Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Now You See It, Now You Don't: Time Cloak Created - made an entire event impossible to see -

Now You See It, Now You Don't: Time Cloak Created - made an entire event impossible to see - 

It's one thing to make an object invisible, like Harry Potter's mythical cloak. But scientists have made an entire event impossible to see. They have invented a time masker.
Think of it as an art heist that takes place before your eyes and surveillance cameras. You don't see the thief strolling into the museum, taking the painting down or walking away, but he did. It's not just that the thief is invisible -- his whole activity is.

What scientists at Cornell University did was on a much smaller scale, both in terms of events and time. It happened so quickly that it's not even a blink of an eye. Their time cloak lasts an incredibly tiny fraction of a fraction of a second. They hid an event for 40 trillionths of a second, according to a study appearing in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature.
We see events happening as light from them reaches our eyes. Usually it's a continuous flow of light. In the new research, however, scientists were able to interrupt that flow for just an instant.
Other newly created invisibility cloaks fashioned by scientists move the light beams away in the traditional three dimensions. The Cornell team alters not where the light flows but how fast it moves, changing in the dimension of time, not space.
They tinkered with the speed of beams of light in a way that would make it appear to surveillance cameras or laser security beams that an event, such as an art heist, isn't happening.
Another way to think of it is as if scientists edited or erased a split second of history. It's as if you are watching a movie with a scene inserted that you don't see or notice. It's there in the movie, but it's not something you saw, said study co-author Moti Fridman, a physics researcher at Cornell.
The scientists created a lens of not just light, but time. Their method splits light, speeding up one part of light and slowing down another. It creates a gap and that gap is where an event is masked.
"You kind of create a hole in time where an event takes place," said study co-author Alexander Gaeta, director of Cornell's School of Applied and Engineering Physics. "You just don't know that anything ever happened."
This is all happening in beams of light that move too fast for the human eye to see. Using fiber optics, the hole in time is created as light moves along inside a fiber much thinner than a human hair. The scientists shoot the beam of light out, and then with other beams, they create a time lens that splits the light into two different speed beams that create the effect of invisibility by being too fast or too slow. The whole work is a mess of fibers on a long table and almost looks like a pile of spaghetti, Fridman said.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/01/04/now-see-it-now-dont-time-cloak-created/?test=latestnews

Robots Patrol South Korean Prisons at Night - more friendly and appealing to humans -

Robots Patrol South Korean Prisons at Night - more friendly and appealing to humans - 
korea prison robot 2

The South Korean Ministry of Justice announced that they would be adding three new security guards to a prison in Pohang. Normally that wouldn’t be news worthy, but these three particular guards happen to be robots. Developed by ETRI and Kyonggi University, the five foot tall four wheeled guards will patrol at night looking for suspicious activity in cells, and monitor prisoner health. Any situation that develops will be relayed to human guards rather than dealt with by the robots directly. The project cost 1 billion won (~$886,000 USD) and will begin with a month long trial in March of next year. If successful it will continue on at Ponhang and possibly the rest of the country. The inclusion of prison patrolling robots is just the latest example of how South Korea is looking to increase the reputation and range of its robotics industry, with new machines appearing everywhere from classrooms to battlefields.

While most of its physical systems are ready, the robots are reportedly undergoing improvements to make them more friendly and appealing to humans. That seems strange for prison guards but it fits with some of South Korea’s previous projects in robotics. Almost exactly one year earlier than this recent announcement, the South Korean Ministry of Education announced that they would place a robot in every kindergarten classroom by 2013. Many of those education bots allow for remote communication (telepresence) and are designed to serve as surrogate tutors to the young children as well as teaching aids. On the other side of the spectrum, South Korea has also developed automated gun turrets for its demilitarized zone with North Korea. Those turrets can detect soldiers and vehicles up to three kilometers away. The prison robots represent a sort of middle ground. Smart enough to detect movement, injury, or hostility from inmates but friendly enough to ensure their endless night patrols don’t overly provoke the prisoners. With South Korea’s dedication to finding new applications for its growing robotics industry it may only be a matter of time before similar machines are introduced into new fields.

