LIGO Generations (Trailer)

Space.com - 1 hour 57 min ago
Four generations of researchers are on the hunt for gravitational waves.
Categories: Science

Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague

Slashdot - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 11:45pm
Foreign Policy has an in-depth look at the contents of a laptop reportedly seized this year in Syria from a stronghold of the organization now known as the Islamic State, and described as belonging to a Tunisian national ("Muhammed S."). The "hidden documents" folder of the machine, says the report, contained a vast number of documents, including ones describing and justifying biological weapons: The laptop's contents turn out to be a treasure trove of documents that provide ideological justifications for jihadi organizations -- and practical training on how to carry out the Islamic State's deadly campaigns. They include videos of Osama bin Laden, manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another. ... The information on the laptop makes clear that its owner is a Tunisian national named Muhammed S. who joined ISIS in Syria and who studied chemistry and physics at two universities in Tunisia's northeast. Even more disturbing is how he planned to use that education: The ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals. ... "The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge," the document states.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Ask Slashdot: What Old Technology Can't You Give Up?

Slashdot - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 11:04pm
An anonymous reader writes: It's the year 2014, and I still have a floppy drive installed on my computer. I don't know why; I don't own any floppy disks, and I haven't used one in probably a decade. But every time I put together a PC, it feels incomplete if I don't have one. I also have a Laserdisc player collecting dust at the bottom of my entertainment center, and I still use IRC to talk to a few friends. Software, hardware, or otherwise, what technology have you had a hard time letting go? (I don't want to put a hard limit on age, so you folks using flip-phones or playing on Dreamcasts or still inexplicably coding in Perl 4, feel free to contribute.)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Gadget Lab Podcast: Can I Use My iPhone’s NFC to Pay for My Uber?

Wired News - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 10:31pm
This week, Mat and Mike talk about the latest leaks out of Cupertino, the ongoing fight between Uber and Lyft, and the hot gadget on everyone's holiday wish list, the Knee Defender.






Categories: Science

Mathematical Predictions for the iPhone 6

Wired News - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 10:16pm
Ok, this isn’t really math. Let’s instead call this a plain old model (you could argue it’s math if you like). Suppose I look at the historical progression of features on the previous iPhones. Could I use this to make a prediction about future iPhone models? In particular, what can I say about the rumored […]






Categories: Science

Study: Social Networks Have Negative Effect On Individual Welfare

Slashdot - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 10:10pm
An anonymous reader writes: A study of 50,000 people in Italy has found the impact of social networking on individual welfare to be "significantly negative." The researchers found that improvements in self-reported well-being occurred when online networking led to face-to-face interactions, but this effect was overwhelmed by the perceived losses in well-being (PDF) generated by interaction strictly through social networks. The researchers "highlight the role of discrimination and hate speech on social media which they say play a significant role in trust and well-being. Better moderation could significantly improve the well-being of the people who use social networks, they conclude."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Study: Social Networks Have Negative Effect On Individual Welfare

Slashdot - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 10:10pm
An anonymous reader writes: A study of 50,000 people in Italy has found the impact of social networking on individual welfare to be "significantly negative." The researchers found that improvements in self-reported well-being occurred when online networking led to face-to-face interactions, but this effect was overwhelmed by the perceived losses in well-being (PDF) generated by interaction strictly through social networks. The researchers "highlight the role of discrimination and hate speech on social media which they say play a significant role in trust and well-being. Better moderation could significantly improve the well-being of the people who use social networks, they conclude."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Particle Physics To Aid Nuclear Cleanup

Slashdot - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 9:25pm
mdsolar sends this report from Symmetry Magazine: Cosmic rays can help scientists do something no one else can: safely image the interior of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. ... [M]uon tomography is similar to taking an X-ray, only it uses naturally produced muons. These particles don't damage the imaged materials and, because they already stream through everything on Earth, they can be used to image even the most sensitive objects. Better yet, a huge amount of shielding is needed to stop muons from passing through an object, making it nearly impossible to hide from muon tomography. ... By determining how muons scatter as they interact with electrons and nuclei within the item, the team's software creates a three-dimensional picture of what's inside. ... To prove the technology, the Los Alamos team shipped a demo detector system to a small, working nuclear reactor in a Toshiba facility in Kawasaki, Japan. There, they placed one detector on either side of the reactor core. "When we analyzed our data we discovered that in addition to the fuel in the reactor core, they had put a few fuel bundles off to the side that we didn't know about," says Morris. "They were really impressed that not only could we image the core, but that we also found those bundles."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Children with autism learn imitative behavior from socially assistive robot

