Amazon is Creating a Platform to Share Educational Materials

When you are a teacher, or anyone involved in training, you often spend more time creating resources and finding ways to reinforce a message rather than just hammering it home time and time again. In order to help with this Amazon are looking at creating a new site designed around being able to share educational materials around the world.

Amazon Education is still in its early stages but you can now sign up as part of their waitlist for the scheme here. The page states that the “future of education is open”, and with all signs pointing to the scheme working similar to Amazon’s retail site, users will be quickly and comfortably able to share resources around the world.

In recent years companies have made a big push on technologies and Amazon are one of the companies that have pushed the most in this regard. With the Kindle being accepted as a standard for eBooks, being able to share classroom text through kindle’s would save schools hundreds on replacing books and with systems like Whispersync already in place to share materials, Amazon seems keen on getting into the business of educational resource sharing.

Do you think that being able to download and access your textbooks, homework and research topics through a popular platform like Amazon would help schools or would it make them reliant on a technology they have no control over?

UK University Wins Funding for Robotic Stem Cell Factory

We as the human race are in an almost neverending fight with nature, although there really isn’t any doubt who will in the end. That doesn’t mean that we can’t put up a fight and make the best of everything until then. One of the main areas that we fight in are the diseases that plague us as a race. One of the ways that we combat this is with stem cells, but they are too costly, time-consuming, and labour intensive to be a viable solution for a mass production large enough to cover everyone.

One of the ways that this can be improved upon is with the use of robots that don’t need downtime, work more precise, and don’t require a salary either. The EU has set aside €6 million for the project and the Aston University in Birmingham is going to play a critical role in this project to develop a robotic stem cell factory, which will reduce the cost of manufacturing adult stem cells and open up the opportunity to produce new therapies for a range of conditions.

“Stem cell therapies have the potential to treat currently unmet patient needs and provide therapies for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s. However, current manufacturing methods for adult stem cells are costly, time-consuming and labour-intensive, so will be unable to satisfy the expected patient demand,” said Dr Qasim Rafiq, academic lead for the project at Aston University and Lecturer in Bioprocess Engineering.

The AUTOSTEM consortium, coordinated by NUI Galway in Ireland, has received the funding through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme to address the current challenges in manufacturing stem cells. The new system will be developed as a scalable, automated robotic system for the growth of adult stem cells.

The clinical product being developed involves isolating and purifying adult stem cells from the bone marrow before growing these in bioreactors to achieve sufficient numbers of cells to treat thousands of patients. This work will be conducted in a sterile, aseptic cleanroom facility operated by a robotic system. That’s another benefit of using robots over a human workforce.

Peanut Shells Used To Design a New Air-Purifying Filter

A hot topic within society today is the quality of air that we breathe; major cities including London have found that pollution is quickly on the rise and this has led to the associated health problems for citizens. Air purification research is always advancing to the point whereby the research team at the centre for Advanced Biotechnology Studies within the National University of Mexico have developed an air-purifying filter that implements Peanut Shells.

Under the leadership of biotech expert Raul Pineda Olmedo, the team have found that the Biofilter specifically relies upon micro-organisms such as Fusarium fungi and Brevibacterium bacteria which typically grow in peanut shells. The research and studies have found that these microbes are able to absorb harmful substances in the air before converting them to carbon dioxide and water.

It takes 28 days before an effective amount of the organisms are able to colonize one of the filters. As yet, the only created prototype is in the form of a kitchen hood, however, the university hopes to further develop this project with the aim of bringing this innovation to market.

It is a fascinating insight into how a previously thought of disposable and ignored ingredient as in this case, could in fact be utilized in such a manner.

The Role Human Error Plays When Encrypted Communication Apps Are Compromised.

Encrypted communication tools and software have seen a steady rise since the many surveillance revelations that were exposed by whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowdon. The notion of encrypting your emails, web browsing history and even phone calls have led to a battle over security vs state monitoring, but, what are the weaknesses within these various encrypted apps? A new study has found that we humans often compromised our own anonymity.

The observation in question was discovered by researchers at the University of Alabama who performed a study that “Mimicked a cryptophone app”. These apps including Signal may ask both parties who are either texting or calling to “verbally compare a short string of words they see on their screens which is often referred to as a checksum or short authentication string”  This is with the aim of ensuring that a new communication session has not been intercepted by a third-party, if it has, the words will not match up and thus it is not secure.