Read more -

Comcast's $10 Broadband Hard to Qualify For - NBC Universal Merger Condition A Little Hollow -

Comcast's $10 Broadband Hard to Qualify For - NBC Universal Merger Condition A Little Hollow - 

To get their acquisition of NBC approved, Comcast proposed a condition requiring they offer $10 1.5 Mbps broadband to low income homes. As we pointed out last summer, Comcast proposed this condition because once potential applicants jump through a number of hoops, Comcast knew that very few low income families would actually qualify. 

Applicants have to qualify for the National School Lunch Program, can't owe Comcast money, can't currently have any Comcast service including basic (common even in low-income homes), and can't have had any Comcast service in the last ninety days. Should you actually qualify, Comcast is only offering the deal for two to three years -- so you won't qualify for long.

The policy been a massive PR bounty for Comcast, the company launching the program in numerous cities to great political fanfare. The FCC liked the policy so much, they put it front and center as part of their "Connect to Compete" plan, making political hay from promises to connect low-income families. Except as one Comcast insider told us last summer most low-income folks, as Comcast knew, fail to qualify. Groups like Action United are only now just realizing the plan is a little empty. According to the group, people aren't applying because the plan isn't being advertised, and those who do apply usually get rejected:
Action United said that of the 107 families who qualified for the school-lunch program, only eight had applied for Internet Essentials. Two of the families were approved and Comcast was sending them paperwork, said Elly Porter-Webb, Action United parent organizer. The group says it has about 44,000 members in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Allentown. Comcast told the other families they were not eligible because of past unpaid cable bills or because they had an existing Internet service, even though the families had children in the federal school-lunch program. "There are too many obstacles," Porter-Webb said.
Of course Comcast knew all of this when the deal was created, and was very fortunate to get the government to sign off on a condition that involves them doing very little actual work at very little cost. It's slightly better than Comcast doing nothing for low income folks, but it's a shining example of the kind of industry promises, FCC programs and regulatory conditions that wind up being 90% hollow upon closer inspection.


Planned Parenthood’s Annual Report: Got $487.4M in Tax Money, Did 329,445 Abortions -

Planned Parenthood’s Annual Report: Got $487.4M in Tax Money, Did 329,445 Abortions - 

According to its latest annual report, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) received $487.4 million in tax dollars over a twelve-month period and performed 329,455 abortions.

In addition, the number of adoption referrals made by the organization continued to decline.

The latest annual report covers the period from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, the PPFA’s fiscal year. The report states that the organization received “government health services grants and reimbursements” totaling $487.4 million.

Previous Planned Parenthood annual reports showed total funding from “government grants and contracts” (which were $363.2 million in 2009), while this year’s report also accounts for payments from Medicaid managed care plans among the payments the group receives from government .

When compared with previous annual reports, the latest one shows an almost steady increase in the number of abortions performed at its clinics: In 2006, Planned Parenthood did 289,750 abortions; in 2007, it did 305,310; in 2009, it did 331,796; and, in 2010, it did 329,445--a small decrease from the previous year.


Microsoft has celebrated the imminent demise of version 6 of its Internet Explorer browser by baking a cake -

Microsoft has celebrated the imminent demise of version 6 of its Internet Explorer browser by baking a cake - 
Cake saying Goodbye IE6

The software giant held the light-hearted celebration as it revealed that the program was used by less than 1% of US internet surfers.

It is keen to kill off the old version of the browser and persuade users to move to IE8 or 9.

Meanwhile rival Google has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown on the promotion of its Chrome browser.

Chrome climbdown
It has downgraded Chrome in its search listings after the discovery that a marketing campaign paid bloggers to promote a video about it.

The search giant has distanced itself from the campaign, blaming third-party marketing firm Essence Digital.

The issue was discovered by Aaron Wall, who wrote in his SEO Book blog, how he found that a search for "This post is sponsored by Google" threw up more than 400 pages written as part of a marketing campaign.

