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Communications

Submission + - Apple says 250,000 iPhones Sold to Unlockers 1

Hugh Pickens writes: "Timothy D. Cook, Chief Operating Officer at Apple, disclosed during Apple's conference call to discuss their fourth quarter earnings that they estimate that 250,000 of the 1.4 Million iPhones that have been sold were bought by people intending to unlock the phone.

[The elasticity in demand with the price drop] enabled us to far surpass our expectation of hitting around a million units cumulatively by the end of the quarter. Some number of these were sold to people that have an intention to unlock and [while] we don't know precisely how many people are doing that, our current guess is there is probably 250,000 of the 1.4 million that we sold where people had bought them with the intention of doing that. Many of those happened after the price cut.
Apple knows how many iPhones have been sold and how many have been activated with ATT. The difference is the number that are unlocked."
Biotech

Submission + - Lead Free Gasoline Reduces Violent Crime

Hugh Pickens writes: "Scientists have long known that even low levels of lead can cause brain damage increasing the likelihood of behavioral and cognitive traits such as impulsivity, aggressivity, and low IQ that are strongly associated with criminal behavior. The New York Times has a story on how the phase out of leaded gasoline starting with the Clean Air Act in 1973 may have led to a 56% drop in violent crime in the United States in the 1990s. Amherst Economics Professor Jessica Wolpaw Reyes discovered the connection and wrote a paper comparing the reduction of lead from gasoline between states (pdf file) and the reduction of violent crime by constructing a panel of state-year observations linking crime rates in every state to childhood lead exposure in that state 20 or 30 years earlier. The theory will be put to the test as children grow up in Indonesia, Venezuela and sub-Saharan Africa, where leaded gasoline has just recently been phased out. Meanwhile, the list of countries that still use lead in gas — Afghanistan, Serbia and Iraq, as well as much of North Africa and Central Asia — does not rule out a connection with violence."
Biotech

Submission + - Happiness linked to Race 1

Hugh Pickens writes: "University of Virginia psychology professor Shigehiro Oishi has just completed a study on how people from East Asia and the United States respond to daily events in life and found that Koreans, Japanese, and Asian-Americans, are less happy in general, but recover their emotional equilibrium more readily after a setback than European-Americans. Oishi and his colleagues had more than 350 college students in Japan, Korea and the United States record their general state of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with life over a three-week period , as well as the number of positive and negative events they had during the course of each day. "We found that the more positive events a person has, the more they feel the effects of a negative event," Oishi said. "People seem to dwell on the negative thing when they have a large number of good events in their life." The researchers found that the European-Americans needed nearly two positive events (such as getting complimented or getting an A) to return to their normal level of happiness after each negative event, such as getting a parking ticket or a lower grade than expected. The Koreans, Japanese and Asian-Americans generally needed only one positive event to make up for each negative event. Oishi's research also provides a window into why very few people are very happy most of the time. Getting to "very happy" is like climbing an ever steeper mountain. Additional effort — positive events — doesn't gain you much by way of altitude. Slipping backward, on the other hand, is very easy. Oishi's advice: "Don't try to be happier.""
NASA

Submission + - Space Elevator Teams Compete for NASA Prizes

Hugh Pickens writes: "The University of Saskatchewan's has the first place climb in the Second Annual Space Elevator Games being held this weekend at the Davis County Event Center in Salt Lake City with teams competing for $1,000,000 in NASA prize money. Although the idea of a space elevator has been around for decades, the space technologies needed to support it have yet to be created so the non-profit Spaceward Foundation has hosted an annual competition since 2005, supported by a cash prize from NASA, to build a super-strong tether similar to what would be needed to support a real elevator, or get a robot to climb a suspended ribbon. In the robot climber competition, teams have to get their device to hurtle up a 100-metre-long ribbon, suspended from a crane, at an average speed of two metres per second. The climber must be powered from the ground: strategies include reflecting sunlight from huge mirrors on the ground to solar panels on the climber; shining lasers from the ground up to similar panels on the robot; or firing microwaves up at the climber. Qualifying rounds have been taking place all week, and although high winds and rain have caused delays, four out of eight teams have made it into the finals. There are no outdoor climbs today because of bad weather but that some of the tether competitions will happen indoors later this afternoon."
Space

