Sep 01, 2014

Memory reformat planned for Opportunity Mars rover

posted by Laura Domela

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An increasing frequency of computer resets on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover's flash memory. The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover's planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two.

Flash memory retains data even when power is off. It is the type used for storing photos and songs on smart phones or digital cameras, among many other uses.

Individual cells within a flash memory sector can wear out from repeated use. Reformatting clears the memory while identifying bad cells and flagging them to be avoided.
via Mars Daily

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Image: NASA's Mars rover Opportunity captured this view southward just after completing a 338-foot (103-meter) southward drive, in reverse, on Aug. 10, 2014. The foreground of this view from the rover's Navcam includes the rear portion of the rover's deck. The ground beyond bears wind-blown lines of sand. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

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Sep 01, 2014

New panoramic images show Area 51’s new mystery hangar is gigantic

posted by Laura Domela

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Earlier this month, Foxtrot Alpha brought you an exclusive analysis of new satellite images that show the construction of a massive new hangar in a remote part of Area 51. Now, high resolution panoramic photos have emerged of the base confirming just how monstrous this new hangar truly is.

Shot very recently from Tikaboo Peak, some 26 miles from the base itself, and posted over at Dreamland Resort, these high-resolution panoramas give us a clear view of just how remote and tall this new facility is (look all the way to the left). They also give us a good perspective of the '2007 hangar' and its view-blocking earth berm, as well as almost the entire base.
via Foxtrot Alpha/Jalopnik

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Sep 01, 2014

An interactive map of photos of Earth tweeted by astronauts

posted by Larra Morris

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There's not a lot of downtime for the astronauts on the International Space Station. When they're not busy running scientific experiments, they're getting in some exercise or doing space walks. But luckily for the earthbound, they make time to snap gorgeous photos of our planet in a way we'd otherwise never get to see them, and then post those photos on Twitter.

Now, all of those photos from ISS Expeditions 40 and 41 have been catalogued into one interactive map—created by Dave MacLean of Nova Scotia's Centre of Geographic Sciences—that allows users to easily find the photos, look at them, and discover if astronauts have snapped a space photo of their hometowns.
via Mental Floss

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Sep 01, 2014

Is there a benefit to compiling your code as you go?

posted by Laura Domela

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CaptainCodeman asks:

I recently had a job interview in which they gave me an hour to write some real code. It wasn't a huge amount, probably less than 100 lines. After about 45 minutes, I compiled, ran it, and got it to work. I may have spent 5-10 minutes working out compile errors and a couple minor bugs, but overall it was very smooth. (Incidentally, I did get an offer from them.)

However, what puzzled me was that after I handed over the completed code, the interviewer told me that the only thing I did wrong was "not compiling as I go along". I asked him what the difference is, and he said "what would you have done if you finished the code and it didn't compile in time."
via ars technica

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Sep 01, 2014

Ikea's catalog now uses 75 percent computer generated imagery

posted by Larra Morris

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Browsing through an Ikea catalog is basically a modern adult's version of playing make-believe, letting you imagine just how gorgeous your apartment will never be. And it turns out, an Ikea catalog is even further from reality than you may have already thought: 75 percent of its product images are now CG. The surprising fact was noted by the The Computer Graphics Society, which spoke at length with Ikea about why it's eschewing photography for digital renders. Basically, it gives Ikea's designers a lot more flexibility, and it removes hurdles associated with getting products shipped around the globe in time to photograph them when on a deadline. Ikea actually said back in 2012 that it was moving toward having a quarter of its catalog be CG in 2013, so, seemingly, it had quite a bit of success with that.
via The Verge

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Aug 31, 2014

11 reasons email is the worst

posted by Laura Domela

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Email is one of those things that's just a part of your life, period. Most of us know someone who has closed their Facebook account or refused to join in the first place in a little foot-stomping stand by their ego, and you might even know someone who is thrilled with themselves for not owning a smartphone.

But within the adult internet-using world, no one is allowed to not have email.

Not having email today would be the equivalent of not having a phone number—you'd have to be really doing your own thing to go there.

And so here we all are, typing things into compose windows, battling down our inboxes, and it's going pretty well—but like any world of social interaction, email has its difficulties.

Let's discuss 11 particularly awkward things about our email lives.
via Gizmodo

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Aug 30, 2014

Infographic shows the differences between the diseases we donate to, and the diseases that kill us

posted by Laura Domela

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Julia Belluz created the infographic below to compare how much money is donated to fight various disease and how many people in the USA die from those same diseases for an article in Vox

The graphic has since developed a bit of a life of its own. Belluz uses it to critique celebrity-driven campaigns for rare diseases such as the ice bucket challenge for ALS, compared to more frequent, but less glamorous conditions

The discrepancy the graphic is pretty striking, and certainly worth thinking about, but it's hardly the last word. For example, HIV may not be a major killer of Americans, but the people donating are probably concerned about the devastation it wrecks globally. Indeed the article quotes 80,000 hours founder William MacAskill saying, "Donating money to the best developing world health charities will reach at least 100 times as many people than if you donate to developed world health causes." 
via IFLScience

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Aug 29, 2014

LEGO Great Ball Contraption

posted by Laura Domela

Neat!

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Aug 29, 2014

Disney's drone research eyes better parades and floating screens

posted by Larra Morris

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We've seen drones used for all sorts of things from film production to package delivery. Now, it seems Disney may be looking to leverage the aerial vehicles for its theme parks. The company has applied for three patents that employ the remote-controlled gadgets for floating projection displays and airborne marionettes. That latter option is meant to boost hovering parade characters that have been limited to gas-filled balloons with little mobility, while the former uses UAVs to float a screen over park visitors. The third scenario is one where the individual drones each carry an individual lighting rig to achieve the desire effect. Something like fireflies after dark, we'd surmise. All three projects would be commanded from a "ground control station" to coordinate flight paths.
via Engadget

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Aug 29, 2014

How movies synchronize the brains of an audience

posted by Larra Morris

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In one of his first forays into cinema science, Hasson found that when people watch a clip from the classic Western,The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, activity in several brain areas rises and falls at the same time in different individuals. The synched up brain regions included the primary auditory and visual cortex, as well as more specialized regions like the fusiform face area, which is important for (you guessed it) identifying faces, Hasson and colleagues reported in the journal Science in 2004.

More recently, he’s been trying to figure out what it is about movies that makes people’s brains tick together.

Not all movies, it turns out, have the same mind-melding power. Structured movies that use a lot of cinematic devices—cuts, and camera angles, and carefully composed shots designed to control viewers’ attention—do it to a greater extent than movies of unstructured reality.
via Wired

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Image: Uri Hasson

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