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Submission + - The Sweet Mystery of Science

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Biologist David P. Barash writes in the LA Times that as a scientist he has been participating in a deception for more than four decades — a benevolent and well intentioned deception — but a deception nonetheless. "When scientists speak to the public or to students, we talk about what we know, what science has discovered," writes Barash. "After all, we work hard deciphering nature's secrets and we're proud whenever we succeed. But it gives the false impression that we know pretty much everything, whereas the reality is that there's a whole lot more that we don't know." Teaching and writing only about what is known risks turning science into a mere catalog of established facts, suggesting that "knowing" science is a matter of memorizing says Barash. "It is time, therefore, to start teaching courses, giving lectures and writing books about what we don't know about biology, chemistry, geology, physics, mathematics." Barash isn't talking about the obvious unknowns, such as "Is there life on other planets?" Looking just at his field, evolutionary biology, the unknowns are immense: How widespread are nonadaptive traits? To what extent does evolution proceed by very small, gradual steps versus larger, quantum jumps? What is the purpose of all that "junk DNA"? Did human beings evolve from a single lineage, or many times, independently? Why does homosexuality persist? According to Barash scientists need to keep celebrating and transmitting what they know but also need to keep their eyes on what science doesn't know if the scientific enterprise is to continue attracting new adherents who will keep pushing the envelope of our knowledge rather than resting satisfied within its cozy boundaries. As Richard Dawkins writes: "Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a different reason: It gives them something to do.""
Data Storage

Submission + - Your future hard drive might be grown with magnetic bacteria (

MrSeb writes: "In the future, ultra-high-density non-volatile storage — such as hard drives — could be grown using magnetic bacteria. This breakthrough, shepherded by researchers from the University of Leeds in the UK and the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, relies on certain strains of bacteria that ingest iron, which is then converted into magnetite (iron (II, III) oxide). These microbes, by following the Earth’s magnetic field, then use this built-in magnet to navigate. To turn this behavior into something that can actually act as magnetic storage, the researchers identified and extracted the protein responsible for converting iron into magnetite — Mms6. A gold substrate is then covered in a checkerboard fashion with chemicals that bind to Mms6, and the substrate is dunked in the protein. The whole caboodle is then washed with an iron solution, turning each of the Mms6 sites into a magnetic bit. For now the researchers have only managed to create magnetic bits that are 20 micrometers wide, which equates to 20,000 nanometers — a wee bit larger than the 10nm magnetic sites found on modern hard drives, but the researchers seem confident that 20nm magnetic sites should be possible."

Submission + - Pirate Bay Criticises Anonymous' Attack On Virgin (

judgecorp writes: "Anonymous launched a DDoS attack on Virgin Media, apparently in protest at Virgin's decision to block the Pirate Bay. Now the Pirate Bay has criticised Anonymous, saying it doesn't support DDoS as a form of protest. The statement is interesting, given that Anonymous has been music industry sites and other targets for some years, saying it is in support of the Pirate Bay."
The Military

Submission + - Shadow Hawk Munition portends a new era of warfare ( 1

cylonlover writes: Lockheed Martin's new Shadow Hawk weapon is deceptively small considering the influence it will likely have on warfare from this point forward. The era of unmanned warfare is about to go to a whole new level. The Shadow Hawk is an 11-pound class, 2.75-inch (7 cm) diameter, 27-inch (68 cm) long drop-glide munition released a mile or more above the target by the equally diminutive unmanned RQ-7B. It may not seem like a major leap forward in weapons technology but it most certainly is, because the Shadow Hawk munition now arms an entire fleet of RQ-7s for the US Marines and Army that could previously only be used for reconnaissance, and it does so with a much smaller and cheaper weapon.

Submission + - Retinal Implants Restore Partial Sight To Three Blind (

kkleiner writes: "After receiving retinal implants in a trial, two people in the UK and one in China – all blind – regained part of their vision. All of the trial participants were made blind by retinitis pigmentosa in which the light-sensitive rods and cones of the retina deteriorate. British participants Robin Millar and Chris James, whose retinas had not responded to light in over a decade, were able to see immediately after the chip was turned on. Seeing the first flashes of light, James told the BBC, was a “magic moment.”"

Submission + - X-ray Microscope Delivers Unparalleled Nanoscale Images in 3D (

Zothecula writes: A new X-ray microscope at Brookhaven National Laboratory is being used to create unparalleled high-resolution 3D images of the inner structure of materials. Using techniques similar to taking a very small-scale medical CAT (computer-assisted tomography) scan, the full field transmission x-ray microscope (TXM) enables scientists to directly observe structures spanning 25 nanometers — three thousand times smaller than a red blood cell — by splicing together thousands of images into a single 3D X-ray image with "greater speed and precision than ever before." This capability is expected to power rapid advances in many fields, including energy research, environmental sciences, biology, and national defense.

