Jan 30, 2015

AP's 'robot journalists' are writing their own stories now

posted by Larra Morris

Minutes after Apple released its record-breaking quarterly earnings this week, the Associated Press published (by way of CNBCYahoo, and others) "Apple tops Street 1Q forecasts." It's a story without a byline, or rather, without a human byline — a financial story written and published by an automated system well-versed in the AP Style Guide. The AP implemented the system six months ago and now publishes 3,000 such stories every quarter — and that number is poised to grow...

You wouldn't necessarily know it at first blush. Sure, maybe reading it in the context of this story it's apparent, but otherwise it feels like a pretty standard, if a tad dry, AP news item. The obvious tell doesn't come until the end of an article: "This story was generated by Automated Insights." According to AI's public relations manager James Kotecki, the Wordsmith platform generates millions of articles per week; other partners include Allstate, Comcast, and Yahoo, whose fantasy football reports are automated. Kotecki estimates the company's system can produce 2,000 articles per second if need be.
via The Verge

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Jan 30, 2015

The first Super Bowl played under LEDs will use 75 percent less power

posted by Larra Morris

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This will actually be the first Super Bowl to be entirely lit by LED bulbs.

The University of Phoenix Stadium, where the big game is being played, recently upgraded over 780 metal halide fixtures with 44,928 Cree XLamp MK-R LEDs, courtesy of Cree and Ephesus Lighting. And while it sounds like the new setup would draw far more power, it turns out those LED fixtures need a mere 310,000 watts of power to glow, compared to the 1.24 million watts required by the metal halide bulbs.

But power saving isn't the only benefit to the stadium's new energy-efficient lighting. The LED fixtures also produce nearly double the illumination of the old metal halide bulbs, and run at full intensity as soon as they're switched on. If you remember the infamous Super Bowl blackout from a few years ago, it takes almost 20 minutes for metal halide bulbs to warm up and reach their full intensity.
via Gizmodo

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Jan 30, 2015

Eye glasses that can be manually switched to "sunglass mode" may be on their way

posted by Larra Morris

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The photochromic lenses in transitional glasses contain silver halide molecules that temporarily change shape when exposed to ultraviolet light. This causes the lens to darken, and some of that light to be blocked.

One of the problems with them, however, is that the transition from clear to tinted can often take up to a few minutes. When you're performing activities such as driving or even flying a plane, that's simply not fast enough. Additionally, they won't tint if you're in a shaded place – such as the inside of a car – looking out onto a brightly-sunlit area.

By contrast, users of the Georgia Tech glasses can tint and un-tint them whenever and wherever they want, just by flipping a power switch.
via Gizmag

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Image: American Chemical Society

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Jan 29, 2015

Scientists 3D print cartilage to repair damaged windpipes

posted by Larra Morris

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Believe it or not, scientists aren't yet finished discovering new ways to 3D print body parts. A team at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research has developed a 3D printing technique that lets them produce cartilage for repairing damaged tracheas, better known to you and I as windpipes. They use an off-the-shelf 3D printer (in this case, a MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental) to create a scaffold for the cartilage out of the same PLA filament you'd use for everyday 3D printing projects. After that, they cover the scaffold in a mix of chondrocytes (healthy cartilage cells) and collagen, 'baking' it in a custom bioreactor to make sure the cells grow properly.
via Engadget

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Jan 29, 2015

Listen to music composed by a pillow

posted by Larra Morris

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Punch cards may seem very different from traditional Eastern European embroidery, but both processes rely on compatible programing formats, as Hungarian design student Zsanett Szirmay and Hungarian cimbalom player Bálint Tárkány-Kovács demonstrated by turning traditional Eastern European embroidery patterns into punch cards that play musical compositions when they’re fed through a music box.
via MAKE Magazine

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Jan 28, 2015

SkyMall’s demise could save airlines $350K a year on fuel

posted by Larra Morris

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SkyMall is dead, and that’s a bummer, at least for those prone to nostalgia, enamored of garden gnomes, or inept at charging devices before boarding a flight. But the company’s bankruptcy could improve airlines’ bottom lines, because they’ll no longer carry the catalog in every seat-back pocket.

That may not make any sense until you understand that airlines are obsessed with cutting weight, because lighter planes need less fuel, and jet fuel is, depending upon who you ask, an airline’s no. 1 or no. 2 expense. That’s why airlines are investing in thinner seats, lighter trash compactors, and entertainment systems that use sleeker electronics.

So tossing those quirky catalogs into the recycling bin will save airlines like Southwest (which already planned to ditch them), United, and American hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
via Wired

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Image: Tony Gutierrez/AP

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Jan 28, 2015

Scientists figure out how to unboil an egg

posted by Larra Morris

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You can't unring a bell, but you can unboil an egg. Gregory Weiss, a professor of biochemistry at the University of California at Irvine, and his colleagues untangled the proteins of cooked egg whites to return a key protein to its previous uncooked state. A press release quotes Weiss:

“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius and return a key protein in the egg to working order.”

What's the point of this research? The ability to untangle proteins could lead to much cheaper cancer drugs
via Neatorama

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Image: Craig Hatfield

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