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Interesting Reading #417 – Lasers kill mosquitoes and missiles, Artificial sweetners cause weight gain, Humans lose to computers at Jeopardy, 57 million in U.S. caught the flu and much more…

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This Is a Mosquito Getting Killed By a Laser – ” You’re looking at a mosquito who got taken down mid-flight by a “Death Star” laser gun designed by Nathan Myhrvold. The malaria-carrying pest never saw it coming, but you can watch everything happen over and over again in this video…” See also: TED 2010: Death Star Laser Gun Zaps Mosquitoes Dead

How star wars lasers can bring down missiles – “The airborne laser test-bed (ALTB) uses more than one laser to bring down a missile. When infrared sensors on the plane detect a missile’s exhaust plume, the first laser is used to track its trajectory. A second laser is then used to measure atmospheric effects between the plane and the missile…”

Feds push for tracking cell phones – “Two years ago, when the FBI was stymied by a band of armed robbers known as the “Scarecrow Bandits” that had robbed more than 20 Texas banks, it came up with a novel method of locating the thieves. FBI agents obtained logs from mobile phone companies corresponding to what their cellular towers had recorded at the time of a dozen different bank robberies in the Dallas area. The voluminous records showed that two phones had made calls around the time of all 12 heists, and that those phones belonged to men named Tony Hewitt and Corey Duffey. A jury eventually convicted the duo of multiple bank robbery and weapons charges….”

Do-It-Yourself Genetic Engineering – “The first thing to understand about the new science of synthetic biology is that it’s not really a new science; it’s a brazen call to conduct an existing one much more ambitiously. For almost 40 years, genetic engineers have been decoding DNA and transplanting individual genes from one organism into another. (One company, for example, famously experimented with putting a gene from an arctic flounder into tomatoes to make a variety of frost-resistant tomatoes.) But synthetic biologists want to break out of this cut-and-paste paradigm altogether. They want to write brand-new genetic code, pulling together specific genes or portions of genes plucked from a wide range of organisms — or even constructed from scratch in a lab — and methodically lacing them into a single set of genetic instructions. Implant that new code into an organism, and you should be able to make its cells do and produce things that nothing in nature has ever done or produced before…”

Universal DNA Reader Will Advance Faster, Cheaper Sequencing Efforts – “Arizona State University scientists have come up with a new twist in their efforts to develop a faster and cheaper way to read the DNA genetic code. They have developed the first, versatile DNA reader that can discriminate between DNA’s four core chemical components – the key to unlocking the vital code behind human heredity and health…”

Wi-Fi Turns Rowdy Bus Into Rolling Study Hall – “Students endure hundreds of hours on yellow buses each year getting to and from school in this desert exurb of Tucson, and stir-crazy teenagers break the monotony by teasing, texting, flirting, shouting, climbing (over seats) and sometimes punching (seats or seatmates). But on this chilly morning, as bus No. 92 rolls down a mountain highway just before dawn, high school students are quiet, typing on laptops…”

IBM’s Jeopardy-playing machine can now beat human contestants – “IBM’s Jeopardy-playing supercomputer is now capable of beating human Jeopardy contestants on a regular basis, but has a ways to go before it takes on the likes of 74-time champion Ken Jennings. IBM announced plans to build a computer that can win on Jeopardy last April, and expects to stage a public tournament involving human players and the machine within the next year or so…”

Artificial Sweeteners: Outwitting the Wisdom of the Body? – “The claim that saccharin could contribute to weight loss seemed like a no-brainer. Sugar has calories; substitute an artificial sweetener for sugar and you consume fewer calories. But this fails to consider other sources of intake (e.g., the classic weight joke: “I’ll have a hot fudge sundae and a diet coke, please”). In fact, Rosenman reviewed the existing literature in 1978 and concluded, “There is no evidence to show that artificial sweeteners are useful in weight reduction.””

The biggest objects in the universe:

Crabzilla! At 5 Feet Tall, Biggest Known Crab Heads to UK – “Hail Crabzilla! The Japanese Spider Crab is the biggest arthropod on Earth–their legs are believed to grow up to 12 feet long. But since they live at such great depths (typically 1,000 feet down or so) a full grown spider crab has yet to be caught. So for now, we’ll have to make due with the 5 foot long Crabzilla (that’s what it’s called–I didn’t make it up!), one of the largest known crabs in the planet…”

Buzz off: Disabling Google Buzz – “The way some of us see it, we didn’t opt in to some newfangled Twitter system and we don’t particularly want to see updates from contacts we never asked to follow creep up in our Buzz in-box. Call us what you will, but for curmudgeonly types like us, Buzz isn’t so much social networking as it is socially awkward networking. We tried it, we didn’t like it, and now it has to go. Here’s how we silenced Buzz from the desktop…”

Nanofiber Lamps Are More Efficient Than Incandescent Bulbs, Eco-FriendlierThan Fluorescent – “For those who want to start saving the planet at home, lighting presents a vexing paradox. While incandescent bulbs are wildly inefficient, compact fluorescent bulbs contain hazardous chemicals. With funding from the Department of Energy, RTI International claims to have solved the problem with the invention of nanofiber bulbs more efficient than regular lights, and more environmentally sound than fluorescent bulbs…”

