Molecular biologist Jason Bell:
According to the TSA safety documents, AIT uses an 50 keV source that emits a broad spectra (see adjacent graph from here). Essentially, this means that the X-ray source used in the Rapiscan system is the same as those used for mammograms and some dental X-rays, and uses BOTH ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ X-rays. Its very disturbing that the TSA has been misleading on this point. Here is the real catch: the softer the X-ray, the more its absorbed by the body, and the higher the biologically relevant dose! This means, that this radiation is potentially worse than an a higher energy medical chest X-ray.
(Via Ben Brooks.)
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Bioencryption can store almost a million gigabytes of data inside bacteria
A new method of data storage that converts information into DNA sequences allows you to store the contents of an entire computer hard-drive on a gram's worth of E. coli bacteria...and perhaps considerably more than that.
What's the potential?
The possibilities of this biotechnology are truly amazing. A single gram of E. coli cells could hold up to 900,000 gigabytes (or 900 terabytes) of data, meaning these bacteria have almost 500 times the storage capacity of a top of the line commercial hard drive.
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Monday, November 29, 2010
Eliminate the Computer Science major: I believe we should do away with Computer Science as a field of undergraduate study
until you read the rest of the thought - at least, the way it's implemented right now.
Morris considers other majors Geology, Biology, Art and the subsequent careers geologist, biologist, artist and wonders why there's a disconnect between the Computer Science major and a programming career.
Morris sees computer science as theoretical and involving
complex math and theory that is useful and interesting and takes a sharp mind to fully comprehend;
most undergrads don't care and increasingly are not being exposed to it. Instead, popular languages are being taught in undergraduate courses, with the intention of preparing students for future work (see Joel Spolsky's The Perils of JavaSchools for another take on this phenomenon.)
Morris doesn't think students in these programs are learning programming, instead,
Students with a passion for programming study it in their free time, work on their own projects, and do most of their learning outside of the classroom. Fresh graduates with a BS in Computer Science and no real experience programming just don't have the skills they need to do anything but grunt work.
Morris assesses the state of computer science programs and proposes his own remedy:
Solutions thus far have been to dumb down the CS degree by using higher level ("easier") programming languages and teaching less theory and advanced math. I think that aiming to dumb down the curriculum in order to prepare students for a corporate programming career is killing off the pool of intelligent academic computer scientists. The solution? Accept that there's a difference and offer two distinct majors: Computer Science and Programming [He later amends the post to note that Software Engineering is a better term than Programming].
According to Morris, "programming students would learn the basics they need to succeed in the corporate world," "while smart CS students wouldn't be hampered by the dumbing down of their programs of study." There would be negative consequences as well, including "a huge shift of students from CS to Programming," smaller Computer Science departments, and potentially the closing of "some CS departments."
How Ma Bell Shelved the Future for 60 Years:
What would the world be like if fiber optic and mobile phones had been available in the 1930's? Would the decade be known as the start of the Information Revolution rather than the Great Depression?
The Great Bell Labs
In early 1934, Clarence Hickman, a Bell Labs engineer, had a secret machine, about six feet tall, standing in his office. It was a device without equal in the world, decades ahead of its time. If you called and there was no answer on the phone line to which Hickman's invention was connected, the machine would beep and a recording device would come on allowing the caller to leave a message.
The genius at the heart of Hickman's secret proto–answering machine was not so much the concept- perceptive of social change as that was-but rather the technical principle that made it work and that would, eventually, transform the world: magnetic recording tape.So what happened to magnetic recording tape in the 1930s? Why did't we get magnetic storage in the 1930s?
What's interesting is that Hickman's invention in the 1930s would not be " discovered" until the 1990s. For soon after Hickman had demonstrated his invention, AT&T ordered the Labs to cease all research into magnetic storage, and Hickman's research was suppressed and concealed for more than sixty years, coming to light only when the historian Mark Clark came across Hickman's laboratory notebook in the Bell archives.
