computer science

Science Art: Giant Animals: Modern and Extinct (detail), by Mary McLain

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These are prehistoric animals compared to their modern relatives and, for scale, a human. A human who’s interested in what they’re like… except when…

Look out! HELL PIG!

There are plenty more of the majestic giants (and some terrifying ones) at NPR’s Skunk Bear tumblog.

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Science Art: Jupiter's Rings by LORRI, 2007.

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The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped this photo of Jupiter’s ring system on February 24, 2007, from a distance of 7.1 million kilometers (4.4 million miles).

This processed image shows a narrow ring, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) wide, with a fainter sheet of material inside it. The faint glow extending in from the ring is likely caused by fine dust that diffuses in toward Jupiter. This is the outer tip of the “halo,” a cloud of dust …

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SONG: Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)

SONG: “Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “NASA Windbots Could Explore Gas Giant Jupiter”, Sky News, 24 July 2015, as used in the post as used in the post “Windbots to explore Jupiter – the bumpier the ride, the better..”

ABSTRACT: The planet Jupiter is 35 light-minutes from Earth (give or take a couple of minutes depending on where in its orbit the planet is).

So a robot floating in the turbulent winds of Jupiter would take that long to send a mes…

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Science Art: Doree, Zeus, Faber by Edward Donovan

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Three names for one little fish. And those are just the beginning.

I found this one on the Scientific Illustration tumblog, which quoted Wikipedia on the doree (etc.):

John Dory, St Pierre or Peter’s Fish, refers to fish of the genus Zeus, especially Zeus faber, of widespread distribution. It is an edible benthic coastal marine fish with a laterally compressed olive-yellow body which has a large dark spot, and long spines on the dorsal fin. The dark spot is used to flash an ‘evil ey…

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Science Art: Her Majesty's Cochins; Imported in 1843, published 1904.

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These are ostensibly Cochin chickens, or forerunners of what we’d call Cochins today. They’re a breed with a *lot* of character, and are uniquely suited, temperamentally, for being “pet” chickens moreso than egg factories or walking meat supplies. Despite the name (after a part of India), they’re originally from China.

This picture is from The Asiatics; Brahmas, Cochins and Langshans, all varieties, their origin; peculiarities of shape and color; egg production; their ma…

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Science Art: Soaking Up the Rays of a Sun-Like Star, by NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle, 2015.

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This is an artist’s impression of a planet just discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission that’s gotten the folks at SETI all excited.

It’s the most Earth-like planet yet discovered. Kepler 452b sits in the “Goldilocks” zone around its star, not too hot and not too cold, and is about the same size (or is a little larger) and made of something like the same stuff as the planet we’re sitting around on right now. It takes 365 days to orbit around its sun, too. NASA’s calling it ou…

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Graphene makes *different* computer chips.

4 September 2013 // 0 Comments

University of California, Riverside, researchers have made a very small breakthrough in the way computers work… one that might lead to big changes soon. They’re using atom-thin sheets of carbon to create an entirely new kind of logic circuit: Graphene is a single-atom thick carbon crystal with unique properties beneficial for electronics including extremely high electron mobility and phonon thermal conductivity. However, graphene does not have an energy band gap, which is a specific property of semiconductor materials that separate electrons from holes and allows a transistor implemented with a given material to be completely switched off. … “Most researchers have tried to change graphene to make it more like conventional semiconductors for applications in logic circuits,” [Alexander Balandin, a professor of electrical engineering,] said. “This usually results in degradation of graphene properties. For example, attempts to induce an energy band gap commonly result in decreasing electron mobility while still not leading to sufficiently large […]

SONG: Better angels.

24 July 2013 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Better Angels” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media,” The Guardian, 17 March 2011, as used in the post “Sock-puppet G-men keeping tabs on the Twitter.” ABSTRACT: If I was a soldier and my assigned weapon was an online persona, I think the wounds I would suffer would be in my personality. Unreal bits working their way into the genuine flesh. Falling for the enemy like all the good double agents do – only this way, it happens again and again and again. Of course, it’s kinda funny, too. Sock puppets always are. So. This took longer than I thought to get together. And once everything was pulled together, my trusty Mackie didn’t want to send a clean signal to the laptop… so all the vocals (which I originally wanted to sort of layer and layer, half-whispered lo-fi shoegazer style) […]

