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Gadget reads users' minds from their grip - tech - 17 February 2009 - New Scientist

MIT researchers have developed a "bar of soap" device consisting of a front and rear LCD display (to simulate a smartphone) that is able to change its display based on how it is being gripped. The researchers collected data from 13 users and were able to isolate the grip patterns that distinguish among remote control, PDA, camera, games controller, and cellular phone. The approach is 95% accurate when trained for a particular user and 70% accurate for an unfamiliar user.

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Fake finger reveals the secrets of touch : Nature News

Experiments with a pressure sensor covered with artificial fingerprints seems to indicate that the ridges amplify vibrations caused by surface roughness, making it possible for deeply-embedded nerve fibers to resolve surface texture. An experiment compared a sensor with and without surface microridges, and discovered that the ridges amplified surface roughness data by more than 100 times. These results could be used to improve the sensitivity of next-generation tactile sensors by coating them with fine surface ridges.
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Scientists Hack Cellphone to Analyze Blood, Detect Disease, Help Developing Nations

"Using only an LED, plastic light filter and some wires, scientists at UCLA have modded a cellphone into a portable blood tester capable of detecting HIV, malaria and other illnesses." In essence, a coherent light source illuminates a blood sample, a picture of which is captured by the cell phone. Custom software analyzes the sample and generates a preliminary diagnosis in minutes, at least enough to warrant finding a more qualified physician. The mod is intended as a cheap alternative for blood testing in remote villages.
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Spy moths in the US military

A moth remotely controlled by the release of chemicals from micro-fluidic implants.

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A US company claims that its Palm Pistol, a 9-mm specifically designed for people with conditions like arthritis that have trouble firing a standard handgun, has been granted FDA approval as a Class I medical device. The FDA hasn't issued a statement about it, just admitted that there has been discussion about it. The documentation that has been seen seems to indicate that the facility, not the gun, has been successfully registered with the FDA.

Scientists has discovered a gene variant that seems to correlate with whether or not a person responds will to placebo treatment for fear of public humiliation. The gene is involved in serotonin production so it is believed that those who have the gene variant are less affected by "fear" tests so respond better to the placebo treatment. Further studies are required to determine if the gene is generally linked to good response to placebo treatment or whether this is only specific to this disorder.

An Israeli medical researcher has solved the problem of how to use a laser to seal wounds. The trick is to monitor the temperature of the wound to ensure that it stays between 60 and 70 degrees Celsius. A "solder" of water-soluble protein is applied as the laser is moved over the wound. The result heals faster, has less inflammation, and has less risk of infection that traditional sutures.

A Vancouver company has developed a wind turbine that could generate up to 50% more power than current designs. The trick is using an electronic transmission that lets it continue to operate at high efficiency even when they blades are moving slowly, such as under low-wind conditions. it also makes the system more responsive to gusts so it can maintain high efficiency even under chaotic wind conditions.

An accident by a graduate student attempting to make a solar cell has yielded a high-conductivity photodetector that might one day lead to cheaper cameras with higher optical resolution and lower sensor noise.
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Scientists have developed a solar cell that captures the entire spectrum of solar illumination, thanks to an anti-reflective coating, and does so with light from any angle. The new solar cell absorbs more than 96% of the available solar energy, compared to the 67% absorbed by standard silicon-based solar cells. The new approach should work with any photovoltaic material.

US engineers have developed a method for detecting water turbulence which could improve the maneuverability of submarines. Taking a page from Nature's book, they developed a set of artificial neuromasts, microscopic hairs used by fish to sense water movement, by coating polymer "hair", mounted on a peizoelectric base, with a hydrogel. The result is a sensor 40 times more sensitive that those currently in use.

According to the CBC, writer Michael Crichton has died at the age 66 after a long battle with cancer.

A record number of Americans turned up to vote in their recent election. More than 64% of voters cast ballots, the best voter turnout in 44 years, and higher than Canada's voter turnout rate of 59% in our most recent election.

A recent Harvard study found that students who practice music outperform those who do not on tests of verbal ability and visual pattern completion.

For your reading pleasure:
C|Net's "50 most significant moments in Internet History"
Simon Pegg's Guardian rant on "speedy zombies".

And a rant of my own: CNN trumpets "hologram" that wasn't really a hologram. Although the reporter was captured in 3D, the image was added to the video feed during transmission and was not displayed in the studio. By definition, a hologram is projected into space so what they created was not a hologram.

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Ottawa taxi drivers see the light - A recent knifepoint robbery of an Ottawa taxi driver has illustrated the benefit of in-car security cameras. The camera installed in the car of the driver that was yielded a video and photos of the cabbie's assailant.

There might be life, or something like it, on Titan - A graduate student at the University of Arizona postulates that ice volcanoes (volcanoes that spew liquid water instead of lava) on Titan might remain unfrozen long enough to hydrolyze into complex hydrocarbons called tholins, much the same way life is believed to have been formed on Earth.

