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Interesting Reading #745 – Synthetic Blood, Amazing dashboard, Human cat ears, 4,000 MPH vactrain and much more!

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Plans for a 4,000mph underwater train from New York to London – “Vacuum Tube Train: A 4,000-mph magnetically levitated train could allow you to have lunch in Manhattan and still get to London in time for the theater, despite the 5-hour time difference. It’s not impossible: Norway has studied neutrally buoyant tunnels (concluding that they’re feasible, though expensive), and Shanghai is running maglev trains to its airport….”

How can I best view the ETA Aquarids meteor shower? – “The Eta Aquarids (ETA) are the third major meteor shower of the year, and is expected to be one of the greatest to witness in 2011. Like many other meteor showers, the Eta Aquarids are caused by the Earth passing through the dust particles of a comet. In this case, that comet is Halley’s Comet (1P/Halley).Each spring, Earth passes into a trail of dust from Halley’s Comet, and as a result, all the dust and debris burning up in our atmosphere produces the spectacle known as the Eta Aquarids meteor shower….”

Brainwave-controlled cat ears for humans created by Japanese Neurowear – “Japanese company Neurowear is creating a range of fashion items that are operated using brainwaves, including a pair of moveable cat ears….”

Transfusion of Synthetic Blood Saves Woman’s Life – “A synthetic blood substitute is something of a holy grail in medical research. Many potential synthetics have been tried–DARPA has even put a blood substitute before the FDA–but most have been disappointingly ineffective. So it’s pretty significant that an experimental synthetic blood substitute derived from cow plasma has brought an Australian woman back from the brink of death….” See also: HBOC201: The synthetic blood that saved Tamara Coakley’s life after car crash

Video: MIT’s New Nav System Turns the Entire Dashboard into a Huge 3-D Interactive Display – “Back in 2009, we wrote about a little robotic dashboard companion called AIDA (for Affective Intelligent Driving Agent), an MIT creation that essentially read a driver’s facial expressions to gauge mood and inferred route and destination preferences through social interaction with the driver. Apparently that was deemed too distracting, so now MIT is back with AIDA 2.0, which swaps the dashboard robot for a massive 3-D interactive map that covers the entire dashboard–because that’s not distracting at all….”

Born to be Viral: Ball-catching robot – “There’s a good chance this robot is better at playing ball than you are (see video above). The humanoid, called Rollin’ Justin, was created by a team at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and can catch a ball with 80 per cent accuracy when thrown from a distance of 5 metres. It can even retrieve a ball in each hand at the same time….”

White House: China is Potential Partner in Future Mars Exploration – “U.S. President Barack Obama views China as a potential partner for an eventual human mission to Mars that would be difficult for any single nation to undertake, a senior White House official told lawmakers….”

US and Europe plan new spaceship – “Europe and the US could be building a spaceship together later this decade. It is one of the ideas being considered as Europe ponders the next evolution of its ATV orbital freighter….”

Confessions of a Car Salesman – “Buying a new car can be a confusing, frustrating and downright unpleasant experience. But behind the haggling and the anxiety and the dramatic theater of the salesman going to talk to the manager, how does this process really work? One anonymous car salesman lifted the veil and gave us a taste of what it’s like on the showroom floor. And most importantly, our informant lets us know how we can get the best deals the next time we’re shopping for a new car….”

So long free Android tethering: carriers crack the whip at Google – “Wireless carriers aren’t fans of these unofficial tethering apps because they allow subscribers to turn their Android devices into Internet hotspots without incurring additional monthly fees. Without those Android applications, the majority of wireless subscribers will be forced to spend an extra $20 to $25 per month for the ability to tether, or risk compromising the security of their device (to some degree) by running (sideloading) an app found outside of the official Android Market….”

Smartphone apps: How to spot and stop firms tracking your phone – “A company that makes security software for smart phones has released a new product that shows when and how an app is snooping on you….”

