction of a new data center in Oakland to electronically gather and analyze data around the clock from a variety of sensors and databases, displaying selected info on a bank of giant monitors. The center will mine massive data streams, helping the police department tap into 911 calls, port and traffic cameras, license plate readers, gunshot sensors, social media posts and commuters' electronic toll payments."
Robotics

How To Attend Next Week's Robotics Show Robotically 38

DeviceGuru writes "Suitable Technologies is offering $50 rentals of its Beam mobile telepresence robot, allowing 50 robotics enthusiasts to remotely attend the RoboBusiness conference in Santa Clara, Calif. on Oct. 23-25. The Ubuntu- and ROS-based Beam will be available to the first 50 applicants, letting them explore the show at up to 1.5 meters/sec and interact with others via video conferencing. The bots will be allowed everywhere on the show floor as well as in conference rooms, and the show will be open late to accommodate remote users from distant time zones. The Beam is a good choice for remotely exploring conferences, saving users the cost and time of traveling to an event, says Suitable Tech; for example, RoboBusiness registration costs $1,595, not including hotel and travel. A list of the conference's keynotes, which include one by Christ Urmson, director of Google's Self-Driving Cars project, is available here."
Mars

Curiosity Confirms Origins of Martian Meteorites 35

littlesparkvt writes "Earth's most eminent emissary to Mars has just proven that those rare Martian visitors that sometimes drop in on Earth — a.k.a. Martian meteorites — really are from the Red Planet. A key new measurement of Mars' atmosphere by NASA's Curiosity rover provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origins of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origins of other meteorites."
The Courts

Mark Cuban Found Not Guilty of Insider Trading 48

schwit1 writes "Mark Cuban won a years-long fight with the federal government Wednesday as jurors decided that the billionaire basketball team owner did not commit insider-trading when he sold his shares in an Internet company in 2004. The jury in federal district court in Dallas said that the Securities and Exchange Commission failed to prove the key elements of its case, including the claim that Cuban agreed to keep certain information confidential and not trade on it. The nine-member jury deliberated about half a day before reaching the unanimous decision that ended the three-week trial."
Privacy

Swartz-Designed Whistleblower Tool "SecureDrop" Launched 79

An anonymous reader writes in with word of a new tool for whistleblowers: "The 'strongest-ever' whistleblowing tool for sources to speak anonymously with journalists, partly developed by the late Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, has been launched by the Freedom of The Press Foundation. Before his suicide in January 2013, Swartz had been working on a tool for sources to anonymously submit documents to journalists online, without using traceable email and in a way that could be easily catalogued by news organisations. Called SecureDrop, the tool can be installed on any news organisation's website as a 'Contact Us' form page. But where these pages usually require a name and email address, the encrypted SecureDrop system is completely anonymous, assigning the whistleblower two unique identifiers - one seen by the journalist, and one seen by the whistleblower. These identities stay the same, so a conversation can be had without names being shared or known."
The Internet

Most Parents Allow Unsupervised Internet Access To Children At Age 8 198

colinneagle writes "The timing for this study is interesting, given the arrests of two teenagers believed to have bullied a 12-year-old classmate until she committed suicide, but Microsoft found that 94% of parents said they allow their kids unsupervised access to at least one device or online service like email or social networks. The average age at which most children are allowed access to at least one online service, such as email or social media, was 8 years old, while 40% allow children under the age of 7 to access a computer unsupervised."
Books

Book Review: Secret History: the Story of Cryptology 71

benrothke writes "Narrating a compelling and interesting story about cryptography is not an easy endeavor. Many authors have tried and failed miserably; attempting to create better anecdotes about the adventure of Alice and Bob. David Kahn probably did the best job of it when wrote The Codebreakers: The story of secret writing in 1967 and set the gold standard on the information security narrative. Kahn's book was so provocative and groundbreaking that the US Government originally censored many parts of it. While Secret History: The Story of Cryptology is not as groundbreaking, it also has no government censorship. With that, the book is fascinating read that provides a combination of cryptographic history and the underlying mathematics behind it." Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
NASA

Support For NASA Spending Depends On Perception of Size of Space Agency Budget 205

MarkWhittington writes "Alan Steinberg, a post doctorate fellow in political science at Sam Houston State University, conducted a study surrounding the vexing problem of how to motivate more people to support increased levels of funding for NASA. In an October 14, 2013 piece in The Space Review, Steinberg announced the results of a study conducted with a group of college students. Steinberg's approach was based on the findings of a study by Roger Launius conducted in the late 1990s that suggested that the American public believe that NASA spending takes up about 20 percent of the federal budget. It has in fact never exceeded four percent, which it enjoyed at the height of the Apollo program, and is currently about .5 percent. Steinberg was testing a notion advanced by Neil deGrasse Tyson that if people knew the true size of NASA's budget they would be more likely to support increasing it."
Hardware

Imagination Tech Announces MIPS-based 'Warrior P-Class' CPU Core 122

MojoKid writes "Imagination Technologies has announced the first CPU based on its new version of the MIPS architecture. The new P5600 chip (codenamed Warrior) is a 32-bit CPU based on the MIPS Series 5 architecture and is designed to challenge companies like ARM in the embedded and mobile markets. Major features of the new chip include: support for 40-bit memory extensions, or up to 1TB of RAM, a 128-bit SIMD engine (Single Instruction, Multiple Data), and Hardware virtualization (MIPS R5 can virtualize other machines in hardware). The P5600 core is being touted as supporting up to six cores in a cache-coherent link, most likely similar to ARM's CCI-400. According to IT, the chip is capable of executing 3.5 DMIPs/MHz in CoreMark, which theoretically puts the P5600 on par with the Cortex-A15."

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