Researchers create eSkin - Japanese researchers have developed a flexible, stretchable conductive "skin" that, when combined with sensors, could allow robots (or other devices, like steering wheels) to sense heat and pressure.

Hacking pacemakers - A recent study discovered that remotely-programmable Pacemakers can be easily hacked because they use an unencrypted communication protocol.

Monitoring the obesity of the population - A British engineer has designed what her refers to as a Static Obesity Logging Device that is able to measure the BMI of people that pass within it's field of view. The data can then be remotely accessed to determine the BMI statistics of people who recently walked near the device.
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A multi-national group of researchers is developing a robot for rescue missions employing artificial whiskers to help it navigate. The whiskers would be used to generate a 3D model of the environment to augment a visual system. To this end, they are studying exactly how the average rat is capable of using its whiskers to navigate and obtain information about its environment.
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Purdue University researchers have developed a tire that is able to predict its own failure. Sensors can alert drivers to low or unbalanced tire pressure, degradation of tread depth, or punctures.
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Source: PhysOrg
You've heard the old joke about selling swamp land in Florida or the Golden Gate Bridge, but a company in China was attempting to sell plots of land on the moon. Lunar Embassy to China had sold 49 acres of land to 34 customers before Chinese authorities stepped in to remind them that no individual can yet claim ownership of the moon. The company has since been fined and order to cease "selling" plots.

Source: PhysOrg
It appears that Mars has more water than originally thought - a lot more. A recent radar survey of the Martian south pole revealed a frozen mass that is more than 90% water and as much as 3.7 kilometres thick in places. To imagine the quantity this represents, image enough water to cover Mars' surface to a depth of 11 metres.

Source: ABC News
According to a report issued by Symantec, the United States is the source of the most malicious computer activity of any country. More than 1/3rd of all computer attacks in 2006 originated from computers in the US. This doesn't necessarily mean that most of the people causing the problem are from the US; the source of an attack could be a computer that has been infected to act as surrogates.

Source: BBC News
New Zealand-based Zephyr has unveiled a new smart fabric that "...gathers information on heart beat, skin temperature, posture, activity and breathing rate when against the skin." They have already entered into an agreement with the US Department of Defense to help them monitor the status of soldiers in the field. The fabric might also be used by athletes to monitor how they react to different training regimes, or patients involved in drug trials to record their physiological in detail.

Source: BBC News
Devolo, a German company, has developed a method for transmitting television signals using power lines. A special outlet plug is used as a mini-hub to insert data signals into the electrical wires within a house. Data can then be recovered using special plugs from any power outlet. The system can currently transmit only a single television channel signal, but is working at transmitting multiple channels.
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Source: PhysOrg
University of Texas researchers have developed a way to marry light-sensitive nanoparticle films to neurons. The scientists layered two types of ultrathin films on glass before coating that with clay and amino acids. Light passing through the glass causes the sandwiched material to sets up a current through the amino acids. Any cells in contact with this material are depolarized by the current, so if the cell is a neuron then you would have replicated the effect of sending a signal to the neuron. Not only does this provide a way to transmit a signal directly to neurons, it could eventually be adapted to augment or replace retinal cells by converting light into neural impulses. The process would remove the need to implant batteries or perform complex data processing so would be suitable for chronic implantation.

Source: EurekAlert!
Researchers at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience have just created BrainMaps.org (found at http://brainmaps.org/) consisting of 50 Terabytes of brain imagery covering a variety of species. The data presents, free to all visitors, detailed images of the brain down to the microscopic level. Think of it as brain porn, and lots of it.

Source: PhysOrg
Paul Hellyer, a former Canadian Defense minister, has informed the Ottawa Citizen of what we need to do to combat global warming.... the US government has to make public all the alien technology they have accumulated since the Roswell incident in 1947. When compared to supposedly "realistic" ideas like giant space mirrors, his suggestion appears to be just as feasible any anything else being floated recently (floated being an excellent term to infer the quality of some of these ideas).

Source: PhysOrg
Scientists have developed what they are referring to as a "tricorder" which could bring chemical analysis to the streets. The hand held device is a type of miniature mass spectrometer that ionizes particles in the air immediately in front of the device. The device is small (less than 20 pounds), fast (processing times of less than 1 second), and accurate (it was able to detect traces of cocaine on a $50 bill). Although not a replacement for a full laboratory analysis, it maybe sufficient for alerting people to potential contaminants.

Source: ABC News
A recent study has apparently confirmed that today's students have become more narcissistic than students were in "my day" (mid-1980s). The results were based on data collected from 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) between 1982 and 2006. The NPI scores have apparently risen steadily between 1982 and 2006.

January 2010

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