Sounds secure, the study has found that the flaw lies in many cases with human error itself, let me explain. Researchers designed the aforementioned mimicking of a cryptophone app before asking participants within the control group to use a web browser to make a call to an online server. They were then asked to listen to a random two or four word sequence before determining if it matched the words they saw on the computer screen in front of them. The control group were also asked to determine if the voice they heard was the same as one they’d heard previously reading a short story.

Researchers found that the study control group would more often than not accept calls when hearing the wrong sequence of words and reject calls when the sequence was transmitted correctly. It was also found that a four word checksum decreased the overall level of security when it should in theory increase it. To put it into perspective, out of 128 participants, an incorrect two-word string was accepted 30% of the time, while the same level two-word string that was spoken correctly was rejected 22% of the time. Four word strings had even worse results with incorrect strings being accepted 40% of the time while rejecting ones that were in fact correct 25% of the time.

A possible cause could lie in the fact that these words are random and not easily placed in a sentence, therefore, we humans tend to zone out and therefore lose concentration, the result could be that we think we hear something which is in fact incorrect or vice versa.

It’s an interesting experiment which could lead to better development of apps that aim to keep conversations secure.

First Detailed Public Map of the U.S. Internet Infrastructure Released

The location of major cables has always been a secret, but now researchers hope that the knowledge of it will spark thoughts on how to keep it safe.

The Internet is a major part of people’s lives, in a forever changing world. It’s hard to think of as a whole entity yet it is possible to map the entire thing. Computer scientists at the University of Wisconsin have proved so by releasing the first map of the infrastructure that supports the heart of the US internet. It took Paul Barford and his colleagues four years to produce the map.

Barford told Smithsonianmag:

“The map shows the paths taken by the long-distance fiber-optic cables that carry Internet data across the continental U.S. The exact routes of those cables, which belong to major telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Level 3, have not been previously publicly viewable, despite the fact that they are effectively critical public infrastructure”

There may well be other maps in existence, yet none are in the public domain. Many attempts in the past have been deemed as illegal and a security risk. However, the map has been allowed because homeland security has made the map, the data being available to the public via a project dubbed as “Predict”

This is the map, the black lines are the cables. Red boxes represent where they connect to each other.

Thank you to smithsonianmag for providing us with this information. 

Pictures courtesy of virtuallyfromscratch 

Companion: Walk Your Friend Home Through Their Phone

It’s late, it’s already dark and you’ve still got a little while to walk home from the bus stop. Your mind’s imaging everything from the safe walk home to a full night Halloween special. With a flick of your finger suddenly your best friend’s next to you, walking you home and keeping you company every step of the way to your bedroom door. That’s the concept behind the popular App coming out from University of Michigan students titled Companion.

The concept is to solve a problem as old as parents have had children when your alone and scared you want to know that someone’s watching out for you. Companion aims to solve that by allowing you to send web links to several contacts, all or any of whom, can then view the web page with a map detailing the user’s current location and their destination and path they wish to take. Now say you have a fall from your path, or even have your headphones yanked out because they got caught on someone’s bag as they passed by, the app will detect these and ask the user if they are okay. If the user’s okay they press the button within 15 seconds, however if they can’t press it because they’ve fallen and is injured or had their phone stolen the phone will turn into a personal alarm. The alarm mode sets off a loud noise that aims to alert nearby people that something has/is happening and has a link to instantly call the emergency services, enabling you to quickly report when your injured or something has happened.

Originally designed to work with American Universities the app creators are hoping to bring in universities and countries around the world to the personal safety app. Available for both iOS and Android for free, Companion could soon see you and your friends enjoying those late night walks with a little more peace of mind.

Thank you International Buisness Times for the information and image.

How Much Would It Cost To Build a Bionic You?

Well this is an interesting start to an article, in a world where machines are fast evolving with the aim of becoming the new humans of choice, what would be the theoretical financial cost if you either quite fancied a bionic body double, or have decided to take a career deviation to a more Iron Man existence. It turns out it is technically possible in a theoretical but far less evolved way, although it is unlikely you will see any custom iHumans anytime soon; you would need access to both the most cutting edge of tech and also the required disposal income.

Brain

So, what do you need to become truly bionic? A brain, yes that would help, Google operates artificial neural networks (ANN) and uses them for services like Google Translate, or recommending videos on YouTube. These are prohibitively expensive, but the search giant does offer a low-cost version which stands at around £13,000. An average human brain is still vastly superior and surprisingly has a power consumption of around 20 watts, which is less than a light bulb. Especially those so-called energy-saving bulbs which when you turn on take a while to provide you with any kind of light.

