Archive for the ‘Science and Technology’ Category

Laser guided bullets?

Posted: February 2, 2012 in Science and Technology

Susan Montoya Bryan
February 2, 2012

Figuring out how to pack a processor and other sophisticated equipment into a machine gun bullet has been a challenge, but engineers at Sandia National Laboratories in the US say the miniature guidance system they’ve developed is a breakthrough.

A bullet that directs itself like a tiny guided missile and can hit a target more than 1.6km away has the potential to change the battlefield for soldiers without costing too much, engineers said on Wednesday.

Sandia technical staff member Red Jones said the .50-calibre bullets are being designed to work with military machine guns, so soldiers could hit their mark faster and with precision.

“Everybody thought it was too difficult to make things small enough. We knew we could deal with that. The other thing was it was going to be too complicated and expensive,” he said. “We came up with an innovative way around that to make it stupid and cheap and still pretty good.”

Developing more precise weaponry has been a mission for government and industry scientists for decades. Most recently, the research arm of the US Department of Defence has awarded tens of millions of dollars in contracts to companies to develop guided ammunition for snipers and special scopes that account for crosswinds and other environmental variables.

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Stephen C. Webster
The Raw Story
January 24, 2012

It’s like the worst Terminator-inspired nightmare come to life: A robot baby with no skin, that moves and sounds just like a real child.

Created by special effects master Chris Clarke, who’s worked on films such as Alien vs. Predator, Resident Evil and even the recent Steven Spielberg epic War Horse, the freakish robo-baby was designed for a soap opera.

To see what one of Clarke’s complete robo-babies looks like, check out this video from a 2008 ad campaign.

The Times of India
January 22, 2012

MOSCOW: Several objects resembling living beings were detected on photographs taken by a Russian landing probe in 1982 during a Venus mission, says an article published in the Solar System Research magazine.

Leonid Ksanfomaliti of the Space Research Institute of Russia’s Academy of Sciences published a research that analysed the photographs from the Venus mission made by a Soviet landing probe, Venus-13, in 1982.

The photographs feature several objects, which Ksanfomaliti said, resembled a “disk”, a “black flap” and a “scorpion”.

All of them “emerge, fluctuate and disappear”, the scientist said, referring to their changing location on different photographs and traces on the ground.

“What if we forget about the current theories about the non-existence of life on Venus, let’s boldly suggest that the objects’ morphological features would allow us to say that they are living,” the magazine quoted Ksanfomaliti as saying.

No data proving the existence of life on Venus, where the ground temperature is 464 degrees Celsius, has ever been found.

Paul Milligan
Daily Mail
November 24, 2011

Skull has soft spot, found in infants, yet also two large molars, found in older humans
Three anthropologists agree: ‘It is not a human being’

A mummified elongated skull found in Peru could finally prove the existence of aliens. The strangely shaped head – almost as big as its 50cm (20in) body – has baffled anthropologists. It was one of two sets of remains found in the city of Andahuaylillas in the southern province of Quispicanchi.

The skeletal sets were discovered by Renato Davila Riquelme, who works for the Privado Ritos Andinos museum in Cusco in south-eastern Peru. He said that that the eye cavities are far larger than normally seen in humans. There is a soft spot in the skull – called an open fontanelle – which is a characteristic of children in their first year of life, yet the skull also has two large molars, only found in much older humans.

Davila Riquelme said three anthropologists, from Spain and Russia, arrived at the museum last week to investigate the findings and agreed it was ‘not a human being’ and would conduct further studies. He added: ‘Although the assessment was superficial, it is obvious that its features do not correspond to any ethnic group in the world.’

The remains of an eyeball in the right socket will help determine its genetic DNA – and clear up the controversy if it is human or not. The second mummy is incomplete and is only 30cm (12in). It lacks a face and seems to be wrapped in a layer as a placenta, fetal position.

The remains bear a striking resemblance to the triangular crystal skull in the 2008 Indiana Jones film Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – which turned out to be of alien origin and have supernatural powers.

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Fiona Macrae
Daily Mail
November 22, 2011

Imagine catching up with your texts, social networking and perhaps the news without having to log on to a computer or even glance at a smartphone.

Messages and images would simply appear in front of your eyes, generated by a computerised contact lens.