Hipster heat maps and yuppie data visualizations

4 July 2013 // 0 Comments

Slate brings psychogeography a step closer to the mainstream, highlighting software that uses word frequency to show what kinds of people are in what parts of the city: Of all the data goldmines that social media companies have acquired over the past few years, Yelp’s stash of 39 million ratings and reviews of everything from dive bars to hair salons to auto mechanics may be among the most underrated. But this week the company put that information to brilliant use, building what it calls Wordmaps — heat maps that show the geographic density of keywords like hipster, frat, yuppie, and tourist for 14 major cities. …[T]hey also highlight newer and lesser-known pockets of trendiness, like Judah and 45th Street in San Francisco or North Mississippi Avenue in Portland. … And for those new to a city, Yelp’s maps could be the quickest way yet to figure out which neighborhoods to check out—or avoid at all […]

Sock-puppet G-men keeping tabs on the Twitter.

18 June 2013 // 1 Comment

The Guardian reveals a genuine government plot to infiltrate social networks with Fakey McFake IDs: A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an “online persona management service” that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world. … The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as “sock puppets” – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same. The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries”. Centcom spokesman Commander […]

Google brings the internet to Africa. By blimp.

29 May 2013 // 0 Comments

The Telegraph reports on (or, at least, repeats Wired‘s reporting on) the dirigibles spreading the World Wide Web to places no internet has gone before: “To help enable the campaign, Google has been putting together an ecosystem of low-cost smartphones running Android on low-power microprocessors,” Wired said. “Rather than traditional infrastructure, Google’s signal will be carried by high-altitude platforms – balloons and blimps – that can transmit to areas of hundreds of square kilometres.” Google has a growing track record of installing its own networks; in 2010 it experimented with broadcasting data signals in the spaces unused by TV networks, and it has since expanded that programme to Africa. The company is also installing its own superfast fibre broadband network in the Midwest, called Google Fiber.

Computing with light.

14 May 2013 // 0 Comments

Science Daily isn’t talking about fiberoptics. They’re looking at the latest breakthroughs that take the “electrons” out of “electronics” by using photons to process information: Scientists from the Group of Philip Walther from the Faculty of Physics, University of Vienna succeeded in prototyping a new and highly resource efficient model of a quantum computer — the boson sampling computer. … The huge advantage of photons — a particular type of bosons — lies in their high mobility. … “According to the laws of quantum physics, the photons seem to take all possible paths at the same time. This is known as superposition. Amazingly, one can record the outcome of the computation rather trivially: one measures how many photons exit in which output of the network,” explains Philip Walther from the Faculty of Physics. Photon computers can go way, way faster than electronic computers because they can literally be in more places at once. Superposition. Instead […]

Forget chess-playing computers. Here’s a baseball robot.

1 May 2013 // 0 Comments

Wired (via CNN) is sizing up the new guy on the mound – a mechanical brain designed to outsmart pitchers: Researchers at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology have built a small humanoid robot that plays baseball — or something like it. The bot can hold a fan-like bat and take swings at flying plastic balls, and though it may miss at first, it can learn with each new pitch and adjust its swing accordingly. Eventually, it will make contact. The robot, you see, is also equipped with an artificial brain. Based on an Nvida graphics processor, or GPU, kinda like the one that renders images on your desktop or laptop, this brain mimics the function of about 100,000 neurons, and using a software platform developed by Nvidia, the scientists have programmed these neurons for the task at hand, as they discussed in a recent paper published […]

Military navigator half as big as the engraving on the back of a penny.

12 April 2013 // 0 Comments

And, Wired says, about as thick, too. But this chip can still do everything a GPS can do… without the satellites: At the University of Michigan on Wednesday, researchers for Darpa announced they’d created a very small chip containing a timing and inertial measurement unit, or TIMU, that’s as thick as a couple human hairs. When the satellites we rely on for navigation can’t be reached — whether they’ve been jammed or you’re in a densely packed city — the chip contains everything you’ll need to figure out how to get from place to place. It’s got gyroscopes, accelerometers and a master clock, to calculate orientation, acceleration and time. The TIMU is fabricated from silicon dioxide and contained within a 10 cubic millimeter package — meaning it can just about fit within the Lincoln Memorial rendered on the back of a penny.

Real money. Virtual currency. Hard rules.