Eyes

What else do we need then? Eyes? Yep their kind of important, Robots like the WALK‐MAN use infrared, radar, sonar and lasers to help them perceive the world. The price? That would be £98,000; there is a slight downside as robots struggle to identify objects, this is why many robotic vision systems use a combination of vision techniques, for example combining a high-speed stereoscopic camera with a slower laser scanner, which builds a 3D map of the world.

Skin

Skin would also be essential for that authentic human look, the icub, not an Apple spinoff, has created an “artificial skin” on a machine. The robots chest, arms, hands and legs are covered in pressure sensitive skin that allows the child‐sized robot to interact more delicately with objects and humans. The reasoning behind this is that electric ‘nanowires’ are being developed with the aim of eventually allowing robots to properly ‘feel’ the world around them. Oh and the price would be at least £164,000, it’s cheaper to build an actual human rather than a robot one at this rate.

Hands

Next up, hands, a research project at the John Hopkins University has built 10 prosthetic hands, at a cost of around £325,000 each. Or if you would prefer an alternative then there is a project from Open Bionics, which utilizes a 3D‐printed prosthetic hand. This works by detecting muscle movements with electrical signals. It can be custom-built and fitted in only two days, at a cost of £2000. It will be an interesting chapter in the world when you can print your own hands.

Joints

Joints are next and arrive courtesy of Festo’s prototype Bionic Handling Assistant which is modelled on an elephant’s trunk. But what if you would like the cream of the crop? Nasa have thought of this and have built a “humanoid Robot” which uses similar technology to that of Festo’s and have coined it the Robonaut 2. Its flexible joints have already helped it climb around the International Space Station. I would not open your wallets just yet as the price would be around $14 million, which is a lot.

Legs and Feet

Lastly, there is the question of legs and feet, how much would they cost? The WALK‐MAN has devised legs which are pliant rather than rigid, making balance easier and allows them to walk in a smooth-ish fashion. It’s still nowhere near as advanced as a human though and it does require a hefty power supply, prices would be around £4.3 million.

Right, if you have access to the best bionic tech, then it would cost quite a lot, to make one bionic would require a vast array of tech which would at this time be not as good as us. Advancements have been implemented, but nothing has touched the power and intricacy of for example the human brain, robots are good at being machines and humans are good at being us, well most of us.

TL;DR we’re a lot of money and that’s without adding Iron-Man like abilities.

Thank you sky for providing us with this information.

Analysing Your Brain Could Be 30 Times Faster Than A Supercomputer

The human brain, fascinating, exciting and full of possibilities, the notion to create, form an opinion and challenge the environment which we live in, is truly exceptional. We now might be able to find answers as to how powerful the human brain is after a project which is designed to compare a supercomputer with that of a brain.

An Artificial Intelligence project which has been devised by two PhD students from the University of California Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University, will be the first of its kind to compare the human brain with the world’s best supercomputer. The AI Impacts project aims to determine how fast the human brain sends signals in its internal network compared to that of a supercomputer.

The scholars compared the power of our brains with that of IBM’s Sequola supercomputer which is in the top 3 of the most powerful supercomputers. “Sequola has a TEPS (Traversed Edges per Second) benchmark of 2.3 x 1013 TEPS”. The estimates suggest the “AI Impacts are that the human brain should be at least as powerful as Sequoia in the lower limits and for the upper estimates, therefore the human brain could surpass the IBM Sequoia speed by 30 times at 6.4 x 1014 TEPS”.

Which is both a lot to take in but also equally and potentially incredible, evolution has formed an instrument which is quite amazing, and it begs the question, what else will we find as research and tech advances with the aim of exploring us. It is also interesting to note if the wiring of for example a genius brain, think Stephen Hawking, is different to that of an average mind or the best sportsman evolved differently with more advanced genes, or if are we all capable. If we spent enough time learning a skill to be able to adapt to anything? Its compelling none the less.

Thank you aiimpacts for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of fossbytes

Navigate The Complex World Economy Within Harvard’s Interactive Map

If I were to ask you to quantify the world’s economic activity and the regions which experience the biggest growth, you might say, I am not sure and what are you doing in my kitchen! But there might be an easier way thanks to Harvard University’s Owen Cornec who has devised a web-based map which allows the user to explore Earth’s economic relationships through 3D “confetti.”