Submission + - Crashed Spacecraft Yields Data on Solar Wind

Hugh Pickens writes: "After the Genesis mission spent 27 months in space gathering tiny samples from different types of solar wind, Hollywood stunt pilots swooped in with a helicopter to catch the falling capsule when it returned to earth. Unfortunately the spacecraft's parachute did not open, and the spacecraft ploughed a hole into the desert. Now scientists are starting to recover data from the salvageable pieces of Genesis. Nature Magazine reports that an analysis of isotopes of neon and argon shows that the elements of main interest to the researchers have the same isotopic signature in the solar wind as in the Sun itself. Because dirt contains relatively little neon and argon, the current Science study wasn't affected too much by contamination and the the team remains hopeful that they will be able to get results on oxygen and nitrogen isotopes from the mission."
Networking

Submission + - Neuro-Reckoning may Reduce MMOG Time Lag

Hugh Pickens writes: "Time lag can cause some very strange behavior in massively multiplayer online games when players' actions onscreen become slow and jerky. New techniques are on the way to reduce the problem of lag time in MMOGs when a player's computer can't keep up with changes in a shared online world. Games like Quake use a technique called dead reckoning and while traditional dead-reckoning systems that assume that a game character will maintain the velocity and direction that it has at the moment an update is sent to all other participating computers; dead reckoning works best for movement and shooting and less well for erratic actions such as interacting with objects or with other players. Read the abstract of new technique called "neuro-reckoning" that may improve the predictive process by installing a neural network in each player's computer to predict fast, jerky actions."
Communications

Submission + - Senator Blocks Telecom Immunity Bill 2

Hugh Pickens writes: "Senator Chris Dodd announced that he will place a "hold" on the wiretapping bill that would reportedly provide immunity to large telephone companies, such as AT&T and Verizon that cooperated with the Bush's warrantless wiretap program. A "hold" is an informal, though long-established way for a senator to block progress on legislation in the Senate by allowing a Senator to maintain their right to filibuster a bill. "The President has no right to secretly eavesdrop on the conversations and activities of law abiding American citizens and anyone who has aided and abetted him in these illegal activities should be held accountable," Dodd announced on his Senate web site. "I will do everything in my power to stop Congress from shielding this President's agenda of secrecy, deception, and blatant unlawfulness.""
Communications

Submission + - New GPS Navigator shows Traffic Jams Ahead

Hugh Pickens writes: "The New York Times is running an article on Dash Express, a new navigation system for automobiles that not only receives GPS location data, but broadcasts information about its travels back to Dash over a cellular data network where it is shared with other users to let them know if there are slowdowns or traffic jams on the road ahead and propose an alternate route. The real benefit of the system isn't apparent until enough units are collecting data so Dash distributed over 2,000 prototype units to test drivers in 25 large cities. The continuous two-way reporting lets the system measure how fast traffic travels on a given road, and use that information to compile a highly detailed and accurate database of traffic information so Dash units can warn each other through the network the second they hit a traffic slowdown."
Real Time Strategy (Games)

Submission + - Reducing MMOG Lag Time with Neuro-Reckoning

Hugh Pickens writes: "MIT Technology Review has an article on the problem of lag time in massively multiplayer online games when a player's computer can't keep up with changes in a shared online world. Games like Quake use a technique called dead reckoning where each player's computer runs a low-fidelity simulation of what's going on in the game while the main computer runs a high-fidelity version that keeps precise track of the player's actions and position. Traditional dead-reckoning systems assume that a game character will maintain the velocity and direction that it has at the moment an update is sent to the main computer and works best for movement and shooting, and less well for actions such as interacting with objects or with other players. A new technique called neuro-reckoning improves the process by installing a neural network in each player's computer for predicting fast, jerky, erratic movements."
Biotech

Submission + - Evidence found for Earliest Modern Humans

Hugh Pickens writes: "Researchers at Arizona State University report that they have pushed back the date for the earliest modern humans to 164,000 years ago, far earlier than previously documented. Paleoanthropologists now say that genetic and fossil evidence suggests that modern human species — Homo sapiens — evolved in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago and in seeking the "perfect site" to explore for remains of the earliest populations, researchers analyzed ocean currents, climate data, geological formations and other data to pin down a location. "The world was in a glacial stage 125,000 to 195,000 years ago, and much of Africa was dry to mostly desert; in many areas food would have been difficult to acquire. The paleoenvironmental data indicate there are only five or six places in all of Africa where humans could have survived these harsh conditions," said Curtis Marean, a professor in ASU's School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Photos from the cave at Pinnacle Point in South Africa show where the team found ochre, bladelets and evidence of shellfish — findings that reveal the earliest dated evidence of modern humans."
The Internet

Submission + - Infrequent Anonymous Cowards Reliable on Wikipedia

Hugh Pickens writes: "Researchers at Dartmouth University have recently discovered that infrequent anonymous contributors, so called "Good Samaritans," are as reliable as registered users who update constantly and have a reputation to maintain.