"The impressive technical successes of Bell Labs' scientists and engineers," writes Clark, "were hidden by the upper management of both Bell Labs and AT&T." AT&T "refused to develop magnetic recording for consumer use and actively discouraged its development and use by others."One would ask WHY? The answer is not that surprising.
In the language of innovation theory, the output of the Bell Labs was practically restricted to sustaining inventions; disruptive technologies, those that might even cast a shadow of uncertainty over the business model, were simply out of the question.It's interesting to wonder whether Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft have all either fallen or will fall into this same trap.
The recording machine is only one example of a technology that AT&T, out of such fears, would for years suppress or fail to market: fiber optics, mobile telephones, digital subscriber lines (DSL), facsimile machines, speakerphones - the list goes on and on. These technologies, ranging from novel to revolutionary, were simply too daring for Bell's comfort. Without a reliable sense of how they might affect the Bell system, AT&T and its heirs would deploy each with painfully slow caution, if at all.
Photo by jrmyst - http://flic.kr/p/gc6UF
Photo visualizing the operational volume of a RFID reader by doegox - http://flic.kr/p/796jY4
Looks Like There Really Are 100 Uses for RFID:
From ThingMagic's ongoing list of 100 Uses of RFID:
- Enhancing the Patient Experience with RFID: Patient ID badges hold information on his or her favorite colors, music and vacation spots, allowing them to be broadcast on the walls of patient rooms and treatment areas, while communicating important medical information on the patient to their doctors and nurses.
- No Greenwashing Here: How RFID Helps the Environment: Using RFID in electric vehicles
- RFID for Document Management: Embedded chips in case documents in the Florida attorney general's office
- RFID takes a Ride on School Busses: Know where your children are? Scanners on busses and chips in backpacks could help.
- Cleaning Up Hazardous Materials with RFID: Cleaning up a Manhattan Project site in Tennessee, using chips to track trucks carrying radioactive materials.
- Shredding It with Sensors: Burton Snowboards and Nokia have united to track tricks on snow and allow you to broadcast it via Twitter and other social media. [see video below]
- RFID and Mud Motors: Fine-tuning oil drilling in the wake of the BP spill. RFID Lets
- Theme Parks Be Fun for All: Helping special-needs visitors and kids to be safe and have fun through chips and threat modeling.
- Can You See Mi Now?: A Danish city implements battery-powered RFID readers at busy intersections to read tags in the steering columns of bike.
- RFID Gives Surgeons Second Set of Eyes: Sensors in cancerous tumors makes surgery more exact.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
In retrospect, maybe he was right that teaching a course in Facebook would "creep out" students, but I think this might only be true for existing students. I think that, for universities and colleges, Facebook could be an entirely new delivery mechanism that could attract an entirely new global cohort of students. From the UK, here's the first such example I've seen: Poking, Tagging and Now Landing an M.B.A.
thanks to a pair of young British entrepreneurs, students who do want both a business education and the credential to prove it can now pursue their studies at the same time as they “poke” their friends, tag photos, update their relationship status or harvest their virtual crops on FarmVille.
The London School of Business and Finance Global M.B.A. bills itself as “the world’s first internationally recognized M.B.A. to be delivered through a Facebook application.”
Only a month old,
the application already has more than 30,000 active users accessing courses in corporate finance, accounting, ethics, marketing and strategic planning, according to the business school.and,
Aaron Etingen, founder and chief executive of the London School of Business and Finance, said he expected 500,000 prospective students to take the free “M.B.A. test drive” within a year.
What does that Facebook application include?
Students who like what they see will be able to watch video lectures, participate in online peer-to-peer study sessions and track their progress through interactive tests — all without charge.
So how does the university make money?
“There is only a fee if they want to take exams,” said Valery Kisilevsky, the school’s managing director.
Each module is paid for separately, making the total cost of the M.B.A. £14,500, or about $23,000 — the same as for London School of Business and Finance’s campus-based and conventional distance-learning M.B.A. degrees. Like those programs, the Facebook Global M.B.A. degree is certified by the University of Wales. “What we’ve done is eliminate the risk,” Mr. Kisilevsky said.