Below are two screenshots of the map in action, when you first land on the Interactive Map page, it asks you to either experience a tour of the website or if you wish to skip this you can jump straight to the start to “visualize over 15 trillion dollars worth of trade”.  If you click the “Visualize”  button, you will receive the following screenshot of lots and lots of multi coloured dots being dropped onto the globe, each dot represents $100 million dollars worth of exports.   You can also view the globe by clicking on the virtual earth or you can “Select a country” to specifically view information relating to trade. 

The below screenshot is the “map view” by clicking this link you will see a flat map which might make it easier to see more data in one place, either option has the ability to utilize a “Full Screen” feature. At the bottom of the page, there is a colour coded key which illustrates trade within sectors that include Metals and also transportation along with other commodities.

This map adds a new dimension to the world’s trade while being immersive and thought-provoking, the colour scheme looks to be a giant firework party, but it’s certainly worth taking a minute to view the range of features and options available within this educational yet fun website.

Thank you harvard for providing us with this information.

Meet the Guy With the Largest Number of Facebook Friends

How many friends do you have on Facebook’s popular social media platform? Studies say that the average person between 18 and 28 years old has around 300, while older users have around 200. I personally have around 300 as well, but this guy from Melbourne would really make true Facebook users jealous.

Justin Tayler, a nightclub promoter, has reached the 5000 friend cap, making him one of the most popular people on Facebook. He says that people constantly communicate with him and leave likes/shares and other dozens of notifications, so it makes it very difficult for him to leave his account unchecked for a long time.

The guy started out as a PE teacher at a university and created his account back in 2009. He also had around 300 friends at first, but once he switched careers and became a nightclub worker, his friends list started to grow exponentially. His passion for nightclubs made him a very popular figure, having people adding him to their friends list to see what events he is attending.

The whole Facebook hype also brought him some business opportunities too. Tayler found out about a 17-year old who was throwing underage parties and making up to $1200 in entry fees. Of course, when you mix underage with parties, you don’t get something that authorities would agree with. So Taylor struck a deal with the kid and now he can still sale his tickets, but under adult supervision.

Thank you News.com.au for providing us with this information

Website can Identify Birds Through Photos

A new website has crept up recently, created in a collaboration between Cornell University and Visipedia research project.

The website isn’t fully automated just yet; it current works off an image that you upload and then asks you to pinpoint certain features such as the beak, tail and eye(s). From here it will search through the millions of archived images from eBird.org and find matching images with known species. Along with other images and the possible species, it will give you sounds and songs that the bird is known to make

Along with other images and the possible species, it will give you sounds and songs that the bird is known to make. The only drawback is that the service only currently works on birds found in North America and Canada.

The system uses machine-learning technology, which betters itself the more it is used; Science professor Serge Belongie said:

“Computers can process images much more efficiently than humans—they can organize, index, and match vast constellations of visual information such as the colors of the feathers and shapes of the bill. The state-of-the-art in computer vision is rapidly approaching that of human perception, and with a little help from the user, we can close the remaining gap and deliver a surprisingly accurate solution.”

I tested out the service, but because I have zero knowledge on North American or Canadian birds; it didn’t work. However, the service did present me with similar images. The service is free to use but is currently unavailable on smartphones and tablets. It will be added to the Merlin app once all of the kinks have been sorted.

Are you an avid bird watcher? or do you have an image of a bird that you want to know the species of? Then head over to Merlin Bird Photo ID and take a look at what it has to offer.

Thank you to engadget for providing us with this information.

Meet the Camera That Uses Light to Power Itself

If you think solar panels are the only thing that use photons to produce power, you might need to read this. Scientists from Columbia University seem to have developed a camera that uses light to power itself.

The camera appears to have been developed in the university’s Department of Computer Science by researchers Shree Nayar and Daniel Sims in collaboration with Mikhail Fridberg, the head of ADSP Consulting in Sharon, Massachusetts.

As for the camera itself, it looks like it uses a simple pixel circuit where its photodiote is used to measure light as well as convert it into electrical energy. This has been made possible by a sensor architecture, which first captures and reads the image and then is used to harvest energy for the sensor’s power supply.

To test it out, the researchers used off-the-shelves components and made two models. One was made using a single pixel based on the design at hand and used it to capture scene images. The next one was made as a fully self-powered camera that outputs 30×40 pictures, using a supercap power supply rather and an external source.

The fully fledged camera was then used to take images in environments with light measuring in at around 300 lux. This resulted in the camera harvesting enough power to keep the supercap above the minimum needed for the camera to take an image per second… forever.

