Archive for March, 2009

Move Over, Google: The All-Knowing Search Engine Is Coming Soon

By Boonsri Dickinson | March 26, 2009 6:01 pm

sign.jpgIt may be reaching ubiquity, but Google has just scratched the surface of the Web. In fact, computer scientist Weiyi Meng at Binghamton University is already working on Google’s replacement: a search engine that can give you straightforward answers to questions like “Who is Einstein,” instead of simply listing relevant URLs.

The metasearch engine would tap into the million or so search engines around the world, and present a more complete and accurate list of search results by searching the “deep Internet.” While the surface Web—the part of the Web that is indexed by search engines—has about 60 billion pages, the deep Web has about 900 billion pages—and because Google has not been designed to dig deeper, many of those pages are out of reach.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Your Plants Have More Twitter Followers Than You—Literally

By Rachel Cernansky | March 26, 2009 11:35 am

plant1.jpgOk, for anyone not on Twitter, it’s time to reevaluate: These days, even plants are doing it. And successfully, too—Pothos has 2,300 followers, and when it tweets, it almost always gets what it wants.

Granted, all it wants is water, but when plant owners are forgetful or just don’t have a green thumb, their green friends often go thirsty. The solution? Botanicalls, a device that sends wireless signals to Twitter. It’s made of soil moisture sensors that transmit information (too much moisture? too little?) through a circuit board to a microcontroller, just like a mini-computer.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: computers, plants, Twitter

NCBI ROFL: Hula Hooping: Part I

By ncbi rofl | March 26, 2009 12:50 am

Hula hooping: a kinetic condundrum?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NCBI ROFL, rated G

NCBI ROFL: "Old people are useless": representations of aging on the Simpsons.

By ncbi rofl | March 26, 2009 12:23 am

“..The article constructs a bridge that places The Simpsons squarely within a postmodern aesthetic and, using this rubric, shows how the inherent political nature of parodic irony can help to create an inversion of meaning.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NCBI ROFL, rated G, ridiculous titles

Twitter to Replace World History in England Schools

By Rachel Cernansky | March 25, 2009 5:35 pm

facebook.jpgLove ‘em or hate ‘em, social networking tools are growing faster than anyone can keep track of, and are being used plenty of unexpected ways.

Some developments are questionably beneficial, like new education standards in England that may require students to learn to use online tools like Twitter and Wikipedia, while scrapping history. Who needs a textbook to teach the Second World War when you can learn about it from a user-generated encyclopedia?

Other ideas have ambition, like Nokia’s investment in a California startup that will allow cell phones to act, essentially, like credit cards. Now, the developed world may not need additional forms of credit, but in countries where people often lack bank accounts, the ability to use prepaid phone credit as cash—or to transfer funds for a loan to a friend, for example—will facilitate transactions and a lot of everyday life.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Cooking in Space: Slow, Mediocre, and Dangerous

By Rachel Cernansky | March 25, 2009 3:35 pm

spacefood.jpgIt takes Sandra Magnus more than two hours and a roll of duct tape to cook garlic and onions. Granted, she’s doing it all in space, where for the last four months she has been practicing orbital cooking. It’s not the easiest of tasks in a low-gravity environment, where even the tiniest crumbs can get lodged in a shuttle vent or even float into an astronaut’s nose, posing a breathing hazard.

One of Magnus’s first space culinary efforts: pesto canned chicken with vegetables, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. The result? “Mediocre,” she said. She kept a journal of her cooking experiences, jotting down observations that are sure to come in handy for astronaut posterity. She noted that mixing was most easily done with sealed plastic bags, duct tape proved useful as a way to keep items (especially waste) in place, and when slicing, large pieces were most practical.

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Could Poop Fuel Our Future? New Sewage-Powered Buses Hint at Yes

By Boonsri Dickinson | March 25, 2009 11:53 am

poofinal.jpgBathroom time may not be wasted time after all: A year’s worth of your poop can be turned into 2.1 gallons of useable diesel. And the Norwegian capital of Oslo plans to put all that waste to work powering 80 of its buses with fuel made from the Bekkelaget sewage treatment plant, which houses the waste of 250,000 people.

If all goes as planned, the city’s other waste treatment plant, as well as biofuels made from food waste, will eventually contribute to the total supply—and with serious results: Fueling 400 or so buses this way would reduce 30,000 tons of carbon emissions a year.

While the idea certainly has an “ick factor,” it’s not like gas-station attendants will have to start shoveling sewage directly into a bus’ fuel tank.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Scat-egory, Technology Attacks!

NCBI ROFL: Bust size and hitchhiking: a field study

By ncbi rofl | March 24, 2009 9:43 pm

“A 20-yr.-old female confederate wore a bra which permitted variation in the size of cup to vary her breast size. She stood by the side of a road frequented by hitchhikers and held out her thumb to catch a ride. Increasing the bra-size of the female-hitchhiker was significantly associated with an increase in number of male drivers, but not female drivers, who stopped to offer a ride.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NCBI ROFL, scientist...or perv?

Recession Winners (and Health Losers): Candy Stores and Rehab Centers

By Rachel Cernansky | March 24, 2009 6:40 pm

jellybeans.jpgIt seems that every passing day brings more bad economic news—but it’s not just your wallet that’s taking a hit from the recession. New research indicates that your teeth and liver (not to mention your waistline) are as well.

Rehab centers have reported a sharp rise in the number of bankers (and other white-collar workers) seeking treatment for substance abuse, depression, or both.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

Animal Heroics: Parrot Honored for Saving Choking Baby

By Rachel Cernansky | March 24, 2009 12:34 pm

parrot.jpgFor one toddler in Colorado, parrots may displace dogs as man’s best friend. Willie the parrot warned his owner that a nearby baby was choking by repeating, “Mama, baby,” when the woman left the room and the toddler started to choke on her breakfast.

All was fine after the woman performed the Heimlich maneuver, but she gives credit to the parrot for the baby’s life. Willie was recognized on Friday with an Animal Lifesaver Award at an event called the Breakfast of Champions, attended by both the governor of Colorado and the mayor of Denver.

Willie’s call is just the latest in a string of heroic acts by non-humans—there was Buddy the German shepherd who called 911 last year when his owner began having a seizure (and is not the only dog to have done so), and a pod of dolphins who rescued a surfer from a great white shark. (Nor was that a unique incident.)

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