Much like the Open Courseware movement, it seems that offering course materials for free is less risky than it seems. Instead of cannibalizing existing enrollment, these approaches seem to provide a preview of the quality of the curriculum and open up opportunities for global enrollment growth.
Imagine if their numbers are right and they can get 500,000 prospective students to 'test drive' in the first year and conservatively another 10% or 50,000 to convert to paid customers (i.e. take the test). That's a huge new revenue stream! The most valuable asset of colleges and universities is not the content, it is the degrees, certificates and credentials that we award.
Another important factor in the potential success of this approach is student engagement.
“The dirty secret of online education is the appallingly low completion rate,” Mr. Etingen said. “Fewer than one in four students who begin an online M.B.A. ever graduate, and it didn’t seem ethical to me to take someone’s money up front, knowing that most of them won’t finish.”
According to some studies, students check their Facebook profile at least 18 times per day. I can't imagine that students check their college e-mail or their traditional online courses at that rate. That level of engagement leads to greater student success, increased positive word-of-mouth, and increased enrollment. Success builds success!
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Scary idea from the latest documents to be released from WikiLieaks. I'm glad to see Brennan quickly dismissed the idea, but it wouldn't be far-fetched for a dictatorship or totalitarian government to track dissidents with human-implantable chips. Or maybe Brennan realized one would use RFID instead of Bluetooth;)
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told a senior White House official to consider surgically implanting homing devices under Guantanamo Bay detainees’ skin. That’s one of the many potentially-embarrassing comments from diplomatic back rooms now being made public by WikiLeaks.
During a March 2009 meeting with John Brennan, President Obama’s closest counterterrorism adviser, Abdullah proposed shooting electronic chips into the residual Guantanamo population, “allowing their movements to be tracked with Bluetooth.” Abdullah appears to have come up with the idea on the fly during their meeting — “I’ve just thought of something,” the cable quotes him saying — and considered forced subcutaneous chip implantation uncontroversial, since it’s already “done with horses and falcons.” Brennan appears to have gingerly waved him off: “[H]orses don’t have good lawyers,” he replied, “but agreed that keeping track of detainees was an extremely important issue that he would review with appropriate officials when he returned to the United States.”
Is Facebook Preparing to Launch Video Chatting In a Partnership with Skype?
While working on his Green Any Site facebook application, and digging around facebook, Tal Ater noticed a curious little object in their code which wasn’t there previously.
The object, which is simply called VideoChat, appears to have everything needed to introduce video chatting functionality.
What is even more interesting is that the object has several properties which refer to Skype, and clearly suggest being able to video chat with Skype users, or maybe even associate your Skype id with your facebook identity.
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Friday, November 26, 2010
- Video Phone (front or rear camera or both).
- Retina display like the iPhone 4
- 3-axis Gyroscope
- Better mobility - not sure what that means, could be smaller (7-inches)? - or - lighter (carbon fiber body)?
- A USB port of some kind.
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The Pragmatic Bookshelf
40% Off, One Day Only »
’Tis the season for one of those one-day only, post-Thanksgiving sales. But hurry, you have to place your order on Friday only, November 26 and use the coupon code turkey. See below for details.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010
A short history of airport security: We screen for guns and bombs, so the terrorists use box cutters. We confiscate box cutters and corkscrews, so they put explosives in their sneakers. We screen footwear, so they try to use liquids. We confiscate liquids, so they put PETN bombs in their underwear. We roll out full-body scanners, even though they wouldn’t have caught the Underwear Bomber, so they put a bomb in a printer cartridge. We ban printer cartridges over 16 ounces — the level of magical thinking here is amazing — and they’re going to do something else.
Take all the money spent on new security measures and spend it on investigation and intelligence. This is a stupid game, and we should stop playing it.
