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Submission + - U.S. Robots Win Big Down Under 1

An anonymous reader writes: US teams dominated the MAGIC 2010 autonomous robotics competition, mapping and neutralizing simulated bombs at the 250,000 sq. meter Royal Showgrounds in Adelaide, Australia. Leading the pack with a team of fourteen robots was Team Michigan, principally from the University of Michigan, followed by the University of Pennsylvania, and RASR. This contest marks the beginning of practical robots that not only think for themselves, but also actively coordinate with a human commander.

Tiny ARM-Based Sensor System Makes Battery Replacement Obsolete 96

An anonymous reader writes "University of Michigan researchers have crammed an ARM Cortex microcontroller, a thin-film battery, and a solar cell into a package that is only 9 cubic millimeters in volume. The system is able to run perpetually by periodically recharging the on-board battery with a solar cell (neglecting physical wear-out of the system)."

Pigeon Turns Out To Be Faster Than S. African Net 406 writes "The results are in: it's faster to send your data via an airborne carrier than it is through the pipes. As discussed Tuesday, a company in South Africa called Unlimited IT, frustrated by terribly slow Internet speeds, decided to prove their point by sending an actual homing pigeon with a "data card" strapped to its leg from one of their offices to another while at the same time uploading the same amount of data to the same destination via their ISPs data lines. The media outlet reporting this triumph said that it took the pigeon just over 1 hour to make the 80km/50mile flight, whereas it took over 2 hours to transfer just 4% of that data."

Is China Creating the World's Largest Botnet Army? 195

david_a_eaves writes "The Chinese government is mandating that all computers sold in China come with Internet blocking software. Rob Cottingham writes an excellent piece noting how the censorship application of this software should be the least of our concerns. This new software may create an opportunity for the Chinese Government to appropriate these computers and use them to create the worlds largest botnet army." Update: 06/11 21:26 GMT by T : J. Alex Halderman writes "My students and I have been examining the Green Dam censorware software. We've found serious vulnerabilities that can be exploited by any web site a user visits with the software installed. We also found that some of the blacklists seems to have been taken from the American-made filtering program CyberSitter. We've posted a report and demo."

String Theory Predicts Behavior of Superfluids 348

schrodingers_rabbit writes "Despite formidable odds, condensed matter physicists have made a breakthrough most thought impossible — finding a practical use for string theory. The initial breakthrough was made by physicist and cosmologist Juan Maldacena. His theory states that the known universe is only a 2D construct in anti-de-Sitter space, projected into 3 dimensions. This theory manages to model black holes and quantum theory congruently, a feat that has eluded scientists for decades; but it fails to correspond to the shape of space-time in the known universe. However, it does predict thermodynamic properties of black holes, including higher-dimensional viscosity — the equations for which elegantly and almost exactly calculate the behavior of quark-gluon plasma and other superfluids. According to Jan Zaanen at the University of Leiden, 'The theory is calculating precisely what we are seeing in experiments.' Unfortunately, the correspondence cannot prove or disprove string theory, although it is a positive step." Not an easy path to follow: one condensed matter theorist said, "It took two years and two 1000-page books of dense mathematics, but I learned string theory and got kind of enchanted by it. [When the string-theory related] thing began to... make predictions about high-temperature superconductors, my traditional mainstay, I was one of the few condensed matter physicists with the preparation to take it up."

VHDL or Verilog For Learning FPGAs? 301

FlyByPC writes "We're in the first stages of designing a course in programmable devices at the university where I work. The course will most likely be centered around various small projects implemented on an FPGA dev board, using a Xilinx Spartan3-series FPGA. I have a bit of experience working with technologies from 7400-series chips (designing using schematics) to 8-bit microcontrollers to C/C++. FPGAs, though, are new to me (although they look very interesting.) If you were an undergraduate student studying programmable devices (specifically, FPGAs), would you prefer the course be centered on VHDL, Verilog, a little of both, or something else entirely? (...Or is this an eternal, undecidable holy-war question along the lines of ATI/nVidia, AMD/Intel, Coke/Pepsi, etc...?) At this point, I've only seen a little of both languages, so I have no real preference. Any input, especially if you're using one or both in the field, would be very helpful. Thanks, and may all of your K-maps be glitch-free."

Paul Wilmott Wants To Retrain and Reform Wall Street's Quants 198

theodp writes "What if an aeronautics engineer couldn't reconcile his elegant design for a state-of-the-art jumbo jet with Newton's second law of motion and decided to tweak the equation to fit his design? In a way, Newsweek reports, this is what's happened in quantitative finance, which is in desperate need of reform. And 49-year-old Oxford-trained mathematician Paul Wilmott — arguably the most influential quant today — thinks he knows where to start. With his CQF program, Wilmott is out to save the quants from themselves and the rest of us from their future destruction. 'We need to get back to testing models rather than revering them,' says Wilmott. 'That's hard work, but this idea that there are these great principles governing finance and that correlations can just be plucked out of the air is totally false.'"