Search expert Danny Sullivan said the revelation was "jaw-dropping".

"Google, the company that has been fighting against paid links and 'thin' content seems to be behind a campaign that's generating both on behalf of its Chrome browser. File this under 'what were they thinking?'" he wrote on his SearchEngine blog.

Google told the BBC that it had never commissioned Essence Digital to approach bloggers and place sponsored links.

In its own statement, Essence Digital said: "Google never approved a sponsored-post campaign. They only agreed to buy online video ads. Google have consistently avoided paid postings to promote their products, because in their view these kind of promotions are not transparent or in the best interests of users.

"We apologise to Google who clearly didn't authorise this."

Over at Microsoft headquarters, the mood was more upbeat.

"Time to pop open the champagne because based on the latest data from Net Applications, IE6 usages in the US has now officially dropped below 1%," blogged Roger Capriotti, Microsoft's director of Internet Explorer marketing.

"We hope this means more developers and IT pros can consider IE6 a 'low priority' at this point and stop spending their time having to support such an outdated browser," he added.

In dropping below 1% of usage, the United States joins Austria, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, which have already seen usage fall to very low levels.

In the UK, IE6 usage remains at about 1.4%, although some countries have far higher usage levels. In China, for example, it remains at about 25%.

Richard Edwards, a principal analyst at research firm Ovum, is unsurprised Microsoft is glad to see the back of IE6.

"I think it was rated one of the worst software products of all time by one tech magazine at the time of its release," he said.

The browser was plagued by security issues which has its own knock-on effect, he thinks.

"In many ways, corporate computer networks have been locked down since partly because of the vulnerabilities found in IE6," said Mr Edwards.


‘Virtual sky’ mimics the great outdoors for the cubicle-bound - LED light sky mimics passing clouds on a sunny day -

‘Virtual sky’ mimics the great outdoors for the cubicle-bound - LED light sky mimics passing clouds on a sunny day - 
This ceiling is designed to make staff feel like they are working outside.

For office workers longing to catch a glimpse of blue sky out the window, a “virtual sky” ceiling just might do the trick.

The LED light sky mimics passing clouds on a sunny day — for a price, according to a news release from German developer Fraunhofer IAO.

Fraunhofer hopes to sell the ceiling for use in conference rooms for about $1,316 per square metre. (A U.S. supplier sells standard ceiling tiles approximately the same size at about $100 for a box of 30.)

The company believes the price will go down as it sells more of the novel product, which replicates the feelings of “spaciousness and freedom” people experience outdoors.

But don’t worry about a loss of productivity, said Dr. Matthias Bues, head of department at the IAO, in the news release. Instead, the fluctuating light will “promote concentration and heighten alertness.”

While the virtual sky may sound like a magic trick from Harry Potter, it is made of multiple LED boards with 288 lights each. A diffuser film blurs out the individual lights and brightens the room consistently.

Blue, red, green and white LEDs are used to create the full light spectrum and to simulate lighting conditions on a cloudy day. The 34 square metre prototype sky used 34,560 LED lights.

The developers tested the product on ten volunteers by having them work under the lights for three days. They varied the speed of the clouds — static, slow moving, fast paced — before letting the volunteers choose their preferred speed on the fourth day. Eight chose the fast lighting.


Pepsi Says Mountain Dew Can Dissolve Mouse Carcasses - would have dissolved dead mouse before man could have found it -

Pepsi Says Mountain Dew Can Dissolve Mouse Carcasses - would have dissolved dead mouse before man could have found it - 

Pepsi Co., facing a lawsuit from a man who claims to have found a mouse in his Mountain Dew can, has an especially creative, if disgusting, defense: their soda would have dissolved a dead mouse before the man could have found it. An Illinois man sued Pepsi in 2009 after he claims he "spat out  the soda to reveal a dead mouse," the Madison County Record reports. He claims he sent the mouse to Pepsi, which then "destroyed" the remains after he allowed them to test it, according to his complaint. Most shudder-worthy, however, is that Pepsi's lawyers also found experts to testify, based on the state of the remains sent to them that, "the mouse would have dissolved in the soda had it been in the can from the time of its bottling until the day the plaintiff drank it," according to the Record. (It would have become a "jelly-like substance," according to Pepsi, adds LegalNewsline.) This seems like a winning-the-battle-while-surrendering-the-war kind of strategy that hinges on winning the argument that "our product is essentially a can of battery acid." The lawyers still appear to be lawyering behind the scenes but we cannot wait for this to come to trial (though we think a trial is about as likely as the chances of us "Doing the Dew" again).