It’s not even a fair game. It’s not that the terrorist picks an attack and we pick a defense, and we see who wins. It’s that we pick a defense, and then the terrorists look at our defense and pick an attack designed to get around it. Our security measures only work if we happen to guess the plot correctly. If we get it wrong, we’ve wasted our money. This isn’t security; it’s security theater.
[Consider] the well-planned, well-financed, and much rarer sort of plot. Do you really expect the T.S.A. screeners, who are busy confiscating water bottles and making people take off their belts — and now doing uncomfortable pat-downs — to stop them?
Last year, Lucas Gillispie started a World of Warcraft club at Cape Fear Middle School in Rocky Point, N.C.
After fourth period, students ran into the media center to play the massively multiplayer online videogame. With students from Suffern Middle School in New York, they formed a guild — or a play organization — called The Legacy.
At the end of a long day of sitting in class, Gillispie couldn't be overtly instructional without turning them off. So the instructional technology coordinator for Pender County Schools took a ninja-like approach.
“We would sneak the learning in through the game, which is actually very easy to do,” Gillispie said during a presentation at the Global Education Conference this week.
This year, the middle school took the club to the next level.
Principal Edie Skipper wanted to find out what impact the game would have on student learning. So she asked Gillispie and teacher Craig Lawson to design an elective language arts course around the game.
Gillispie and Lawson developed a curriculum that aligns to the Common Core Standards. And this year, 29 students from both Suffern and Cape Fear middle schools are exploring language arts through the World of Warcraft.
In the WoWinSchool class, the game inspired a number of changes. Instead of earning grades, students earn experience points. Instead of doing assignments, they go on quests. Instead of using paper, they use Moodle.
“We really wanted to shake things up and do things completely different than how they would be done in a normal classroom,” Lawson said.
The students move at their own pace through the learning modules in Moodle. And an Excel document shows each student's experience points overall and by assignment.
“They’re really excited to see where they’re at and kind of compete with each other and share that with each other because it’s experience, not grades,” Lawson said.
The kids don't associate experience with intellect, which is a good thing, he said. And they're constantly figuring out how they can earn more experience points.
Learn through a game
By playing the game, students practice communication, leadership and teamwork skills.
They read, make calculations and learn about economics. They think critically, solve problems and develop socially. They brainstorm guild mission statements, create their avatars and write stories about their characters.
The game gives them a learning environment that's relevant to them and allows them to live out the plot line of a story, Lawson said.
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Anecdotally, it looks like the new Higher Education Act is doing a number on college bookstores, and on bookstores in college towns.
A dirty little secret of higher ed: bookstore proceeds are revenue sources for many colleges. When the bookstore is in-house, it’s usually either a direct arm of the college (and therefore a direct revenue source) or a national chain with a contract that pays for the privilege. (Follett and Barnes and Noble are fairly common in these parts.) Either way, it represents a revenue stream. Over the years, colleges with those revenue streams come to rely on them.
In an attempt to help students do battle with ridiculous textbook prices, the new Higher Education Act requires colleges to post textbook information online as soon as practicable. The idea is to make it easier for students to comparison-shop. Why pay a hundred bucks at the college bookstore for your Psych book when you can get the same book online for eighty?
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Challenge on Textbook Pricing
Textbook companies have faced a number of challenges in recent years, such as open course content, an increasingly vibrant used-book marketplace, new publishers proposing alternative pricing models, and new federal rules requiring the unbundling of expensive add-ons from the traditional texts.
But a case that came before the U.S. Supreme Court last week suggests that the textbook companies might soon face an even stronger threat: themselves.
If the case Costco Wholesale Corporation v. Omega, S.A., falls for Costco (the high court heard oral arguments last Monday), the textbook publishers could see the U.S. market flooded with less fancy editions they have produced for students in poorer countries. The foreign editions might be flimsier, but their content is the same as in the editions the textbook companies sell to U.S. students — and they are “often half or a quarter of the price of the domestic editions,” according to an amicus brief filed in the case by the Association of American Publishers.