Being stalked by software? There’s not a lot you can do about it – “Ever get the feeling you’re being followed? I did when I got an email from “Matthew Gale”, co-curator of the Joan Miró exhibition at Tate Modern last week, less than 24 hours after seeing the show. “I’m so pleased you visited,” he said. “From what I’ve read on Tate’s blog, people appear to be relating to Miró’s work in a deeply personal way.” I’ll tell you what I am relating to in a deeply personal way, “Matthew Gale”: being stalked electronically…”

Facebook Buying Out Skype? $4 Billion Deal Being Talked About – “See who Mark Zuckerberg is after these days. We hear the Facebook CEO is eyeing the takeover of the much popular Skype. If the grapevine is true to what it manages to churn out, Facebook might end up buying out Skype for a price close to $4 billion….” See also: Skype ‘in Facebook and Google talks’

ScienceShot: Why Bats Don’t Like Rain – “Some bats keep flying in a light drizzle, but they take shelter when there’s serious rain. A new study published online today in Biology Letters finds one reason why: Bats have to work harder to fly when their fur and wings are wet….”

Why so many people choose not to believe what scientists say – “Humans do seem to prize accuracy above all. We want our beliefs to be accurate—to align with what is really true about the world—and we know that science is a reliable guide to accuracy. But this desire to be accurate conflicts with other motives, some of them unconscious. People hold beliefs to protect important values, for example. Individuals who think of nature as sacred may perceive genetic modification as morally wrong, regardless of its safety or utility. People also hold beliefs that are rooted in their emotions. A flu pandemic that can cause widespread death among the innocent may cause feelings of fear and helplessness. One way to cope with those emotions is to belittle warnings of a pandemic as improbable….”

The Reason We Reason – “Let me tell you about a classic psychological study that I don’t believe. In the early 1980s, Amos Tversky and Thomas Gilovich began sifting through years of statistics from the Philadelphia 76ers. The psychologists looked at every single shot taken by every single player, and recorded whether or not that shot had been preceded by a string of hits or misses. All told, they analyzed thousands upon thousands of field goal attempts….”

Ferrari 458 w/ Monoleggera Aguzzo

The Forgotten 1962 Ford Mustang

Tuscaloosa tornado experience shared in harrowing account by University of Alabama student – “This is my experience during the tornado that swept through Alberta and Tuscaloosa in as much detail as I can muster with the medication I am on. I need to put this down for therapeutic reasons and for others to read because I can’t keep re-telling this story….”

Gravity Probe B finally pays off – “The longest-running project in NASA’s history has completed its mission. Gravity Probe B has finally confirmed that the Earth drags spacetime around as it rotates like a spoon twisting in a jar of honey, mission scientist announced at a May 4 NASA press briefing….” See also: Gravity Probe B confirms two Einstein theories

Distant time and the hint of a multiverse: Sean Carroll on TED.com – “At TEDxCaltech, cosmologist Sean Carroll attacks — in an entertaining and thought-provoking tour through the nature of time and the universe — a deceptively simple question: Why does time exist at all? The potential answers point to a surprising view of the nature of the universe, and our place in it. …”

Hacker pwns police cruiser and lives to tell tale – “But one of his most unusual hacks came during a recent assignment testing the security of a US-based municipal government. After scanning several IP addresses used by the city’s police department, he soon discovered they connected directly into a Linux device carried in police cruisers. Using little more than FTP and telnet commands, he then tapped into a digital video recorder used to record and stream audio and video captured from gear mounted on the vehicle’s dashboard….”

CERN’s Star-Trek Moment: “Close to Discovering if Antimatter Obeys Gravity” – “According to the scientists at CERN — the same organization responsible for the Large Hadron Collider — we’re about to solve one of the greatest unsolved problems in physics: that although the Big Bang resulted in a huge outpouring of matter and antimatter particles, that antimatter has an opposite charge, that it is still made of normal energy and it therefore obeys the same laws of gravity as matter….”

After 100 years, Goodyear ditches blimps for zeppelins – “After building blimps for almost 100 years, Goodyear’s teaming up with Ze Germans and canning their three blips for a fleet of Teutonic zeppelins set to go into operation in 2013. The zeppelins will be longer, fly faster, and hold more people. None of which will help make it anything but a more novel way of providing a stadium shot before football and baseball telecasts go to commercial….”

Universal signaling pathway found to regulate sleep – “An unexpected observation in the C. elegans nematode may help explain the neurobiology of sleep in a wide variety of creatures, including humans….”

Point: Sony hack probe uncovers Anonymous calling card – “In the course of its investigation into the PlayStation Network security breach, Sony discovered a file that makes a clear reference to the Anonymous hacking group. In a letter to the US House of Representatives on Wednesday, Sony said a file named Anonymous containing the words “We Are Legion” was left behind by the intruders who gained access to the servers of Sony Online Entertainment. “We Are Legion” is the regular tag line used by Anonymous….”

