Nerval's Lobster writes "To give the Mars Rover Curiosity the brains she needs to operate took 5 million lines of code. And while the Mars Science Laboratory team froze the code a year before the roaming laboratory landed on August 5, they kept sending software updates to the spacecraft during its 253-day, 352 million-mile flight. In its belly, Curiosity has two computers, a primary and a backup. Fun fact: Apple's iPhone 5 has more processing power than this one-eyed explorer. 'You're carrying more processing power in your pocket than Curiosity,' Ben Cichy, chief flight software engineer, told an audience at this year's MacWorld."
waderoush writes "In November, Lytro, the maker of the first light field camera for consumers, upgraded its viewer software to enable a feature called 'Perspective Shift.' In addition to refocusing pictures after they've been taken, Lytro audiences can now pivot between different virtual points of view, within a narrow baseline. This 3-D capability was baked into Lytro's technology from the start: 'The light field itself is inherently multidimensional [and] the 2-D refocusable picture that we launched with was just one way to represent that,' says Eric Cheng, Lytro's director of photography. But while Perspective Shift is currently little more than a novelty, the possibilities for future 3-D imaging are startling, especially as Lytro develops future devices with larger sensors — and therefore larger baselines, allowing more dramatic 3-D effects. Cheng says the company is already exploring future versions of its viewer software that would work on 3-D televisions. 'We are moving the power of photography from optics to computation,' he says. 'So when the public really demands 3-D content, we will be ready for it.'"
darthcamaro writes "Oracle has been slammed a lot in recent months about its lackluster handling of Java security. Now Oracle is responding as strongly as it can with one of the largest Java security updates in history. 50 flaws in total with the vast majority carrying the highest-possible CVSS score of 10."
concealment sends this excerpt from the NY Times: "Late last year, Zoe Keating, an independent musician from Northern California, provided an unusually detailed case in point. In voluminous spreadsheets posted to her Tumblr blog, she revealed the royalties she gets from various services, down to the ten-thousandth of a cent. Even for an under-the-radar artist like Ms. Keating, who describes her style as “avant cello,” the numbers painted a stark picture of what it is like to be a working musician these days. After her songs had been played more than 1.5 million times on Pandora over six months, she earned $1,652.74. On Spotify, 131,000 plays last year netted just $547.71, or an average of 0.42 cent a play. 'In certain types of music, like classical or jazz, we are condemning them to poverty if this is going to be the only way people consume music,' Ms. Keating said. ... The question dogging the music industry is whether these micropayments can add up to anything substantial. 'No artist will be able to survive to be professionals except those who have a significant live business, and that’s very few,' said Hartwig Masuch, chief executive of BMG Rights Management."
An anonymous reader writes "Today Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy, released a letter indicating he won't continue to hold the job for President Obama's second term. He'll continue until the ARPA-E Summit at the end of February, and then perhaps a bit longer until a replacement is found. MIT's Technology Review sums up his contributions thus: 'Under his leadership, the U.S. Department of Energy has changed the way it does energy research and development. He leaves behind new research organizations that are intently focused on solving specific energy problems, particularly the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy as well as several Innovation Hubs. The latter were modeled closely on Chu's experience working at the legendary Bell labs, where researchers solving basic problems rubbed shoulders with engineers who knew how to build things. At one Innovation Hub, for example, researchers who are inventing new materials that can absorb sunlight or split water are working together with engineers who are building prototypes that could use those materials to generate fuel from sunlight. Chu also brought an intense focus on addressing climate change through technical innovation, speaking clearly and optimistically about the potential for breakthroughs to change what's possible.'"
redletterdave points out work from Japanese researchers who produced an incredible visualization of how a brain perceives its environment. Studying zebrafish larvae, the scientists were able to observe neuronal signals in real time as the zebrafish saw and identified is prey, a paramecium. The results are illustrated in a brief video posted to YouTube, and in a longer video abstract hosted at Current Biology. (Direct download). The work is important because it demonstrates direct mapping of external stimuli to internal neuron activity in the optic tectum.
the_newsbeagle writes "Chinese aerospace engineers have revealed, for the first time, details about their Chang'e-2 spacecraft's encounter with the asteroid Toutatis last month. They have plenty to boast: The asteroid flyby wasn't part of the original flight plan, but engineers adapted the mission and navigated the satellite through deep space (PDF). Exactly how close Chang'e-2 came to Toutatis is still unclear. The article states that the first reports 'placed the flyby range at 3.2 km, which was astonishingly—even recklessly—tight. Passing within a few kilometers of an asteroid only 2 to 3 km in diameter at a speed of 10,730 meters per second could be described as either superb shooting or a near disaster.' If the Chinese spacecraft did pass that near, it could provide a "scientific bonanza" with data about the asteroid's mass and composition."
An anonymous reader writes "Facebook has brought back its photo Tag Suggestions feature to the U.S. after temporarily suspending it last year to make some technical improvements. Facebook says it has re-enabled it so that its users can use facial recognition 'to help them easily identify a friend in a photo and share that content with them.' Facebook first rolled out the face recognition feature across the U.S. in late 2010. The company eventually pushed photo Tag Suggestions to other countries in June 2011, but in the US there was quite a backlash. Yet Facebook doesn't appear to have made any privacy changes to the feature: it's still on by default."
itwbennett writes "Last year, Rackspace planned to support third-party OpenStack distributions as part of its private cloud offering. That was then. 'Things have evolved quickly as enterprises start evaluating their options in the cloud generally and the OpenStack market specifically,' said Jim Curry, general manager of Rackspace Private Cloud. Customers, it seems, want to run a cloud model internally that 'looks and feels like what Rackspace delivers in the public cloud. To deliver that experience, we needed to develop software that deploys an OpenStack cloud that Rackspace can operate and support.'"