In other words, students who don’t mind shoddier textbooks could buy editions intended for students in poorer countries at a fraction of the cost of what they would normally buy at their campus bookstore.
Textbook publishers are - understandably - lining up against such a potential ruling.
The textbook companies, meanwhile, say such a ruling would be disastrous. The anticipated decline in revenues from domestic sales, their lawyers say, would make it impossible for them to afford “the extensive research and development necessary to ensure that the information in textbooks is current and accurate.”
“Most educational publishers currently print at least two different editions of their textbooks — one for domestic distribution and one or more for international distribution,” the Association of American Publishers wrote in its note to the court. “The domestic editions are often printed in the United States using high quality products and binding and are bundled with supplemental materials including teaching aids and online resources.”
The editions made outside the United States, the publishers continue, are made cheaply “using lower quality paper and covers, removing color images, and using inferior bindings,” and “priced based on what the purchasers in the intended market can afford.”
If the Supreme Court interprets copyright law such that books manufactured abroad may be legally sold to U.S. college students for the same price as they are sold to, for example, Indian students, the publishers argue, all hell will break loose.
“Copies of foreign editions would be imported en masse, by large campus-based bookstores, Internet resellers, and others,” they write. “The loss of revenue from domestic editions would drastically reduce the ability of publishers to compensate authors for their work and lead to significant changes in the publishers’ business models which, in turn, will cause ripple effects beyond the publishing industry.”
Nicole Allen, from the nonprofit Student Public Interest Research Groups argues "... that the current model — which historically has limited the power of students to choose how much they pay for their course materials — is on its way out. Earlier this year Student PIRGs endorsed a new model pioneered by Flat World Knowledge, which lets students choose whether to pay for binding, color, e-learning supplements, and so on."
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No wonder kids don't want to go into programming. How do we counter these sort of misinformed "studies"?
A study conducted among software engineers indicates that a high proportion of coders suffer from "severe insomnia" and that a majority have sleep problems of some sort, putting their mental health and "hygiene" at risk.
According to the study authors, the primary reason for the sleeplessness of software engineers is that "job-related stress is considered extremely high". It was concluded that coders "need special attention since they are prone to develop sleep disturbances".
"Lifestyle management programmes which include sleep hygiene and care should be incorporated as a policy matter in the IT industry."
Give me a break!
Should this even be called a newspaper? Isn't this a whole new category of publication?
New Newspaper Could Be Published Only on the iPad
As far back as last year, when Apple's iPad was nothing but an unconfirmed rumor, there have been reports that the computer giant was talking with media conglomerates about developing content exclusively for the device. But so far, the top-selling tablet computer has only featured applications that optimize media presentations on its 10-inch screen.
Now there are reports that the first iPad-specific newspaper, The Daily, may be produced by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for the iPad's seven million (and counting) users. The start-up would have no print edition or web site, nor links to or from web sites.
Product of Sleepless Night
The Daily would reportedly have an initial staff of 100 with three veteran managing editors. It would be available on the iPad for 99 cents a week or $4.25 monthly
Photo by Thomas Hawk - http://flic.kr/p/8ycfTU
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Monday, November 22, 2010
Google Plug-In for Office Lets Older Versions Use Cloud
A plug-in for Microsoft Office that lets users share and edit docs collaboratively in the cloud . That new option is currently being tested -- by Google.
In March 2009 Google acquired DocVerse, and the new plug-in, called Google Cloud Connect, incorporates the technology it purchased. When installed, the free plug-in sets up a toolbar in Word , Excel or PowerPoint for Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 .
Productivity's Future 'In the Cloud'
An Office document can be edited by desktop -based Office apps , then uploaded to the author's account in the cloud-based Google Docs. Changes are not made directly online , but within a user's Office apps and then synced between users online. Office 2010 offers its own collaboration , but Google Connect gives that capability to earlier releases of the popular productivity suite.