Coil in wall could wirelessly power multiple electronic devices – “A team of MIT physicists has developed a system that can wirelessly transfer power to multiple electronic devices simultaneously with high efficiency. The system takes advantage of electromagnetic resonance coupling, and could be implemented by embedding a large copper coil in the wall or ceiling of a room. Somewhat surprisingly, the physicists found that the overall efficiency of powering multiple devices can be significantly higher than the efficiency of powering each device by itself, as long as the system is properly tuned…”

The Dizzying Future Of Augmented Reality, Envisioned – “If you’re even slightly nauseated/hungover/susceptible to vertigo, this clip from a project at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London is not for you. Master’s student Keiichi Matsuda’s vision of a future mash-up of architecture, augmented reality and advertising is absolutely amazing, but viewer beware: it’s a bit frightening as well…”

Introducing Computer Engineer Barbie! Barbie Unveils Her 125th & 126th Careers – “This morning Mattel unveiled Barbie’s 125th and 126th career which was decided based on votes that poured in from her fans all over the world. News Anchor Barbie won the Girls’ vote and became Barbie’s 125th career in Barbie’s I Can Be doll series, but Barbie also unleashed a surprise on us – Barbie’s 126th career. According to Lauren Dougherty, director of Barbie marketing for Mattel, voting for the Computer Engineer Barbie became viral amongst female engineers and other women in the tech industry, so much so, that many, many votes also poured in for a Computer Engineer career for Barbie. Because this popular vote went to Computer Engineer Barbie, Mattel couldn’t resist but to reward Barbie with a 126th career choice as well…”

Olympic luger Nodar Kumaritashvili dies after crash – “The death of a luge competitor who left the track at high speed has cast a shadow over the 2010 Winter Olympics…” See also: Georgian Luger Dies after Horrifying Crash at Olympics (Video)

$200 Billion Broadband Scandal – “The case is simple: Do you have a 45 Mbps, bi-directional service to your home, paying around $40? Do you have 500+ channels and can choose any competitive service? You paid an estimated $2000 for this product even though you did not receive it and it may never be available. Do you want your money back and the companies held accountable?”

Brain clue may explain autism ‘hug avoidance’ – “Delays at crucial points during the development of the brain in the womb may explain why people with a condition linked to autism do not like hugs…”

Villagers discover fallen elephant, Zimbabwe

Detroit schools offer class in how to work at Walmart – “Walmart has been widely condemned for offering its employees only low-paying, dead end jobs. Even President Obama criticized Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign for having served on Walmart’s board and stated that the firm ought to pay “a living wage.” In inner-city Detroit, however, where the unemployment rate is estimated at an astonishing 50%, the prospect of a Walmart job may appear far more attractive…”

Three killed in University of Alabama shooting – “Three faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville were killed on Friday when a biology professor started shooting during a faculty meeting, police and university officials said…”

QLogic sues over video of chip frying egg – “Storage networking outfit QLogic has sued archrival Emulex for posting a web video that shows an egg frying on a QLogic converged network adapter…”

The Life, Times (and Death?) of Internet Explorer 6

CDC: Swine flu made 57 million Americans ill – “Swine flu cases are down, but health officials say the disease’s cumulative impact has grown to 57 million U.S. illnesses, 257,000 hospitalizations and 11,690 deaths…”

Race & Gender of Judges Make Enormous Differences in Rulings, Studies Find – “A judge’s race or gender makes for a dramatic difference in the outcome of cases they hear—at least for cases in which race and gender allegedly play a role in the conduct of the parties, according to two recent studies….”

Chip-and-PIN is broken – ” Noted security researcher Ross Anderson and colleagues have published a paper showing how “Chip-and-PIN” (the European system for verifying credit- and debit-card transactions) has been thoroughly broken and cannot be considered secure any longer. I remember hearing rumbles that this attack was possible even as Chip-and-PIN was being rolled out across Europe, but that didn’t stop the banks from pushing ahead with it, spending a fortune in the process…”

Drone makes first UK ‘arrest’ as police catch car thief hiding under bushes – “It has been nicknamed the flying saucepan and looks an unlikely weapon in the war against crime. But yesterday it emerged that a suspected car thief had become the first person to be arrested in Britain thanks to the help of this miniature remote-controlled helicopter…”

Which Country Will Be The Next To Put An Astronaut On The Moon? – “After nearly a half-century’s worth of technological advancement at an exponential rate, a return of humans to the Moon figures to be more than just an end in and of itself. As such, the implications of which astronauts are the next to set foot on the Moon likely entails more than just which flag gets planted in the lunar soil…”

10 Best Ways to Use Your PC While You’re Sleeping or at Work – “As much as we like to multitask, there’s only so much a processor can handle at once. And some processes, like games, monopolize CPU clock cycles, making it inconvenient to run other processor-intensive utilities in the background. That’s why we keep our home PC powered on while we’re at sleep or at the office. Forget about energy savings–a powerful PC is meant to be utilized! From scheduled FTP downloads to converting digital photos and more, here are the ten best ways to keep your PC busy so it won’t miss you when you’re gone…”

[[[Jump to - Interesting Reading #416 – Super hybrid Porsche, 1 TeraByte drive in 1 inch cube, Dell Mini 5, Liquid Galaxy, 30-second boot and much more!]]]

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