CounterPoint: Anonymous to Sony: It wasn’t us – “The Internet vigilante group Anonymous denied responsibility for a cyber-attack on Sony Corp’s networks that exposed the personal data of more than 100 million video gamers….” See also: Anonymous: Sony is incompetent (and we don’t steal credit cards)

House hearing blasts Sony’s “half-hearted, half-baked” hack response – “Despite suffering massive breaches that made national news, neither Sony nor Epsilon showed up to a House hearing on data theft this morning—the predictable result of which was that both firms were just trashed in absentia…”

Slot Machine Robot Pays Out Drinks Mixed Up at Random – “A New York-based hacker collective, NYC Resistor, has unleashed unto the world a robotic drink-mixing gambling device named Barbot. Born from a repurposed Japanese slot machine, Barbot serves up a win for every player, in the form of a randomly selected mixed drink. Just hit the throttle and push three lighted buttons and the machine will select your spirit and mixers….”

Obituary: Osama bin Laden – “Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terrorist, died on May 2nd, aged 54…”

Geographers Had Predicted Osama’s Possible Whereabouts – “Could Osama bin Laden have been found faster if the CIA had followed the advice of ecosystem geographers from the University of California, Los Angeles? Probably not, but the predictions of UCLA geographer Thomas Gillespie, who, along with colleague John Agnew and a class of undergraduates, authored a 2009 paper predicting the terrorist’s whereabouts, were none too shabby. According to a probabilistic model they created, there was an 88.9% chance that bin Laden was hiding out in a city less than 300 km from his last known location in Tora Bora: a region that included Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed last night….”

Autism epidemic? More likely we’re just better at diagnosis – “In the developed world, rates of autism spectrum diagnoses have skyrocketed in recent years, raising the specter that a new environmental factor has been altering the developmental trajectory of the youngest children. Searches for putative environmental influences, however, have generally come up empty, even as researchers have identified very strong genetic influence on the disorders. The disparate rates of progress provide some support for an alternate interpretation: autism has always been around at roughly this level; we’ve just gotten much better at diagnosing it….”

Playing the piano, violin and…

Even Robots Can Be Heroes – “From Charles Darwin on, evolutionary biologists have struggled to explain self-sacrificing behavior. If evolution is all about the survival of the fittest, then why do animals from bees to people help others when it can hurt them or their chances to reproduce? Simulations of miniature robots that “evolve” helping behaviors have now provided a possible answer, confirming a 47-year-old theory that recently has come under attack: We help those who are most related to us because they are able to pass some of our genes to the next generation. …”

Algae Converted to Butanol; Fuel Can Be Used in Automobiles – “A team of chemical engineers at the University of Arkansas has developed a method for converting common algae into butanol, a renewable fuel that can be used in existing combustible engines. The green technology benefits from and adds greater value to a process being used now to clean and oxygenate U.S. waterways by removing excess nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer in runoff….”

Worm discovery could help 1 billion people worldwide – “Scientists have discovered why some people may be protected from harmful parasitic worms naturally while others cannot in what could lead to new therapies for up to one billion people worldwide….”

article imageGates tells WIRED crowd ‘cute’ is not the answer to energy crisis – “In a keynote speech at the WIRED Business Conference, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said more money needs to be spent on research and development in the field of energy innovation rather than old technologies, making it affordable for developing nations….”

David Guetta employs ‘ex-Pentagon investigator’ after new single is stolen – “Guetta added that he had faced problems with hackers in the past, even stating that some had hidden outside the studio he was working at in a car and stolen music via Wi-Fi. “It’s really crazy,” he said. “I know it sounds like a film but it’s the truth. Usually inside a studio there’s a Wi-Fi connection so between the engineer and the artist we can send tracks to work. They [the hackers] would be outside in a car.”..”

Scotland toasts new whisky-powered bioenergy plant – “Up to 9,000 homes to be powered with energy produced by burning waste matter from the whisky-making process…”

Signs of dark matter from Minnesota mine – “An experiment in Minnesota is the first to bolster a long-contested claim that detectors a continent away have found evidence of particles called WIMPs….”

[[[Interesting Reading #744 – Intel’s amazing chips, Stealth helicopter crash, Super-civilizations, Magnetic scout-bots and much more!]]]

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