Kurzweil AI - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 9:16pm

Representation of the ‘copycat game’ interaction between the child subject and the Nao robot. Using data from a Kinect sensor (shown here), USC Interaction Lab software compares the distances between human and robot joints to measure pose accuracy. (Credit: USC Viterbi)

Humanoid robots could help autistic children practice imitation behavior, according to USC Viterbi School of Engineering researchers, based on a new study.

They examined how children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) react to humanoid robots that provide “graded cueing” — an occupational therapy technique that shapes behavior by providing increasingly specific cues, or prompts, to help a person learn new or lost skills.

An imitation game

They divided a group of 12 high-functioning children with ASD into two groups, one experimental and one control. Each child then played an imitation game (“copycat”) with a Nao robot that asked the child to imitate 25 different arm poses.

“So if a child with autism is at recess with friends, and some kids are playing Red Light/Green Light, the child might look at the game and say, ‘Oh, I see how to play, and I can play with them too,”’ explained study leader Maja Matarić, USC Viterbi Vice Dean for Research and the Chan Soon-Shiong Chair in Computer Science, Neuroscience and Pediatrics.

When a child in either group imitated the pose correctly, the robot flashed its eyes green, nodded, or said “Good job!” When a child in the control group failed to imitate the pose correctly, the robot simply repeated the command without variation.

However, for the experimental group participants, the Nao robot offered varied prompting when a child did not copy the pose accurately. At first, it provided only verbal cues, but later it followed up with more detailed instructions and demonstrations of the pose.

Children who received the varied prompting (graded cueing feedback) until the correct action was achieved showed improved or maintained performance, while children who did not receive graded cueing regressed or stayed the same.

The researchers explain that these results demonstrate that a socially assistive robot can be effective at providing that kind of varied feedback. The study also found that the feedback was more effective and less frustrating to the study participants than merely receiving the same prompt repeatedly when they did not imitate the pose correctly.

A personal robot for each child with ASD

Although this study did not exercise the graded cueing model to its fullest, the preliminary results show promise for the use of this technique to improve user autonomy through robot-mediated intervention, said Matarić, who hopes that, within a decade, children with ASD might have their own personal robots to assist them with therapy, help prompt them through daily tasks, coach them through interactions with others, and encourage them to play with peers.

“The idea is to eventually give every child a personalized robot dedicated to providing motivation and praise and nudges toward more integration,” she said.

This pilot study is part of ongoing work in socially assistive robotics under Matarić at The Interaction Lab, part of the USC Center for Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RASC), the USC Robotics Labs, and the USC Viterbi Computer Science Department. Research at The Interaction Lab focuses on the development of adaptive and personalized socially assistive robots that can help people with special needs to incorporate new healthy and therapeutic behaviors into their everyday lives.

Findings from the study were presented at the 23rd IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN) conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Aug. 27.

Matarić’s research team included doctoral student Jillian Greczek, postdoctoral researcher Amin Atrash, and undergraduate computer science student Edward Kaszubski.

This research was funded at USC by the National Science Foundation Human-Centered Computing grant and the National Science Foundation CISE Research Infrastructure grant.

Should we try this at home? KurzweilAI interview with Maja Matarić, USC Viterbi Vice Dean for Research.

Q: Are there other less-expensive robots that could achieve similar results that interested researchers (or perhaps parents) could work with?

A: Currently there are very few robots on the U.S. consumer market. In fact, there is just the iRobot Roomba, remote presence robots, and toys, by and large. But that will all change, hopefully soon. For a technology to actually be therapeutic, it needs to be carefully designed, and currently there is no such robotic product on the market for ASD, in large part because there is an utter lack of venture capital investment in spinning off such technologies from promising research. We need to see more investor interest in this area.