Esther Schindler writes "If you're looking for technology to improve kitchen connectivity and home automation, you might be surprised at how little is available today. Turns out, that's a good thing. Our industry has a long history of trying to sell a solution in search of a problem. Maybe we can get away with that occasionally, when the solution is inherently fun, or when there are enough of us geeks to buy an cool-looking automated gizmo with blinking lights where a cheaper hand-held "solution" is just as good for the masses. But when it comes to home appliances, which cost a pretty penny by anyone's measure, nobody wants to invest big bucks in a "connected" device — however cool the home automation seems — where the technology platform goes away (my washing machine is 8 years old; I sure wouldn't use a PC or phone that age) or where the benefits are murky. That is, just what is it we want the kitchen automation to do? It's one thing to say, "The fridge could order food when I run out" but none of us want to scan every potato as we unload the groceries. Yet, as I wrote in Cooking up the connected kitchen, the manufacturers are paying attention to home automation and connectivity and giving your oven an app. And some of it, as I hope the article makes clear, is really cool. 'The manufacturers want to sell us technology, and we want to buy cool capabilities that actually improve the quality of our lives. What I found surprising, in my own hands-on evaluations, is how often I had a dual-stage response: "That's the dumbest thing I ever saw. (beat) Wait, I want that!"' The manufacturers are being thoughtful about both what we'd want and what we'd buy... which is something to appreciate. So what would you want from kitchen connectivity?"
pigrabbitbear writes "It always sounded like a hoax, didn't it? Silk Road: an Internet website where you can buy any drug in the world? Yeah, right. But it's real. It was almost two years ago that we first heard about the site, which hosts everything from Adderall to Ketamine, LSD to MDMA and tons and tons of weed. After it started to pick up a ton of press and exposure, we all thought that certainly the Silk Road would get shut down. It's super illegal to sell drugs or even to help people sell drugs. But it didn't. Silk Road survives to this day. However, with the arrival this week of the first conviction of a Silk Road-related crime, you have to wonder if Silk Road's days might be numbered after all. The trouble is brewing in Australia, where a guy named Paul Leslie Howard is facing as many as five years in prison for selling drugs on Silk Road. We're not talking millions of dollars worth of drugs, but we are talking about thousands of dollars worth. And just as Silk Road natives had feared, Howard was one of those Silk Road n00bs who read a newspaper article about the site and decided to try it out for himself."
Reducing various items to a fine powder in one of his blenders earned Blendtec CEO Tom Dickson a cult following. One of, if not the greatest viral marketing campaigns of all time, the "Will It Blend?" series has been watched almost 221,000,000 times on YouTube. In addition to receiving many marketing awards, Tom and his blenders have been featured on The Tonight Show and the History Channel series Modern Marvels. He has agreed to take a break from pureeing household objects and answer your questions. As usual, you're invited to ask as many questions as you'd like, but please divide them, one question per post.
sciencehabit writes "You don't have to be Superman to help those in need, but you might be more willing to do so if you get a taste of his powers. When subjects in a new study strapped on virtual reality helmets, half of them were given the ability to fly around a simulated city, while the others sat passively in helicopters. Some were allowed to merely explore the city from their aerial vantage points; others were told they needed to find a missing diabetic child and deliver his lifesaving insulin. Regardless of which task they performed, the subjects granted the superpower of flight were more likely to help a researcher pick up spilled pens after the experiment was. The results have researchers wondering if our brains might react to the memory of a virtual experience as though it had really happened. If so, we may be able to use virtual reality and gaming to effectively treat psychological disorders such as PTSD."
silentbrad sends word of a recent lecture given by Valve's Gabe Newell to a college class. He had some interesting remarks about the future of games in the living room: "The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform," Newell said. "I think that there's a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room? ... We're happy to do it if nobody else will do it, mainly because everybody else will pile on, and people will have a lot of choices, but they'll have those characteristics. They'll say, 'Well, I could buy a console, which assumes I'll re-buy all my content, have a completely different video system, and, oh, I have a completely different group of friends, apparently. Or I can just extend everything I love about the PC and the internet into the living room.' ... I think the biggest challenge is that Apple moves on the living room before the PC industry sort of gets its act together." There's another hour-long lecture from Newell posted on YouTube talking about productivity, economics, and the future of corporations. Speaking of Steam, reader skade88 points out an article at Linux.com about the current state of the Steam for Linux beta.
An anonymous reader writes "Since the 1960s until the present day, missile defense has been a hot topic. Ronald Reagan popularized the concept with his 'Star Wars' multi-billion dollar plan to use lasers and various technologies to destroy incoming Soviet warheads. Today, America has a sizable sea-based system, dubbed AEGIS, that has been deployed to defend against rogue states missiles, both conventional and nuclear. However, there is one thing missile defense can't beat: simple math. 'Think about it — could we someday see a scenario where American forces at sea with a fixed amount of defensive countermeasures face an enemy with large numbers of cruise and ballistic weapons that have the potential to simply overwhelm them? Could a potential adversary fire off older weapons that are not as accurate (PDF), causing a defensive response that exhausts all available missile interceptors so more advanced weapons with better accuracy can deliver the crushing blow? Simply put: does math win?'"