In order to test this out in different lighting environments, the scientists used an adaptive algorithm used to adjust the framerate of the camera based on the voltage of the supercap and the environmental brightness. In the end, the final results got the researchers hyped about the future of fully self-powered solid-state image sensors.

What does this mean for future camera models? Well, post probably it would mean infinite battery life! Or this could even lead to a way to power up your handheld gadgets that feature a camera? Who knows! What we do know is that it is awesome!

Images and videos courtesy of Columbia University

Internet Access Makes You Think You Are Smarter than You Actually Are

Yale University has made a study regarding the psychological impact of searching for answers on the internet, having some interesting results regarding people and how well prepared they believe to be.

“The internet is such a powerful environment, where you can enter any question, and you basically have access to the world’s knowledge at your fingertip,” lead researcher Matthew Fisher told the Telegraph. “It becomes easier to confuse your own knowledge with this external source. When people are truly on their own, they may be wildly inaccurate about how much they know and how dependent they are on the internet.”

For the study, 1000 students were split into two groups and were asked how a zipper works, having the first group given the information on the internet and the second was given a printout of the same information. Both groups have then been asked to explain how cloudy nights are warmer, but none of the participants were given the answer this time around.

When asked about their confidence in knowing the answer, the group who previously researched the answer on the internet appeared to be more confident and more knowledgeable compared to the others. Researches said the study showed that the cognitive effects of using search engines are so powerful that people still feel smarter even when they haven’t had access to the internet.

“In cases where decisions have big consequences, it could be important for people to distinguish their own knowledge and not assume they know something when they actually don’t,” Fisher said.”The internet is an enormous benefit in countless ways, but there may be some trade-offs that aren’t immediately obvious and this may be one of them. Accurate personal knowledge is difficult to achieve, and the internet may be making that task even harder.”

People believe they are smarter if they research the answer on the internet and this proves to be a worrying fact that we depend more and more on a piece of technology for information instead of having the confidence of going out there and finding the answer for ourselves.

Thank you News.com.au for providing us with this information

Scientists Come up with Perfume That Smells Better the More You Sweat

Scientist at Queen’s University Belfast have apparently developed the first-ever perfume delivery system which ensures that the more a person sweats, the better they will smell. It is said that the perfume releases more of its aroma when it comes into contact with moisture, leading to the person smelling nicer when they sweat.

The perfume uses a raw fragrance on an ionic liquid, which is basically salt in the form of liquid, which releases its aroma when it comes into contact with water. In addition, the perfume also has the ability to remove bad odours that come from sweat by attaching themselves to the ionic liquid and losing their potency.

“This is an exciting breakthrough that uses newly discovered ionic liquid systems to release material in a controlled manner. Not only does it have great commercial potential, and could be used in perfumes and cosmetic creams, but it could also be used in others area of science, such as the slow release of certain substances of interest.” stated Dr Nimal Gunaratne, the project lead. “This innovative development demonstrates the drive of researchers at Queen’s to advancing knowledge and achieving excellence for the benefit of society as a whole.”

The university is currently in talks with a perfume development company to identify a number of products ideas that could be sold in shops, but given its effects, it is bound to have a lot of marketing potential in the sportswear market.

Thank you Psy.org for providing us with this information

Scientists Come up with New Way to Control Light for Next-Gen Super Fast Computing

Scientists from the University of Texas El Paso and University of Central Florida introduces a plastic honeycomb-like device that steers light around corners, while keeping the integrity and density of the beam intact.

Sending data with the help of light beams allows it to travel thousands of times more quickly, but it has always been a challenge to control the light beams without losing their energy. Microchip and computer manufacturers alike are heading towards this type of technology and are constantly looking at ways to overcome this issue.

“Computer chips and circuit boards have metal wire connections within them that transport data signals,” said Raymond Rumpf, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UTEP. “One of challenges when using light is figuring out a way to make tight bends so we can replace the metal wiring more effectively.”
“Direct laser writing has the potential to become a flexible means for manufacturing next-generation computer devices,” said Stephen Kuebler, associate professor of chemistry at UCF.

Kuebler and his students used direct laser writing to create the miniaturised lattices and confirmed that they could flow light through them without loss through turns. The finding is very significant due to the fact that there is high demand for ever-smaller and faster computers and hand-held device. The current fiber optics technology does not play well with turns. If a turn for example is too abrupt and not gradual, the light beams escape and the energy is lost.