Submission + - Verizon to begin offering "text to 911" service (

An anonymous reader writes: In a move that will likely elicit a "why didn't they implement that sooner?" response, Verizon in the next 12 months will begin implementing a "text to 911" feature that, as the name implies, will enable users contact 911 operators via text message to report an emergency. The feature will be particularly helpful for the hearing and/or speech impaired, and for folks who find themselves in dangerous situations where making a voice 911 call isn't advisable.

Beginning in early 2013, Verizon will start rolling out the feature in various metropolitan areas before progressing to a nationwide rollout soon thereafter. In many respects, this move has been a long time coming, and something the FCC has been championing for a few years.


Submission + - Microsoft creates Kinect-like sonar using laptop speaker & microphone (

MrSeb writes: "Microsoft Research, working with the University of Washington, has developed a Kinect-like system that uses your computer’s built-in microphone and speakers to provide object detection and gesture recognition, much in the same way that a submarine uses sonar. Called SoundWave, the new technology uses the Doppler effect to detect any movements and gestures in the proximity of a computer. In the case of SoundWave, your computer’s built-in speaker is used to emit ultrasonic (18-22KHz) sound waves, which change frequency depending on where your hand (or body) is in relation to the computer. This change in frequency is measured by your computer’s built-in microphone, and then some fairly complex software works out your motion/gesture. The obvious advantage of SoundWave over a product like Kinect is that it uses existing, commodity hardware; it could effectively equip every modern laptop with a gesture-sensing interface. The Microsoft Research team is reporting a 90-100% accuracy rate for SoundWave, even in noisy environments."

Submission + - How do we deal with a 'Facebook apocalypse'? ( 2

taskforce writes: There are good reasons to think a web services like Facebook won't be around forever. If Facebook ever were to go down there would be potentially huge costs to its users. We can all take individual steps to protect our data and social network, but is there anything we can do to our economy to mitigate the costs of the failure of these services? The Red Rock looks at the role open source, open standards, consumer cooperatives, and enterprise reform can play. The author concludes that all is not lost, and that there's a lot we can do to reduce both the cost and frequency of failure.

Submission + - Aussie politician threatens to contact employers of satirical article "likers" ( 2

Chuq writes: "Tasmanian Liberal candidate for Bass, Andrew Nikolic, was the subject of a satirical article by NewExaminer on Facebook. Nikolic didn’t like it, which is understandable. However he then went to considerable lengths to identify the people who liked the article, find out their employers (via their Facebook profiles) and "name and shame" them on a follow-up post on his own page.
Andrew Nikolic has a history of poorly handling conflicting views on his Facebook page, resulting in creation of another page, "Andrew Nikolic blocked me"."

Comment Re:information smuggling? (Score 1) 447

Ooops, forgot to mention that your point 2 was quite right though - it's still no protection against rubber hose cryptoanalysis. Although, you'll look relatively innocent in that you're just a "random person" carrying a spare card or two for their digital camera, which would hopefully make you relatively unlikely to get tortured. Even in America.

Comment Re:Corporate Culture (Score 2, Interesting) 228

It is interesting that a VP of R&D is talking to a VP of Mumbo Jumbo. Does it tell their respective corporate culture?

Apple sells a fucked-over, incredibly latency-enhanced version of an operating system first sold on 68k machines more than superficially similar to macintoshes (even used ADB) on which it was fairly responsive. They sell it to you on PC clones whose claims to fame are a pretty case, and the ability to mostly correctly run Apple's antique-but-revised operating system. Apple is marketing. You never hear about who designed an Apple motherboard, and you never will, but you often hear about who they've hired to produce a case. Google, on the other hand, is about software. They're going to make sure that the technical people are involved, because they want to get things done.

Comment Re:Buy an Extended Warranty (Score 1) 292

I think this is a lesson in buying an extended warranty if the manufacturer warranty isn't long enough.

Not only is it impossible to know beforehand if manufacturer warranty is long enough, but buying extended warranty rewards bad quality.

Otherwise you're gambling - those things see a lot of use and get very hot, especially if you're buying the launch model without the refinements of newer ones. I don't know if I can blame Sony when they are offering a fair price repair alternative - repairs aren't free!

If a game console overheats from playing a game, then clearly the console is defective. Selling a defective product is always the fault of the manufacturer. So yes, Sony is to blame - assuming, of course, that this is an actual issue and not Microsoft propaganda as some have suggested.

It's simple economics - what does the consumer want?

Something that works as promised.

The risk of having to repair at cost or buying a new (perhaps improved) one, or insurance against paying for repair when they are buying a new and complex technology.

This isn't ancient Rome, and "buyer beware" is long obsolete. Besides, the idea of paying "insurance" to the manufacturer least whatever you're buying breaks within weeks of purchase (as has happened with Xbox 360) sounds like blackmail to me. "Nice console you have there, wouldn't want anything bad to happen to it.

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You should never bet against anything in science at odds of more than about 10^12 to 1. -- Ernest Rutherford