Interesting Reading #291

by | May 20, 2009 01:00 PM ET

Video: iRobot Rolls Out One-Pound Machine, Ready to Swarm - "The idea is for a soldier to dispatch a swarm of these “Ember” bots to scout out a possibly-hostile building, instead of sending a single, large Packbot. Once inside, the Embers would set up an ad-hoc wireless network, and then autonomously scurry around the floor (kind of like iRobot's Roomba vaccum cleaning automaton). Tiny flippers will help them vault over objects. Cameras will beam the scene back to the G.I..."

Even hydrogen cars have a carbon problem - "Given all the electricity needed to get hydrogen compressed and ready for the tank, that juice will need to come from solar, wind or (whisper it) nuclear power to get the fuel cells under the hood nearer to zero carbon output over the fuel's ”life-cycle.” According to a Volkswagen manager developing the technology, the current mix of power generated on the U.S. grid is still too dirty..."

The idea that the web is revolutionising our lives is not only wrong, but dangerous - "Even if you don't indulge, your life has been changed. At every turn you are told to get online and buy. Increasingly, shops are being seen as mere adjuncts to websites. Lots of things out there in cyberspace — this newspaper, for example — are just plain free, and most things are a lot cheaper. Web 2.0 is in your head and your pocket whether you like it or not. It will change everything. What is wrong with this picture? Well, to start with, it is historically ignorant..."

The Planet's Biggest Camera: Scanning the Skies with 1.4 Gigapixels - "The camera core is an eight by eight array of eight by eight arrays of cells. That's not an accidental repeat, that's eight to the fourth equals four thousand and ninety-six CCD cells, each one of which could kick the hell out of your little digital imager, adding up to a forty square centimeter focal plane with 1.4 Gigapixels..." See also:

Canadian research team reports major breakthrough in lithium battery technology - "An NSERC-funded lab at the University Of Waterloo has laid the groundwork for a lithium battery that can store and deliver more than three times the power of conventional lithium ion batteries..."

Palm Pre on June 6th for $200: It's official! - "The day you've been waiting for is here. Sprint just announced that the Pre will cost $199.99 after $100 mail-rebate and 2-year contract and will launch on June 6th as rumored this morning..."

In Defense of Distraction and Overstimulation - "Twitter, Adderall, lifehacking, mindful jogging, power browsing, Obama's BlackBerry, and the benefits of overstimulation..."

More on Wolfram Alpha:

- Google challenged by new rival with all the answers - WolframAlpha

- Wolfram's Black Box: a biologist's take on Wolfram|Alpha

- Wolfram Alpha, Google and the Future of Search Engines

- Like Google, Only Much, Much Worse

- Wolfram|Alpha Fails the Cool Test

Welcome, Wired. We call this land "Internet" - "Here's the problem with Wired: They think print matters..."

Germans Deny Patent For GPS/Poison Microchip - " A Saudi inventor filed a patent for a "killer chip" which, once implanted, would monitor "undesirables" using a GPS. Oh, and it also comes with an extra feature: a remote-controlled cyanide dispenser, for murder..."

"We Don't See with Our Eyes">Device Pushes the Limits of Vision - "The sunglasses are part of a breakthrough vision device known as BrainPort, under development by the NEI-supported researchers of Wicab, Inc., for which Hogle serves as director of product development. BrainPort is built on the concept of sensory substitution, which means that when one sense malfunctions, another sense can compensate, serving as a stand-in..."

Scientists hail stunning fossil - With video: "The fossil, nicknamed Ida, is claimed to be a "missing link" between today's higher primates - monkeys, apes and humans - and more distant relatives..."

The Quad-Core, 1-kW, Liquid-Cooled Desk - "So we specced out a totally visible PC. The components—motherboard, graphics card, hard drives, etc.—would all be mounted beneath the surface of a transparent desk. Because an optical mouse would have trouble tracking on a clear surface, we imagined an integrated clear trackpad that would turn part of the desktop into a pointing device..."

The Lost Robot Saga Continues: Munich - "Recently, Singularity Hub covered the Tweenbot, a simple cardboard-wrapped automaton that was guided through New York City by the hands of New Yorkers. The next step in the lost robot evolution has appeared: Autonomous City Explorer (or ACE) a robot that navigated the mean streets of Munich just like any tourist would: by asking directions from the natives. ACE identified and queried people around it to point it in the right direction, and, against my most cynical expectations, it arrived safely and sound at its destination..."

USB3 is out from NEC electronics - "The µPD720200 device is a host controller for PCs and other digital devices, and is based on the new version of the Super Speed USB standard, supporting the world`s fastest USB transfer speeds of up to 5 gigabits per second (Gbps) of data, which is 10 times faster than previous USB 2.0 transfer speeds..."

Hitachi Develops RFID Powder - "The electronics conglomerate recently showed a prototype of an RFID chip measuring a .05 millimeters square and 5 microns thick, about the size of a grain of sand. They expect to have ‘em on the market in two or three years..."

Google Searches for Staffing Answers - "The Internet search giant recently began crunching data from employee reviews and promotion and pay histories in a mathematical formula Google says can identify which of its 20,000 employees are most likely to quit..."

Media's want to break free - "For well over a decade, the prevailing orthodoxy of the internet has been that information wants to be free. Publishers, broadcasters and games developers alike are beginning to discover, however, that advertising alone is not providing the sustainable digital business model they expected for their expensively produced content..."

U.S. to unveil new policy on auto fuel standards - "According to people briefed on the announcement, the plan in the works for months would harmonize California's preference for curtailing emissions with the federal program that sets fuel economy standards based on vehicle weight and other attributes. Cars and trucks must average 27.3 mpg by 2011, according to current federal regulations. Under the pending administration plan for 2012-16, annual mileage goals would top out at 42 miles per gallon for cars and just over 26 mpg for light trucks, which include pickups, sport utilities and vans..."

Rules for Time Travelers - "With the new Star Trek out, it's long past time (as it were) that we laid out the rules for would-be fictional time-travelers. Not that we expect these rules to be obeyed; the dramatic demands of a work of fiction will always trump the desire to get things scientifically accurate, and Star Trek all by itself has foisted half a dozen mutually-inconsistent theories of time travel on us..."

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