How Common Is Scientific Misconduct? 253

Hugh Pickens writes "The image of scientists as objective seekers of truth is periodically jeopardized by the discovery of a major scientific fraud. Recent scandals like Hwang Woo-Suk's fake stem-cell lines or Jan Hendrik Schön's duplicated graphs showed how easy it can be for a scientist to publish fabricated data in the most prestigious journals. Daniele Fanelli has an interesting paper on PLoS ONE where she performs a meta-analysis synthesizing previous surveys to determine the frequency with which scientists fabricate and falsify data, or commit other forms of scientific misconduct. A pooled, weighted average of 1.97% of scientists admitted to having fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once — a serious form of misconduct by any standard — and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behavior of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices. Misconduct was reported more frequently by medical/pharmacological researchers than others. 'Considering that these surveys ask sensitive questions and have other limitations, it appears likely that this is a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of scientific misconduct,' writes Fanelli. 'It is likely that, if on average 2% of scientists admit to have falsified research at least once and up to 34% admit other questionable research practices, the actual frequencies of misconduct could be higher than this.'"

Students, the Other Unprotected Lab Animals 236

theodp writes "Slate reports on the horrible — and preventable — death of a young UCLA biochemist in a t-butyl lithium incident, which led a Chemical Health and Safety columnist to the disheartening conclusion that most academic laboratories are unsafe venues for work or study. It's estimated that accidents and injuries occur hundreds of times more frequently in academic labs than in industrial ones. Why? For one thing, Slate says, occupational safety and health laws that protect workers in hazardous jobs apply only to employees, not to undergrads, grad students, or research fellows who receive stipends from outside funders."

Hardware-Accelerated Graphics On SGI O2 Under NetBSD 75

Zadok_Allan writes "It's a bit late, but since many readers will remember the SGI O2 fondly, this might interest a few. The gist of the story is this: NetBSD now supports hardware accelerated graphics on the O2 both in X and in the kernel. We didn't get any help from SGI, and the documentation available doesn't go beyond a general description and a little theory of operation, which is why it took so long to figure it out. The X driver still has a few rough edges (all the acceleration frameworks pretty much expect a mappable linear framebuffer, if you don't have one — like on most SGI hardware — you'll have to jump through a lot of hoops and make sure there's no falling back to cfb and friends) but it supports XRENDER well enough to run KDE 3.5. Yes, it's usable on a 200MHz R5k O2. Not quite as snappy as any modern hardware but nowhere near as sluggish as you'd expect, and since Xsgi doesn't support any kind of XRENDER support, let alone hardware acceleration, pretty much anything using anti-aliased fonts gets a huge performance boost out of this compared to IRIX."

Illusion Cloak Makes One Object Look Like Another 219

KentuckyFC writes "Metamaterials are synthetic substances that can steer light in any way imaginable. Their most famous incarnation is in invisibility cloaks which work by steering light around a region of space making any object inside that region invisible. But invisibility is just the start. A team of physicists in Hong Kong (the same guys who recently worked out how to cloak objects at a distance) have worked out how to create a cloak that makes one object look like another. Instead of steering light to make a region of space look empty, the illusion cloak manipulates light in a way that makes a region of space look as if it contains a specific object. So any object within that region of space, a mouse say, takes on the appearance of an elephant."

More Fake Journals From Elsevier 249

daemonburrito writes "Last week, we learned about Elsevier publishing a bogus journal for Merck. Now, several librarians say that they have uncovered an entire imprint of 'advertorial' publications. Excerpta Medica, a 'strategic medical communications agency,' is an Elsevier division. Along with the now infamous Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, it published a number of other 'journals.' Elsevier CEO Michael Hansen now admits that at least six fake journals were published for pharmaceutical companies."

Tiniest Lamp Spans Quantum, Classical Physics 59

Urchin writes "Physicists in California have made the smallest ever incandescent lamp using a carbon nanotube as the filament. The nanotube is so small it behaves as a quantum mechanical system but it's just large enough that the classical physics rules of thermodynamics should apply. Analyzing the light emitted from the tiny light will give the team a better picture of what happens in the twilight zone between the quantum and classical worlds." The New Scientist article doesn't mention the researchers' surprise, as the abstract does: "Remarkably, the heat equation and Planck's law together give a precise, quantitative description of the light intensity as a function of input power, even though the nanotube's small size places it outside the thermodynamic limit."
Input Devices

Scientists Build World's Fastest Camera 130

Hugh Pickens writes "Researchers have developed a camera that snaps images less than a half a billionth of a second long and can capture over six million images in a second continuously. Dubbed Serial Time-Encoded Amplified imaging, or Steam, the technique depends on carefully manipulating so-called 'supercontinuum' laser pulses. While other cameras used in scientific research can capture shorter-lived images, they can only capture about eight images, and have to be triggered to do so for a given event. The Steam camera, by contrast, can capture images continuously, making it ideal for random events that cannot be triggered. Keisuke Gode, lead author of the study, and his colleagues used their camera to image minute spheres flowing along a thin tube of water in a microfluidic device." (More below.)

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