By subdividing their analysis by registered versus anonymous contributors, the researchers found that among those who contribute often, registered users are more reliable. And they discovered that among those who contribute only a little, the anonymous users are more reliable. The researchers were most surprised to find that the reliability of Good Samaritans' contributions were at least as high as that of the more reputable registered users' contributions. "This finding was both novel and unexpected," says Denise Anthony, associate professor of sociology. "In traditional laboratory studies of collective goods, we don't include Good Samaritans, those people who just happen to pass by and contribute, because those carefully designed studies don't allow for outside actors. It took a real-life situation for us to recognize and appreciate the contributions of Good Samaritans to web content."
A graph from page 31 of the group's original paper (pdf file) shows that the quality of contributions of anonymous users goes down as the number of edits increases while quality goes up with the number of edits for registered users."
Networking

Submission + - Attacking Criminal Networks on the Internet

Hugh Pickens writes: "Computer Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University are developing techniques to analyze and disrupt black markets on the internet, where criminals sell viruses, stolen data and attack services estimated to total more than $37 million for the seven-month period under study. To stem the flow of stolen credit cards and identity data, researchers have proposed two technical approaches to reduce the number of successful market transactions. One approach to disrupting the network is a slander attack where an attacker eliminates the verified status of a buyer or seller through false defamation. Another approach undercuts the cyber-crooks' network by creating a deceptive sales environment. "Just like you need to verify that individuals are honest on E-bay, online criminals need to verify that they are dealing with 'honest' criminals," says Jason Franklin, one of the researchers. "The scary thing about all this is that you do not have to be in the know to find black markets, they are easy to find, easy to join and just a mouse click away," Franklin added."
Security

Submission + - Disrupting Internet Black Markets

Hugh Pickens writes: "Computer Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University are developing techniques to analyze and disrupt online black markets, where internet attackers use well-developed business practices to sell viruses, stolen data and attack services. To stem the flow of stolen credit cards and identity data, researchers have developed an attack to undercut the cyber-crooks by creating a deceptive sales environment. "Just like you need to verify that individuals are honest on E-bay, online criminals need to verify that they are dealing with 'honest' criminals," says Jason Franklin, one of the researchers. The team has developed a technique to establish fake verified-status identities making it hard for buyers to identify the honest verified-status sellers. "By eliminating the verified status of the honest individuals, an attacker establishes a lemon market where buyers are unable to distinguish the quality of the goods or services," says Franklin."
Biotech

Submission + - What does it feel like to die?

Hugh Pickens writes: "The New Scientist reports that individuals who have had a brush with death can offer us some insight into what it feels like to die.

None of us can know the answers for sure until our own time comes, but the few individuals who have their brush with death interrupted by a last-minute reprieve can offer some intriguing insights. Advances in medical science, too, have led to a better understanding of what goes on as the body gives up the ghost. Whether as a result of a heart attack, drowning or suffocation, for example, people ultimately die because their neurons are deprived of oxygen, leading to cessation of electrical activity in the brain — the modern definition of biological death. If the flow of freshly oxygenated blood to the brain is stopped, through whatever mechanism, people tend to have about 10 seconds before losing consciousness. They may take many more minutes to die, though, with the exact mode of death affecting the subtleties of the final experience. If you can take the grisly details, read on for a brief guide to the many and varied ways death can suddenly strike.
"
Space

Submission + - The Dark Side of Iapetus 1

Hugh Pickens writes: "The difference in coloring between Iapetus' leading and trailing hemispheres is striking. NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs has just released a report on a bizarre "runaway" process that may explain the strange and dramatically two-toned appearance recently revealed in images collected during a close flyby by the Cassini spacecraft. Scientists believe that initially dark material on one side of Iapetus may have come from other moons orbiting Saturn in the opposite direction. Since Iapetus is locked in synchronous rotation about Saturn, as dusty material from the outer moons spiraled in and hit Iapetus head-on, the forward-facing side began to look different. Once the forward side began to darken, it absorbed more sunlight, its surface water evaporated, and vapor was transported from the dark side to the white side of Iapetus. Thermal segregation then proceeded in a runaway process as the the dark side lost its surface ice and got darker."

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