While the UTEP-UCF team has created the honeycomb-like plastic device which lets light beams turn in tight spots, it is said that they will not stop here. The team of researchers are planning to double the record and create an even tighter turn, making the revolutionary technology prepped and ready for supercomputers in the near future.

Thank you Phys.org for providing us with this information

Rose Petals Inspire New Generation of Stretchable Circuits

Researchers have always turned to nature in order to find solutions to the most complex problems. This time, they turn to rose petals in order to get inspiration for a new generation of stretchable circuitry.

The race to find a way to make circuits stretch as much as possible has been on the back of the mind of researchers all over the world. Imagine the possibilities of rollable tablets or smartphones that could bend in your pocket without having to worry about them breaking.

Though we have had screens which can bend for some time now, they are no good without the circuitry to go with it. Electronic circuits nowadays are made out of silicon substances, which break if bent beyond their limits. Numerous attempts of making the substance elastic have been made, but scientists were faced with headaches when creating the right circuitry to go with the elastic compound.

However, a team of researchers from Hong Kong Polytechnic University have taken a more ‘natural’ approach, having rose petals as inspiration for their work in this field. The team is said to have used the surface topology of the rose petal in order to create a material that allows standard printed circuits to flex without breaking.

“[W]hen conducting materials such as metal thin films are deposited on top, the sharp ridges can effectively stop the propagation of microcracks in the conducting layer formed under large strains. As a consequence, the electrical resistance of the conducting layer shows remarkable stability in large-strain deformation.”

It is said that the electrical properties of the material were consistent when stretched to lengths 40% greater than their original size and continued to function until reaching a value of 90%.

Thank you Gizmodo for providing us with this information

HIV Can Now Be Detected in Just 15 Minutes – With A Smartphone!

Researchers from Columbia University have apparently created a $34 plastic smartphone STD scanner which would “accurately” identify HIV and syphilis antibodies. The scanner is said to be compatible with Google Android and Apple iPhone smartphones.

In order to perform one of these tests, a pin-prick of blood is needed for the scanner and from there onwards, the app is said to spit out the results in just 15 minutes. It is said that the device is able to replicate the mechanical, optical and electronic functions of a traditional lab-based STD analysis.

“This work is a proof of how technology can improve diagnosis and care, making it faster and simpler and cheaper without compromising the existing quality,” said Sabin Nsanzimana, the Rwanda’s Ministry of Health manager of STDs. Although “it may take time, or bigger studies” before additional knowledge of the dongle is known

However, attaching such a device to a smartphone should have raised concerns on power consumption. This is where the researchers stated that they chose a “one-push vacuum” instead of a power-consuming electrical pump.

The device is said to have been field-tested over two weeks at three health clinics in Kigali, Rwanda. The outcome stated that the accuracy was “on par with ELISA tests, but are significantly cheaper”. This means that similar tests can be completed in remote villages and health clinics.

The ultimate goal of the researchers over at Columbia University is to expand the testing beyond HIV and syphilis. But until then, additional testing could drive the price down while allowing mass adoption of the technology in the developing world, which is a good start.

Thank you Daily Tech for providing us with this information

New App Gives College Students Food For Not Using Their Phone

A new app, called Pocket Points, is offering free food and other prizes to students who defer from using their phones in lectures. The app measures the amount of time the phone is unlocked and offers points in return for prizes.

A number of US colleges have utilised the app which aims to increase concentration amongst students and prevent distractions. Every 20 minutes the app is running and while the phone is unlocked, a point is provided to such students. One such university using the app, Penn State, offers students a 15% discount on goods in its own store.

The app, which was developed by a student at California State University, Chico, has been praised by students and tutors alike, but it hasn’t been without criticism. Some say that it’s counterproductive by offering bribes to students who should really be responsible for their own academic success.

What do you think? Are you a student? Would this be good for you?

Source: The Verge

Study Claims Social Networks Cannot Guage Public Opinions

One of the golden rules of social media promotion and engagement is fully based around asking fans for their opinions. It’s commonly seen throughout all different kinds of pages, ranging from celebrities to technology manufacturers and automotive brands. However, the scientists at McGill University in Montreal and Carnegie Mellon Universities researchers have found that less than five percent of popular Social Media’s platform, Twitter, are over 65. Showing in their findings that 18-29 year olds make up over 30 percent of the population, giving them the cast majority over others.