Cadillac Builds a Near Theft-Proof Escalade - has announced a slew of modifications to the 2012 model -

Cadillac Builds a Near Theft-Proof Escalade - has announced a slew of modifications to the 2012 model - 

If you own a Cadillac Escalade there’s a good chance you won’t tomorrow.
According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, the luxury SUV has the highest theft frequency of any vehicle, with claims made on more than 10 out of every 1,000 sold. (For comparison, the Escalade's polar opposite, the Toyota Prius is near the bottom of the list at a rate of .8 cars per 1,000.)
Although this reputation hasn’t seemed to hurt sales of the pricey but popular ride too much, Cadillac has announced a slew of modifications to the 2012 model intended to make it nearly theft-proof.
Along with updated electronic key encryption, the latest Escalade gets a strengthened steering column lock, new wheel locks to protect its expensive rims, and an available inclination sensor that that sets off the alarm if the angle of the parked car changes as it is being lifted or towed. There’s also an enhanced “shock sensor” option that can detect if a window has been broken into, to help prevent grab and go thefts.
Of course if all else fails, the Escalade also comes equipped with GM’s subscription OnStar telematics system, which can track the location of a stolen vehicle and disable it remotely.
Cadillac says that “combined, these technologies comprise one of the most-extensive sets of theft-deterrent measures available for this type of vehicle and meet or exceed security specifications among global vehicle security analysts”
Of course they left out one thing that many of the Escalade’s high profile and net worth owners add as an aftermarket option:
A bodyguard.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/01/03/cadillac-builds-near-theft-proof-escalade/

The new murder capital of Canada is ... Edmonton - posting 47 slayings last year -

The new murder capital of Canada is ... Edmonton - posting 47 slayings last year - 

The community of Abbotsford has shed the title of homicide capital of Canada, and police are crediting a provocative campaign against gangs as making the difference.

The Fraser Valley city of 137,000 went from recording 11 murders — most gang-related — in 2009 to none in 2011 after four deaths in 2010.

Based on the Statistics Canada figures for communities with a population of over 100,000, Abbotsford was on top on a per-capita basis in 2009.

Edmonton now has the dubious distinction as Canada’s murder capital, posting 47 slayings last year.

“What we were fortunate to have was the support of civic leaders and the citizens when we brought forward the message, which was we’ve got a problem with gangs,” said Const. Ian MacDonald.

Along with its prevention program that targeted schools, police formed a gang suppression unit to deal with gangs.

The message hit home for residents and police when two high school students turned up dead in 2009 after getting involved as “foot soldiers” with rival gangs.

“When you start seeing kids who are 17 and 18 years, just at the beginning points of their life and their adulthood and not necessarily knowing what they’re involved in getting taken out, that’s when everybody in our department and everybody in our community stood up and went, ‘This is different, we’ve got to do something.’”

The department spread its anti-gang message on drugs, guns and profit to parents and to middle and elementary schools and the public, with 25,000 people attending the presentation at dozens of forums — “anywhere that would take us,” MacDonald said.

Police also formed Business Watch so business owners could share information about shoplifters and who was buying their goods if gang activity was suspected.

And the department created its own version of Bar Watch, also used in other communities, so bar owners could work together to keep out gangsters.

MacDonald said the Abbotsford Police Department’s recipe for suppressing gang violence involved being honest with citizens when a dose of reality was the only solution to the seemingly endless death toll.

“The citizens in any city have to be engaged and they have to be willing to contribute and be part of the solution or you don’t stand much of a chance.”

Read more -