Cloud Connect tracks all changes, allows users to go back to previous versions, and shows an alert if more than one user is revising the same portion of a given document. The alert allows one of the edits to be chosen above others. Users without Office, such as those on mobile devices, can still view documents, although editing is not enabled.
A potentially big advantage of the plug-in approach is that, instead of importing and exporting Office docs back and forth with Google Docs, which can result in formatting or other issues, the plug-in enables the users to stay within Office.
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How do we re-shape computer science education to keep kids who love programming in the major and attract new students?
Decoding the Value of Computer Science:
In The Social Network, a computer-programming prodigy goes to Harvard and creates a technology company in his sophomore dorm. Six year later, the company is worth billions and touches one out of every 14 people on earth.
Facebook is a familiar American success story, with its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, following a path blazed by Bill Gates and others like him. But it may also become increasingly rare. Far fewer students are studying computer science in college than once did. This is a problem in more ways than one.
The signs are everywhere. This year, for the first time in decades, the College Board failed to offer high-school students the Advanced Placement AB Computer Science exam. The number of high schools teaching computer science is shrinking, and last year only about 5,000 students sat for the AB test. Two decades ago, I was one of them.
I left for college intending to major in computer science. That lasted until about the fifth 8:30 a.m. Monday class, at which point my enthusiasm for parties and beer got the upper hand, and I switched to the humanities, which offered more-forgiving academic standards and course schedules. I never touched Pascal again.
Fortunately, other students had more fortitude. They helped build and sustain the IT revolution that continues to make America the center of global innovation. But the number of people going this way is in decline. According to the Computing Research Association, the annual number of bachelor's degrees awarded in computer science and computer engineering dropped 12 percent in 2009. When Zuckerberg started Facebook, in 2004, universities awarded over 20,000 computer degrees. The total fell below 10,000 last year.
This "geek shortage," as Wired magazine puts it, endangers everything from innovation and economic growth to national defense. And as I learned in my first job after graduate school, perhaps even more. [emphasis added - MQ]
Friday, November 19, 2010
How critical is the need for computer science graduates?
“We’re graduating on the order of 15,000 students a year, and we need 45,000 students a year.”
If DARPA is funding this, clearly they see this as a national security issue.
To boost computer science education and help middle and high school students strengthen their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills before they enter college and the workforce, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded TopCoder a $5.57 million contract to develop a new virtual community featuring competitions and educational resources.
Monday, November 15, 2010
HP sold twice as many Slate 500 tablets as expected, Engadget reports.
An Engadget source says HP ordered a 5,000 unit production run of the enterprise focused device. But it's had 9,000 orders come in.
For huge companies like HP and Microsoft, the sale of 9,000 more PCs is nothing.
For context, Apple sold 4.19 million iPads last quarter, which roughly equates to 46,555 iPads sold every day.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
The position is restricted by the Clare Boothe Luce bequest to the Henry Luce Foundation to women who are U.S. citizens.
Monday, November 08, 2010
IPad a Therapeutic Marvel for Disabled People:
OWEN CAIN depends on a respirator and struggles to make even the slightest movements — he has had a debilitating motor-neuron disease since infancy.
Owen, 7, does not have the strength to maneuver a computer mouse, but when a nurse propped her boyfriend’s iPad within reach in June, he did something his mother had never seen before.
He aimed his left pointer finger at an icon on the screen, touched it — just barely — and opened the application Gravitarium, which plays music as users create landscapes of stars on the screen. Over the years, Owen’s parents had tried several computerized communications contraptions to give him an escape from his disability, but the iPad was the first that worked on the first try.
For Owen Cain, whose disease is physical, not mental, the iPad has limitations, too. Moving his finger all the way across the keypad remains a challenge, and makes writing difficult. Ms. Goldstein said its versatility and affordability, though, were a boon. He has been experimenting with a variety of applications — Proloquo2Go, which allows him to touch an icon that prompts the device to speak things like, “I need to go to the bathroom”; Math Magic, which helps him practice arithmetic; and Animal Match, a memory game.