Aug 29, 2014

Scientists find water clouds outside the solar system for the first time

posted by Larra Morris

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This beautiful purple jewel is an artist rendition of W0855—a Jupiter-sized brown dwarf 7.3 light years from Earth. If the scientists who just published a new paper on its composition are right, it's the first object outside the solar system in which we have observed water clouds—an amazing discovery.

Keep in mind that we have only detected water clouds on Earth and Mars. Jacqueline Faherty—the scientist who has lead the discovery at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C.—says she has "been obsessed with this object since its discovery" by Pennsylvania State University's astronomer Kevin Lehman
via Gizmodo

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Aug 28, 2014

What I learned from debating science with trolls

posted by Laura Domela

 

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I often like to discuss science online and I’m also rather partial to topics that promote lively discussion, such as climate change, crime statistics, and (perhaps surprisingly) the Big Bang. This inevitably brings out the trolls.

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but I’ve ignored it on occasion—including on the Conversation and Twitter—and I’ve been rewarded. Not that I’ve changed the minds of any trolls, nor have I expected to.

But I have received an education in the tactics many trolls use. These tactics are common not just to trolls but to bloggers, journalists, and politicians who attack science, from climate to cancer research.
via Pacific Standard

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(Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock)

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Aug 28, 2014

Could a person walk the entire city of NY in their lifetime?

posted by Laura Domela

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Like the answer to Paint the Earth, the answer to the first part of this question is pretty straightforward to look up.

But what if it weren't? Can we figure out the answer from things we already know? Let's look at a few ways of estimating it.

First of all, how wide is a street? I've never seen one of those flashing crosswalk countdowns signs start with less than 10 seconds; if people walk at a meter per second, most roads are probably at least 10 meters wide.
via xkcd

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Aug 28, 2014

Schrödinger's cat caught on quantum film

posted by Laura Domela

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Schrödinger's cat is the poster child for quantum weirdness. Now it has been immortalised in a portrait created by one of the theory's strangest consequences: quantum entanglement.

These images were generated using a cat stencil and entangled photons. The really spooky part is that the photons used to generate the image never interacted with the stencil, while the photons that illuminated the stencil were never seen by the camera.
via New Scientist

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(Image: Gabriela Barreto Lemos)

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Aug 28, 2014

London to start trialing wirelessly charged buses

posted by Larra Morris

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While London's public transport network is getting more hi-tech by the minute, the city's buses and trains aren't as green as they could be -- at least not yet. Transport for London (TfL) has already deployed 800 hybrid and a handful of all-electric buses on the capital's streets, but keeping them charged isn't easy when they're miles from a depot. In a bid to keep them running as efficiently as possible, TfL has kicked off a new trial that will see inductive charging stations built into four east London bus stops, allowing its Enviro400H E400 hybrid buses to charge wirelessly while they pick up passengers.
via Engadget

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Image: wirewiping, Flickr

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Aug 28, 2014

A robotic printer with wheels that can travel to people delivering their printed documents

posted by Larra Morris

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Fuji Xerox has been testing out a new Robot Printer in Tokyo that has built-in wheels, allowing it to travel around as it prints documents. Once users submit pages via a browser, the printer begins traveling to them in order to drop off the documents, using Roomba-like spatial detection to avoid obstacles along the way.
via Laughing Squid

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Image: Nikkei Technology

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Aug 28, 2014

DARPA project starts building human memory prosthetics

posted by Larra Morris

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“They’re trying to do 20 years of research in 4 years,” says Michael Kahana in a tone that’s a mixture of excitement and disbelief. Kahana, director of the Computational Memory Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, is mulling over the tall order from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In the next four years, he and other researchers are charged with understanding the neuroscience of memory and then building a prosthetic memory device that’s ready for implantation in a human brain.
via IEEE Spectrum

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Image: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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Aug 28, 2014

Gemma-powered neopixel sound reactive drums

posted by Larra Morris

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This tutorial from Adafruit shows how to create a custom interactive drum set that lights up with sound. It uses a mic amp sensor that is connected to a miniature Arduino Gemma board to detect when the instrument is being hit by the sticks. Neopixels then illuminate into a range of colors creating a beautifully synced up music presentation.

The container that houses the electronics is 3D printed. The entire circuit is integrated into the snare, mid-tom, hi-tom and a drum kick. All the code and step-by-step instructions can be found on Adafruit’s website.
via Hack a Day

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Aug 27, 2014

Why your voice sounds different inside your head

posted by Laura Domela

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The voice in your head is a lie. What you hear when you open your mouth is distinctly less velvety than what everyone around hears—and it's your skull that's to blame. More specifically, it's the way your skull vibrates.

Your voice emanates from from the lower portion of your throat, as expelled air from the lungs passes across your vocal chords, which vibrate to generate sound. This sound is then amplified by your voice box, modulated into words by your tongue and lips, and reverberated through the surrounding atmosphere until it enters your listener's ear canal to stimulate their eardrums and structures within the inner ear—which then convert the analog waveform to electrical impulses that the brain can understand.
via Gizmodo

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Aug 27, 2014

Robo Brain teaches robots how to understand the world

posted by Larra Morris

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For a robot to be able to wash clothes, vacuum carpets or serve you cocktails on a Friday night, it needs to be loaded with the appropriate software and data. In the future, though, a robot will easily be able pull info they need to do those things (and more) from a single online service called Robo Brain. Researchers, roboticists and companies, for instance, will be able to download whatever skill they want and then load it onto their creations. Robots already deployed to do their jobs, on the other hand, can go online to use the service and look up anything it comes across that it can't recognize.

According to project lead Ashutosh Saxena from Cornell (the study's a joint effort between Brown, Cornell and Stanford Universities as well as the University of California, Berkeley), his team's goal is to "build a very good knowledge graph -- or a knowledge base -- for robots to use." Think of Robo Brain as Wikipedia (without all the unsourced information) that robots can tap into when they need to understand how we speak and how we see the world -- both extremely important if they are to organically perform their tasks.
via Engadget

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