Of course, you may not always want to be bothered by such messages if you are doing anything so quaint as – for instance – reading a book or going out walking and enjoying the scenery.

But until now the concept of info-vision – the ability to stream information across a person’s field of vision – had belonged to the realms of science fiction, featuring in films such as the Terminator series or TV shows such as Torchwood.

However, scientists have developed a prototype lens that could one day provide the wearer with all kinds of hands-free information.

It could also be used to display directions and TV programmes.

The lenses, which would be inserted and removed like normal contacts, could also be handy if you are indeed enjoying the great outdoors, allowing you to zoom in on distant views.

While the amount of information that could appear in front of our faces is tantalising, the researchers insist all the components are tiny and the normal field of vision will not be obstructed.

The super-lenses are the brainchild of Professor Babak Parviz, a contact lens-wearing engineer who specialises in making parts on the nanoscale, thousands of times thinner than a human hair.

So far, he has created a lens which is implanted with tiny components, including a single LED light, an antenna that picks up power and information through a wireless connection, and an electronic circuit.

The lens was placed into a rabbit’s eye without causing any problems to its health and the light came on.

Professor Parviz, of the University of Washington in Seattle, said: ‘We have got a rudimentary display with one dot. If you had several dots, you could maybe create arrows, to give people directions.’

The professor envisions that one day we will be able to stream all the information we need directly on to the contact lens.

He is also investigating the idea of incorporating sensors that will pick up blood sugar levels and other potentially important medical information.

He told the Mail: ‘The surface of the eye is covered in live cells and the body has to keep them alive, so they are in direct contact with the bloodstream.’

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Jim Giles
Technology Review
November 16, 2011

Bitly’s shortened links can forecast the next trend online—a partnership with VeriSign is about to boost that predictive power.

Thousands of people every day use the link-shortening service Bitly to tame unwieldy Web links to share on Twitter and other social media sites. Few realize that they’re simultaneously helping the New York company peer into the Web’s future. Bitly analyzes the pages pointed to by the 80 million short links it generates every day to predict changes in the public’s attitude toward people and companies. Now Bitly is set to get access to a slew of new data that could make its Web crystal ball even better at forecasting the future.

Bitly has reached a data-sharing agreement with VeriSign, based in Dulles, Virginia. VeriSign acts as a kind of telephone directory for the Internet. Any address typed into a browser is sent to servers at VeriSign or one of a handful of other organizations, which help turn that URL into a numerical address that a computer can use to find the Web page it needs.

VeriSign looks up over 50 billion URLs every day and, like Bitly, gets a handle on what people are doing online as a result. In particular, VeriSign’s data could add an awareness of activity outside the social sites where Bitly links are used. Andrew Cohen, Bitly’s general manager, wouldn’t give details on what this would make possible, but says he will explore the possibility of using the data to improve his company’s reputation-monitoring system.

Even without VeriSign’s help, Bitly can already predict when a company’s reputation is about to take a dive. Cohen gives the example of the vehicle-tracking company OnStar, not a Bitly customer, which was caught in a privacy controversy last month. It began when one customer wrote a blog post about reading in OnStar’s tracking policy that the movements of drivers that have canceled the service are still tracked. As the post got passed around on social media, Bitly algorithms registered a growing anger directed at OnStar. “We see the acceleration in clicks,” says Cohen, saying that had OnStar been a customer, Bitly could have warned that serious trouble was ahead. Sure enough, the story was picked up by the mainstream press, led senators to criticize OnStar, and forced the company to change its policy.

Cohen likens Bitly’s service to a smoke detector. “You don’t hear from it very often, but it’s important when you do,” he says. The VeriSign data will likely allow Bitly to better quantify such predictions because it can measure the usual traffic to a site and any deviations from that. “This gives Bitly another handle on the pulse of the Internet,” says Johan Bollen, a computer scientist at Indiana University. “The collaboration will give them a lot more leverage.”

Bitly may also use the VeriSign data to improve the temporal resolution of its monitoring systems, adds Bollen. There is always a delay between a link being shortened on Bitly and clicked by the person who receives it, but VeriSign data provides an instant log of the Internet sites that people are visiting.

November 3, 2011