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— Telecommunications

Canary Watch tracks government requests for your information online

The idea of a warrant canary in information privacy is the story of one clever workaround and one small paradox, a paradox the newly-launched Canary Watch database aims to track. If an ISP or content provider were required by American national security programs to turn over user data, such as Verizon being forced to release ongoing batches of phone call data under the Patriot Act in 2013 (and furthermore being gagged from warning its users) how would anyone know? Read More
— Robotics

"Tell me Dave" robot learns simply by people talking to it

Many robots today are able to follow verbal instructions. However, the robot first has to be programmed with software code that allows it to respond to those instructions in some predetermined way, and that software must be added to every time the robot's task list is enhanced. Wouldn’t it be easier if we could just avoid all that messy fiddling about with software and talk to a machine as we would a human and explain what we wanted it to do? Researchers at Cornell University thought so, that’s why they designed and built a learning robot as part of their "Tell me Dave" project. Read More
— Science

Quantum black hole study opens bridge to another universe

Physicists have long thought that the singularities associated with gravity (like the inside of a black hole) should vanish in a quantum theory of gravity. It now appears that this may indeed be the case. Researchers in Uruguay and Louisiana have just published a description of a quantum black hole using loop quantum gravity in which the predictions of physics-ending singularities vanish, and are replaced by bridges to another universe. Read More
— Science

Sapphire disks could communicate with future generations 10 million years from now

Storing data for longer than a few years is tricky enough with rapidly advancing technology, so what are you supposed to do if you need to store data for thousands or even millions of years? That's just the problem facing nuclear waste management companies, who need a way to warn future civilizations of hazardous sites that will withstand the test of time. Luckily a recent proposal may have the solution with a sapphire disk etched in platinum that could survive longer than humanity itself. Read More
— Good Thinking

Metaphorical search engine looks for un-thought-of connections

Conventional search engines are definitely something of a paradox – you use them to find out new information regarding a certain topic, yet the top hits that you receive mostly contain information that everyone already knows. Not only does this hinder peoples’ efforts to think about things in new ways, but it can also reinforce mistruths and stereotypes. That’s where YossarianLives! comes in. Named after the main character in the paradox-centered book Catch-22, it’s a “metaphorical search engine” that’s designed to generate new knowledge instead of reinforcing existing knowledge. Read More
— Science

Study calculates humanity's information capacity – but we're still running second

Prepare for some mind-boggling numbers. A new study has estimated how much information there is in the world in terms of how much humankind is able to store, communicate and compute. Looking at the period from 1986 to 2007, the study is the first to quantify humankind’s ability to handle information and how it has changed in the past two decades. But despite the monumental figures, the numbers still pale in comparison to the order of magnitude with which nature handles information. Read More
— Inventors and Remarkable People

Happy 10th birthday to Wikipedia

Like "Google", "Wikipedia" has entered the common lexicon. I haven't yet heard anyone say they're going to Wikipedia something but I'm sure that someone, somewhere, is already doing it. Many of us have Wikipedia bookmarked as our "go to" site, the first port of call to get an overview of a topic. The free, online encyclopedia features roughly 17 million articles in 270 languages, all created by a volunteer community. On 15 January this year Wikipedia celebrates its tenth birthday – what had the potential to become disastrously chaotic has become a valued icon, consulted by more than 400 million people every month. Read More
— Pets

Dog-e-Minder - an electronic diary for your best friend

Wondering why your mutt is gaining weight and your pet food bill is going through the roof – even though you’re regularly feeding the dog what you always have? Could it be that someone else in your household is feeding your pet, too, or forgetting to walk your canine pal. And when was the last time your dog had its flea or heart medication? A new, easy-to-use three-button device called the Dog-e-Minder should help solve some of these problems. It attaches to your pet’s collar and shows the last time your dog was fed, walked or had its medication. When idle, the Dog-e-Minder works as a backlit identification tag. Read More