2 April 2013 // 0 Comments

New Scientist adds up the arguments over bitcoins, the computer-generated form of money. We’re now seeing plans to regulate the imaginary currency: Virtual currencies are to be regulated by the US Treasury after the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) moved to clarify their status under anti-money-laundering laws. The move comes as Bitcoins doubled in value in just a few weeks to hit a record high of more than $70 each, possibly fuelled by the banking crisis in Cyprus and the rest of Europe. … Bitcoin “miners”, who run software to create Bitcoins, might also have to register if they sell the newly minted currency for its real equivalent. Interesting to see how the currency survives this.

Lockheed Martin’s quantum computer steps into the limelight.

25 March 2013 // 0 Comments

New York Times has a pretty good profile of what could be the next big breakthrough in computing – the chips that understand “maybe”: [A] powerful new type of computer that is about to be commercially deployed by a major American military contractor is taking computing into the strange, subatomic realm of quantum mechanics. In that infinitesimal neighborhood, common sense logic no longer seems to apply. A one can be a one, or it can be a one and a zero and everything in between — all at the same time. It sounds preposterous, particularly to those familiar with the yes/no world of conventional computing. But academic researchers and scientists at companies like Microsoft, I.B.M. and Hewlett-Packard have been working to develop quantum computers. Now, Lockheed Martin — which bought an early version of such a computer from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems two years ago — is confident enough in the technology to upgrade […]

SONG: Spirit of the Words

23 February 2013 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Spirit of the Words” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on Computer program roots out ancestors of modern tongues”, Nature, 11 Feb 2013, as used in the post “’Bituqen’ is Proto-Polynesian for ‘star.’ A computer figured that out.” ABSTRACT: I kinda knew I wanted to write a song about this story as soon as I read it; had no idea it would wind up being this song. I think given a little more time, I’d have worked the lyrics into more of a narrative – as it is, they’re mostly just fragments. The idea I had was that language is a hallmark of personhood, so a computer that is rebuilding dead languages – giving them new life – seems, in some way, to be a good way toward being a kind of “alive” itself. So, here’s this. Trapped in the box, bringing life to things, kind of half-alive […]

“Bituqen” is Proto-Polynesian for “star.” A computer figured that out.

12 February 2013 // 1 Comment

Nature reports on the algorithm researchers have devised to find (or recreate) the ancestors of modern languages: Statistician Alexandre Bouchard-Côté of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and his co-workers say that by making the reconstruction of ancestral languages much simpler, their method should facilitate the testing of hypotheses about how languages evolve. … Bouchard-Côté and colleagues’ method can factor in a large number of languages to improve the quality of reconstruction, and it uses rules that handle possible sound changes in flexible, probabilistic ways. The program requires researchers to input a list of words in each language, together with their meanings, and a phylogenetic ‘language tree’ showing how each language is related to the others. Linguists routinely construct such trees using techniques borrowed from evolutionary biology. … The algorithm can automatically identify cognate words (ones with the same root) in the languages. It then applies rules known to govern sound changes to […]

The guy who invented virtual reality – he thinks there’s something wrong with the internet.

9 January 2013 // 0 Comments

Smithsonian magazine is comparing computer pioneer Jaron Lanier – one of the people who, indirectly, made what you’re reading (and the way you’re reading it) possible – to a Cold War double agent. Because he’s turned against the web he helped create: The colorful, prodigy-like persona of Jaron Lanier—he was in his early 20s when he helped make virtual reality a reality—was born among a small circle of first-generation Silicon Valley utopians and artificial-intelligence visionaries. Many of them gathered in, as Lanier recalls, “some run-down bungalows [I rented] by a stream in Palo Alto” in the mid-’80s, where, using capital he made from inventing the early video game hit Moondust, he’d started building virtual-reality machines. In his often provocative and astute dissenting book You Are Not a Gadget, he recalls one of the participants in those early mind-melds describing it as like being “in the most interesting room in the world.” Together, these digital futurists […]

NASA beefs up security after laptop theft.

16 November 2012 // 0 Comments

ITProPortal.com reports on a heightened state of alert in the halls of the government offices in charge of the very biggest missiles there are… because somebody just stole a kinda sensitive laptop: The theft occurred on 31 October, and included a NASA laptop and official NASA documents issued to an employee who works at the space agency’s Washington DC headquarters. “The laptop contained records of sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) for a large number of NASA employees, contractors, and others,” stated a notice posted on spaceref.com. “Although the laptop was password protected, it did not have whole disk encryption software, which means the information on the laptop could be accessible to unauthorized individuals.” NASA did not reveal how many employees the theft might affect, but said it could take up to 60 days to notify all those involved. The agency said it is “thoroughly assessing and investigating the incident, and taking every possible action to […]

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