Q: What about using a tablet with an app to reduce costs? (There’s a Kinect-like device for the iPad.)

A: While there are various tablet-based apps available for children with ASD, they work on entirely different principles from child-robot interactions. The interaction with a robot engages the child’s social responses, and attempts to develop and train those responses in a way that is similar to human-human interaction. The interaction with a screen does not elicit the same type of social responses, because it most likely does not engage the same type of cognitive and neural processing as take place in social interactions with real, physical creatures. That is just how people are wired. I think there are some and there will be many more tablet-based and phone-based apps for ASD users, and those are valuable and complementary to therapeutic robots, but they are different and serve different important therapy/training purposes.

Q: Do you encourage therapists and/or parents to experiment with these techniques and if so, how effective might they be?

A: I strongly encourage therapists and parents to experiment with new technologies and to carefully monitor the child’s response. ASD is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it covers a vast variety of behaviors. What works for one child, may only work for that one child, or a sub-population of children with ASD that we don’t yet understand how to characterize. In general, with ASD there will not be any fast catch-all solutions or therapies (possibly ever, certainly not soon). Therefore it is worth experimenting with various technologies carefully. We cannot predict the effects, and currently there is also no funding from NIH to do large-scale clinical studies to actually see what may be helpful, how effective it may be, and for what sub-populations of ASD it may work. Here again, is where much more investment is needed, in this case federal research by NIH.

Q: Could modeling behavior on robots make some ASD children more “robotic” (mechanical) in their behavior?

A: There is no such thing as “robotic behavior.” Robot behavior can be as smooth as elegant as biological behavior, if the robot is built to be able to make such movements and programmed to make them.

Our robots do not move ‘robotically,’ and in general there is nothing particularly ‘robotic’ about them. Some of them have fur and look like toys, especially those created for children. Some others are made to be quite utilitarian, but those are not intended for interactions with children or people in general. One does not design a robot for helping kids with ASD to be mechanical; instead one designs it to be engaging, both in its appearance and in its behavior.

The robot we are currently using is just one that is commercially available; it is not meant to represent what all or even best robots for kids with ASD would be. But even as just one example, it actually can move very smoothly. The notion of a mechanical robot is an outdated one that may pervade in old movies but is not the current state-of-the-art.

Finally, children with ASD often have serious imitation deficits; they are far from over-imitating and becoming mechanical, the issue is more about having the ability to imitate at all, and knowing what to imitate and what to ignore as not relevant/important. Those skills can be practiced with a robot, and that opportunity to practice in an enjoyable way is the much-needed therapy the technology can provide.”

Abstract of paper presented at the IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication

We performed a study that examined the effects of a humanoid robot giving the minimum required feedback – graded cueing – during a one-on-one imitation game played children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). 12 high-functioning participants with ASD, ages 7 to 10, each played “Copy-Cat” with a Nao robot 5 times over the span of 2.5 weeks. While the graded cueing model was not exercised in its fullest, using graded cueing-style feedback resulted in a nondecreasing trend in imitative accuracy when compared to a non-adaptive condition, where participants always received the same, most descriptive feedback whenever they made a mistake. These trends show promise for future work with robots encouraging autonomy in special needs populations.

Categories: Science

Mozilla To Support Public Key Pinning In Firefox 32

Slashdot - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 8:45pm
Trailrunner7 writes: Mozilla is planning to add support for public-key pinning in its Firefox browser in an upcoming version. In version 32, which would be the next stable version of the browser, Firefox will have key pins for a long list of sites, including many of Mozilla's own sites, all of the sites pinned in Google Chrome and several Twitter sites. Public-key pinning has emerged as an important defense against a variety of attacks, especially man-in-the-middle attacks and the issuance of fraudulent certificates. The function essentially ties a public key, or set of keys, issued by known-good certificate authorities to a given domain. So if a user's browser encounters a site that's presenting a certificate that isn't included in the set of pinned public keys for that domain, it will then reject the connection. The idea is to prevent attackers from using fake certificates in order to intercept secure traffic between a user and the target site.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Game|Life Podcast: Nintendo Announcements, Nintendo Leaks

Wired News - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 8:13pm
Did Nintendo announce that, or was it a leak? Rumors become facts on this week's Game|Life podcast.