Comparing these findings to Pintrest, they have discovered that it is a mainly Female dominated audience and LinkedIn is populated mainly by rich post-graduates and lastly, their findings have found that Facebook is made up of more diverse populations, with data hard to receive.

What they’re getting at here is, asking a public opinion on one or many social media’s cannot give you a general ‘Public Opinion’ on a product, person, event or object. Each platform generally holds a heavy bias towards one section of our society, making opinions expressed on these generally skewed toward a certain left or right field. Unless however, you ask questions that are targeted specifically at these audiences, giving pages involving just those with youth affairs a higher chance most commonly.

Many opinions expressed loudly on social media can give the illusion of popular opinion, but you may come to find that the reason you’re seeing the same content so much is because you’ve surrounded yourself by like-minded individuals.

Image and information courtesy of Xlwp Themes

ASUS Debut Windows Laptop for $179 US

Quite often University or High School students are looking for a simple solution to type up their reports and complete various simple processing tasks to get them through the day-to-day grind.

ASUS have replied with their sub-$200 category laptop, the X205TA Signature Edition. Coming in at $179 US on the Microsoft stores (lower than the $199 announced RRP), this laptop should complete the task with ease.

Coming complete with Windows 8.1 displayed on an 11.6-inch panel at 1366×768 resolution, the Signature Edition utlizes Intel’s Z3735F Quad-Core processor running at 1.33 GHz. There’s also the standard turbo options up to 1.83 Ghz available and comes with a handy secondary cache of 2 MB. The laptop functions through 2GB of DDR3-1333 memory, built in eMMC storage and an expandable microSD card slot.

Given all of the specifications above and the overall look and ‘feel’ of the product, it seems that it will be $179 well-spent. We’d like to see it included with a little more ram however, as windows 8.1 might start to chug when running on only 2GB.

As for accessory and connection options, this model comes with two USB 2.0 ports, a 480p webcam, a combined audio and microphone port, HDMI output, 802.11n WiFi and Blutooth 4.0. Measuring at a total 11.25 x 7.61 x 0.68 inches at a weight of 2.11 pounds (0.96kg), this laptop will be small and light enough to carry around for days on end around campus.

This system is listed not only in the Microsoft shop, seeing an addition to the Amazon online store also.

Images courtesy of Chiphell

Harvard University Secretly Tracked Attendance Using Cameras

The prestigious Harvard University has revealed it conducted an experiment using cameras to track attendance.

The experiment which used security cameras and custom software to analyse the number of empty seats in a lecture hall, was conducted without the consent of the 2000 students involved.

Unsurprisingly, this has prompted a backlash from those students, who have reacted not so positively to the notion that they were being spied on. While the cameras apparently couldn’t distinguish individual faces, it’s worth noting that none of the experiment’s participants had any way of opting out.

The researchers have defended themselves by noting that they did follow all the correct procedures, such as submitting the experiment’s plans to a review board and ensuring all the images taken were deleted by the end of the project.

The university has listened to the concerns however and is bringing the issue to an oversight committee, with the hope of preventing ethical issues like this in future experiments.

Source: Boston Globe

Image: tpsdave at Pixabay

New LCD Screen Innovation Can Display Pictures for Years

The University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong has successfully developed an LCD screen with the same characteristics as an E-Ink screen, to keep the displayed picture present for several years without any power.

E-ink screens, such as those on the Amazon Kindle e-reader, don’t need a constant flow of power to display the last loaded content such as LCD screens currently do; a thing that is about to be changed.

Based on this new technology, the research team successfully created a rewritable optical LCD screen (ORWLCD), a phrase to remember. The traditional LCD requires a constant flow of electron beam to display images where the ORWLCD only requires electricity to update the image. No power will be drawn and the connection will be cut until a new image needs to be loaded.

While this technology doesn’t directly help high fps gaming, it’s a great step in the right direction. It will allow much better digital photo frames and similar functions as well as create a base for future LCD display technologies.

The technology behind this is somewhat special to the average person. So I’ll just attach the slides below for those with the knowledge to enjoy and the rest to wonder about.

Thanks to CNbeta for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of CNbeta

Google Building World’s Fastest Computer Using Quantum Technology

Google have joined forces with researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara to develop “quantum computing” technology. The technology is still highly technical and a lot of it is also theoretical, but the potential for mind-blowing performance is too great to ignore and that is why Google and many other industry giants have been researching quantum technology.

