Oct 11, 2010

Cool Sci/Tech News in my Local Paper! (Links, videos, and more)

My local paper, the Charlotte Observer, has a great Science & Technology section every Monday.  Each week, it includes a wealth of interesting news. Although some of the information is culled from other sources,  there usually is a local twist.  For example, on Sunday, our newspaper came with 3D glasses, just in time to view 3D pictures in print, and online.

Below is a sample of recent "Sci/Tech" related articles in the Observer, along with related links.  (At the end of the post, I've added a few more links to other interesting "scie/tech" items of interest that recently crossed my path.)

3D and the Charlotte Observer

Why 3-D? Just because it could be fun (Rick Thames, Executive Director, Charlotte Observer)
Charlotte Observer's 3-D Gallery  (Online and in the paper.)
Article: Toshiba unveils glasses-free 3-D TV  (Associated Press, 10/5/10)

Thin skin for sensitive robots
"Engineers have developed a pressure-sensitive electronic material that could one day serve as skin for general purpose human-like robots".  The skin is made from a mesh of pressure-sensitive electronic nanowires made out of germanium-silicon. The mess provides information about force to sensors under the "skin". 
Original press release: Engineers make artificial skin out of nanowires (Sara Yang, UC Berkely News, 9/12/10)
optical image of a fully fabricated e-skin device
(Images: Ali Javey and Kuniharu Takei, UC Berkeley)

NELL :  Never-Ending Language Learning System
Computer teaches itself on the Web (Steve Lohr, NY Times)

NELL is a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Google.  The project uses Yahoo's research supercomputing cluster to do the heavy work. The research goal of this project is to "build a never-ending machine learning system that acquires the ability to extract structured information from unstructured web pages. If successful, this will result in a knowledge base (i.e. relational database) of structured information that mirrors the content of the web."

The project's progress and knowledge base is available on-line: http://rtw.ml.cmu.edu/rtw/resources Tom Mitchell, the Fredkin Professor of A.I. and Learning at Carnegie Mellon, is involved with this research.  

Below is a demonstration of Tom Mitchell's work in the area of "thought reading" with his colleague, Marcel Just: "We are specifically interested in algorithms that can learn to identify and track the cognitive processes that give rise to observed fMRI data."

"Professor of psychology Marcel Just and professor of artificial intelligence Tom Mitchell demonstrate how they are using brain imaging and machine learning to predict a subject's thoughts." -Carnegie Mellon University YouTube Channel

HTML 5 will make it easy for "them" to track your every Internet move, and raises concerns about online privacy and security.  

Charlotte Observer/Scitech    Highlighted Blogs:
He looks into the minds of animals, kids (T.DeLene Beeland, Charlotte Observer 10/10/10)
This article is about Jason Goldman and his research in the area of developmental psychology.  His research focuses on social cognition, which he writes about in his blogs:

Navigating the Aural Web
"The PI's goal in this project is to establish advanced design strategies for the aural navigation of complex Web information architectures, where users exclusively or primarily listen to, rather than look at, content and navigational prompts. Conventional on-screen visual displays may not work well, if at all, in many situations. The most obvious instances occur when persons who are blind or visually impaired need to use technologies designed for sighted users. A much more common situation, however, occurs with users of mobile devices. These users are often engaged in another activity (e.g., walking around a city or driving a car) where it is inconvenient, distracting or even dangerous to continuously look at the screen...." -Award Abstract #1018054

New Grants Aim to Boost Computer Science (Education Week, 10/8/10)

"Two federal grants that were just announced will together provide nearly $27 million to advance computer science education. The announcements come the same week that a new report was issued raising concerns that the subject is getting short shrift in schools. The National Science Foundation is providing a $12.5 million grant to UCLA to promote new and innovative computer science instruction in high schools through the use of mobile phones and Web technology. (The effort will also use that technology for standards-based math and science classes.) The project, dubbed MOBILIZE: Mobilizing for Innovative Computer Science Teaching and Learning, is a partnership between two UCLA centers and the Los Angeles Unified School District."  MOBILIZE website

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