Categories: Science

Film Students Play Starring Role in Stratospheric Balloon Launch (Video)

Space.com - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 8:06pm
When you think of the U.S. Air Force, the Federal Aviation Authority and the FBI, a team of starry-eyed film students may not necessarily come to mind as a potential partner for science.
Categories: Science

This 'SimCity 4' Region With 107 Million People Took Eight Months of Planning

Slashdot - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 8:02pm
Jason Koebler writes: Peter Richie spent eight months planning and building a megacity in vanilla SimCity 4, and the end result is mind-boggling: 107.7 million people living in one massive, sprawling region (video). "Traffic is a nightmare, both above ground and under," Richie said. "The massive amount of subway lines and subway stations are still congested during all times of the day in all neighborhoods of each and every mega-city in the region. The roadways are clogged at all times, but people still persist in trying to use them."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

This 'SimCity 4' Region With 107 Million People Took Eight Months of Planning

Slashdot - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 8:02pm
Jason Koebler writes: Peter Richie spent eight months planning and building a megacity in vanilla SimCity 4, and the end result is mind-boggling: 107.7 million people living in one massive, sprawling region (video). "Traffic is a nightmare, both above ground and under," Richie said. "The massive amount of subway lines and subway stations are still congested during all times of the day in all neighborhoods of each and every mega-city in the region. The roadways are clogged at all times, but people still persist in trying to use them."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

This 'SimCity 4' Region With 107 Million People Took Eight Months of Planning

Slashdot - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 8:02pm
Jason Koebler writes: Peter Richie spent eight months planning and building a megacity in vanilla SimCity 4, and the end result is mind-boggling: 107.7 million people living in one massive, sprawling region (video). "Traffic is a nightmare, both above ground and under," Richie said. "The massive amount of subway lines and subway stations are still congested during all times of the day in all neighborhoods of each and every mega-city in the region. The roadways are clogged at all times, but people still persist in trying to use them."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

How NASA Is Tracking Earth's Melting Arctic Sea Ice (Video)

Space.com - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 7:58pm
A new NASA mission launched in the Arctic this week could help scientists learn more about Earth's changing climate.
Categories: Science

Eat-Commerce: How Technology and E-Commerce Are Redefining How We Eat

Wired News - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 7:57pm
There’s little question that we live in an era that values time with an on-demand solution for nearly every need. While the desire for ultimate convenience isn’t entirely new in the food industry, it is just now becoming more seamless through the proliferation of digital consumer technology. In the US, we often associate food delivery […]






Categories: Science

Flying a Blimp Is Way Trickier Than You’d Expect

Wired News - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 7:57pm
Despite their slow speeds, blimps are notoriously difficult to fly.






Categories: Science

As Space Shuttle Discovery Turns 30, Smithsonian Curator Shares Orbiter Secrets

Space.com - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 7:50pm
NASA's retired space shuttle Discovery will mark the 30th anniversary of its first launch being admired by fans of all ages, according to the Smithsonian's curator charged with its care.
Categories: Science

Robot Printer Brings Documents To Your Desk

Slashdot - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 7:21pm
mrspoonsi sends this news from the BBC: Fuji Xerox has developed a new robotic printer that can move around a lounge or office to bring documents to the person who printed them. The printer is designed to be used primarily in public places as a way to keep sensitive documents secure. Sensors on the machine prevent it from bumping into people on the way. However, some analysts argued that the idea was not cost effective when compared with other secure printing methods. Fuji Xerox — a joint venture between the two firms — has been testing the printer this month at a business lounge in Tokyo. Each desk in the lounge is given a unique web address from which to print. Users access the address and upload documents to be printed. Once the printer receives the job, it moves to the intended recipient who then has to display a smart card to activate printing.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science