Using qubits to process information rather than the binary systems of ones and zeros that are used by traditional computers, quantum computers should theoretically be faster, to put it into perspective how fast lets look at the world’s current #1, the Tianhe-2 super computer in China. Tianhe-2 can blast through 55 quadrillion calculations a second, if Google pull off their new computer, Tianhe-2’s performance will look like a snails pace.

The technology has a long way to go, but with Google already having worked with D-Wave on developing a viable quantum computer, they’re easily one of the best equipped to make it a reality.

Thank you CNN for providing us with this information.

Reddit, Imgur and Twitch Join Forces as ‘Derp’ for Data Research

Some of the biggest names in social media have joined forces to form The Digital Ecologies Research Partnership (Derp). Somehow I doubt that acronym is a coincidence. Derp will grant academic researchers unprecedented access to their respective sites data allowing for groups at Harvard, MIT and McGill to promote “open, publicly accessible, and ethical academic inquiry into the vibrant social dynamics of the web”.

It came about “as a result of Imgur talking with a number of other community platforms online trying to learn about how they work with academic researchers,” says Tim Hwang, the image-sharing site’s head of special initiatives.

“In most cases, the data provided through Derp will already be accessible through public APIs,” he says. “Our belief is that there are ways of doing research better, and in a way that strongly respects user privacy and responsible use of data.

“Derp is an alliance of platforms that all believe strongly in this. In working with academic researchers, we support projects that meet institutional review at their home institution, and all research supported by Derp will be released openly and made publicly available.”

Derp will allow for a single point of contact for researchers to get in touch with the right people within each parent company of the group. This will allow research to progress faster and smoother, removing many of the hurdles that were previously in place when dealing with these companies.

It’ll likely be a while before we see the results of their work, but it’ll be interesting to see if they can come up with more than a database of the most popular cat memes by frequency of shares.

Thank you Guardian for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Guardian.

British Intelligence Agecy Accredits UK Master’s Degree in Cyber Spying

British Intelligence Agency, GCHQ, is said to have started accrediting six UK universities, which can now teach people the art of ‘cyber spying’. The degree initiative comes from part of the UK’s cyber security strategy published back in 2011.

The strategy itself is said to recognize that education is a crucial key to improving defenses against hackers and online fraud. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, stated that cyber security is a key part of the government’s future plans for the British economy, emphasizing that it would make the “UK one of the safest places in the world to do business online”.

“Through the excellent work of GCHQ, in partnership with other government departments, the private sector and academia, we are able to counter threats and ensure together we are stronger and more aware.” Maude said.

Universities around the UK were required to submit their master’s degree courses for certification. At present, GCHQ-approved courses in cyber security can be found at Edinburgh Napier University, Lancaster University, the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway, University of London.

In addition to the previously mentioned universities, GCHQ is said to have given out provisional accreditation to Cranfield University’s cyber defence and information assurance course, and the University of Surrey’s information security course.

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of BBC

Geologists Say that Earth-like Soils on Mars Could Lead to Microbial Life Discovery

Some geologists have analysed a few sample images captured by the ‘Curiosity’ rover from Mars and tell that there might be Earth-like soils on the red planet. The images show that there might be some ancient fossilized soils deep within an impact crater, which could eventually lead to the discovery of microbial life.

While Mars is filled with landscapes resembling catastrophic floods and rocks from impact craters, there might be signs of smooth soils and soften terrain, much like we have on Earth. Gregory Retallack from the University of Oregon has apparently analysed the mineral and chemical data from Curiosity, leading to the discovery of such soils we are used to stepping on for thousands of years.

The professors states that soils from Gale Crater, dating back to 3.7 billion years ago, appear to have cracked surfaces lined with sulfate and vesicular hollows, both features of soils found on desert terrains on Earth. In addition, the sulphate concentration are said to be comparable with Antarctic Dry Valleys and Chile’s Atacama Desert.

“The pictures were the first clue, but then all the data really nailed it,” Retallack says in a news release. “The new data show clear chemical weathering trends, and clay accumulation at the expense of the mineral olivine, as expected in soils on Earth […] Phosphorus depletion within the profiles is especially tantalizing, because it attributed to microbial activity on Earth.”

Th new soils discovered are said to offer more insight on habitable conditions previously found on Mars. Also, having them date back 3.7 billion years ago tends to put Mars’ water cycle at around the same time as the Earth started diversifying. Further studies are said to take place on geologically younger layers within craters in order to learn the planet’s life story.

Thank you IFLScience for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of IFLScience