Archive for April, 2009

Worried About Swine Flu? Perhaps Your iPhone Will Save You

By Rachel Cernansky | April 30, 2009 6:19 pm

iphoneapp.jpgAs if bad government responses to swine flu aren’t enough, now there are bad technical ones too: a swine flu iPhone app that keeps tabs on the status of the pandemic (is it one yet?) and maps the latest cases.

So, um, if you’re planning a trip to Mexico City on the go, your phone can now warn you not to.

Image: IntuApps

Related Content:
80beats: World Health Organization Ups Pandemic Alert Level for Swine Flu
80beats: First U.S. Death From Swine Flu Is Reported as Outbreak Spreads
DISCOVER: The Five Worst Government Responses to Swine Flu

Can't Touch This: Cockatoo Jams to Techno, Supports Animal Research

By Rachel Cernansky | April 30, 2009 3:30 pm

Turns out humans aren’t the only ones who can keep a beat!

This sulphur-crested cockatoo can dance “in time” to a changing rhythm—and in a particularly impressive display, it can even raise its feathers when the music picks up.

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Need to Deliver a Baby? Let YouTube Show You How.

By Rachel Cernansky | April 30, 2009 12:48 pm

baby.jpgYou can learn to solve a Rubik’s cube from YouTube—so why not how to deliver a baby?

Twenty-eight-year-old Marc Stephens, now a father of four, had planned an at-home birth with his wife, Jo, but the hospital had no midwives available when baby time came a-calling. So instead, he tapped his memory for lessons he’d learned about childbirth from a series of how-to videos on YouTube.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Sex & Mating, Technology Attacks!

Speaking French? Your Computer Can Tell

By Rachel Cernansky | April 29, 2009 5:44 pm

lips.jpgNot only can a computer read lips, but it can tell what language you’re speaking. Researchers in the U.K. have developed lip-reading computers that were successfully able to identify the language spoken into a video camera by 21 volunteers, each of whom was fluent in two or three languages.

French speakers, it seems, tend toward rounder lip movements, while speaking Arabic requires more prominent tongue movements. The computer program uses facial recognition and statistical modeling of lip movements to detect the sequences indicating that a particular language is being spoken. Potentially, the technology could lead to automatic lip-reading systems for deaf people.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: computers, language

Sweden Fines Factory After Near-Deadly Robot Attack

By Rachel Cernansky | April 29, 2009 12:20 pm

robot3.jpgTurns out robots are not always the hardworking, sensible employees that companies intend them to be. A robot in Sweden has now cost a company $3,000 in fines, after nearly costing one employee his life.

Two years ago, a factory worker was performing maintenance on a robot used to lift heavy rocks. Thinking he had cut the power supply, the man approached the robot, who apparently was not deprived of power at all, since he grabbed the man’s head and wouldn’t let go.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: robots, sweden, technology

Virtual Cemeteries: Choose Your Final Resting Place…Online

By Rachel Cernansky | April 28, 2009 1:55 pm

stair.jpgInternet junkies (which includes an increasing majority of humanity these days) now have one less reason to fear death: Sites like can preserve their online lives forever.

Virtual cemeteries and online memorials are springing up around the Internet, from companies that use funeral homes as middlemen. A virtual grave site can be purchased for a loved one, followed by digital amenities and individual accessories, such as a mausoleum, flowers, and religious icons (for $5 and up).

Entrepreneurial ideas like these have sprung largely from the role that Facebook and other social networks have nabbed when a death occurs in social circles. People often use social networks to let others in the network know of a friend’s passing, or distribute details of a funeral, for example. Facebook can also declare a deceased person’s page as in a “Memorial State,” which restricts access to approved family members and friends. Facebook usually requires an official death notice or news item before making the change.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Twitter Surpasses Continental Drift in Congressional Awareness

By Melissa Lafsky | April 28, 2009 12:00 pm

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)—the ranking member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee—has displayed more than a little trouble with the concept of Continental Drift. Imagine our surprise, then, to see that he is apparently an avid Twitterer:

Barton Tweet

Good thing no one’s asking him to explain how exactly all those Tweets got from his computer to teh Internets.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: idiocy, internet, politics

Scrawny? Buff? You May Hear Sounds Differently

By Boonsri Dickinson | April 27, 2009 6:24 pm

skinny.jpgPeople may perceive sound differently, depending on how in shape they are. Researchers have previously shown that women respond to oncoming noise sooner than men, supporting the view that stronger people require less time to react to impending danger. In the latest study from Ohio, scientists say that response time is not based on someone’s gender, height, or weight, but instead, relies on how fit a person is.

“This is the first evidence that our motor system and the perception of looming sounds evolved together,” John Neuhoff, an evolutionary psychologist at the College of Wooster and lead researcher on the study, told DISCOVER. Neuhoff tested 50 people, ranging from college students to 43-year-old couch potatoes, for strength and cardiovascular fitness. He categorized his subjects based on their fitness level, measuring their pulse rate for 60 seconds after they marched for three minutes.

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MORE ABOUT: evolution, fitness, noise

Cell Phone Kisses: New Phone Will Send Your Smooch Through the Airwaves

By Rachel Cernansky | April 27, 2009 5:41 pm

kissphone-koussouros.jpgIf you’re too far away from your honey to exchange real kisses, you may soon be able to kiss him or her over the phone, using the—you guessed it—KissPhone.

You actually kiss the phone—on its big, pink lips, to be precise—and the pressure, temperature, percussion speed, and “sucking force” of your mouth are measured. The phone then transmits these signals to your partner’s KissPhone, which reproduces the conditions of the kiss.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: cell phones, gadgets, sex

Townspeople Thwart Cricket Invasion by Blasting Led Zeppelin

By Rachel Cernansky | April 27, 2009 12:15 pm

crickets.jpgMormon crickets have no taste in music, and Nevadans are using it against them. Residents of Tuscarora are getting ready to blast their boomboxes to ward off the crickets’ semi-annual invasion, after the townsfolk realized three years ago that the pests don’t like Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones.

Mormon crickets are a real problem in northern Nevada and other parts of the Great Basin: They march in columns up to two miles long and one mile wide from about May through August. They hatch in April and invade all aspects of life before they finally lay eggs and die. They destroy crops, invade people’s homes (one resident said, “You’ll wake up and there’ll be one sitting on your forehead, looking at you”), and clog roadways—even requiring snowplows to clear out their piled-up carcasses.

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