From Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now: North Korea’s Satellite Is Tumbling Out Of Control

North Korea: Rocket Is Good, Satellite Not So Much
The rogue nation reached space on Monday, but its orbiting ‘space vehicle’ is now hurtling uncontrolled and poses a threat to other satellites.

Here’s something troubling to start your afternoon: North Korea launched a new satellite into space earlier this week and now it’s apparently tumbling out of control amid all the other satellites that the world relies on.

That’s not really all that unexpected, but after successfully reaching orbital space on Monday there was some degree of hope–even in the midst of condemnation for what the global community sees as a thinly veiled ballistic missile test–that North Korean engineers have a clue what they are doing. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they do not.

The satellite has an unstable trajectory, American officials have said. It could come crashing back to Earth. And there’s a remote chance it could collide with something else in orbit. More on this as it develops, but for now it looks like North Korea’s space program is off to quite a shaky start.

[The Independent]

from Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now

From Engadget: University of Bath develops efficient vector-based video, says pixels are old hat

University of the Bath develops vector-based video, may retire the pixel

The pixel does the job for most digital imagery — it sure makes for a fine shirt — but it’s not so hot for video, where growing resolutions chew up gobs of bandwidth. There may be a wiser strategy coming from the University of Bath, whose researchers have developed a more efficient approach to movie codecs. Their new format uses vectors to render footage with colored contours that demand fewer resources than a dot-by-dot approach. While vector-based rendering isn’t original in itself, the researchers’ method is supposedly unique in filling the gaps between the contours with the kind of visual quality a pro videographer would crave. The university team is confident enough that it’s talking to major companies about using the codec for post-production tools, and sees it spreading to mobile devices where connection speeds and storage are at a premium. It could take years for vector-based video to catch on; if the technology ever upsets the pixel’s reign, though, more than a few Vectrex owners may see it as poetic justice.

Filed under: ,


Via: Popular Science

Source: University of Bath

from Engadget

From Discover Magazine: Video Gaming Skills May Translate to Robotic Surgery

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) is in the top tier when it comes to robotic surgeries. But when UTMB’s doctors training to be surgeons performed robotic simulations side by side with video game-playing high school and college students, the young gamers actually beat them out. The results were presented at a conference on minimally invasive gynecology [pdf] in November.

The surgery simulation used in the study resembles a video game boo

from Discover Magazine

From Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now: China Fires Officials Who Sanctioned Secret Feeding Of Genetically Modified Rice To Kids

Golden Rice Compared to regular white rice, “golden” rice, at the top, has been genetically modified to produce beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. International Rice Research Institute via Wikipedia
Parents were told the rice contained beta carotene, but weren’t informed that it was thanks to genetic engineering.

Chinese leaders have fired three government officials involved in a study of genetically modified rice, after complaints that the study’s subjects weren’t properly informed. The subjects were kids whose parents didn’t know what their kids were eating.

The study involves golden rice, a goldenrod-colored form of the grain developed more than a decade ago for the express purpose of addressing vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. It has been alternately hailed as a humanitarian breakthrough and denigrated as an empty promise to the poor–but one thing it has not been is actually approved for use. The study at the heart of this new controversy was a step on that path. It was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and included some U.S.-based researchers.

In the study, some Chinese children were fed golden rice, which had been genetically modified to produce beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A formation. Other children in the study ate meals containing spinach or beta carotene capsules. Scientists wanted to determine how well the beta carotene converted to vitamin A after the rice was eaten. Parents were told their kids were eating rice that contained beta carotene, but they weren’t told it got this way through genetic modification. They were also not told about skepticism and controversy surrounding GMO foods generally and golden rice specifically.

Greenpeace pointed out this study back in August, and Chinese officials launched an investigation, culminating in a recent report about the trial on state-run TV station CCTV. In the program, Chinese officials admit that they didn’t mention golden rice because it was “too sensitive,” and that they wanted to save time and move the study forward. Now families are outraged, reports Nature News, which covers the controversy in depth. And three Chinese officials have been fired.

Most of the food we eat in this country contains some ingredients from genetically modified plants, whether it’s weed-killer-resistant soybeans or pest-resistant corn, and most people don’t know it–so it’s in some ways this isn’t all that shocking. But genetically modified food is met with more skepticism in China than it is generally in the U.S.

What’s really at issue here is informed consent, a serious matter in any scientific study. People need to understand what they’re volunteering to do–or volunteering their kids to do–especially when it involves ingesting something.

[Nature News]

from Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now

From Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now: Tiny, Convenient Terahertz Microchips Can See Inside Objects

Danger Hidden In A Toy A knife blade and a bullet were hidden inside this innocuous-looking teddy bear. The inset shows the items, imaged with a silicon chip–no need to cut open the bear to see what’s inside. Kaushik Sengupta/Caltech
Caltech scientists build the world’s first integrated terahertz scanners, the size of a fingertip.

A new silicon microchip can do what no other silicon microchip could before, generating and transmitting radio waves in the terahertz range. The tiny chip operates at 300 times the speed of the CMOS chip in your smartphone, and could someday be used to peer through walls, inside containers and into the food supply.

It can see a knife hidden inside a teddy bear, like the image above. It can even determine the fat content of a piece of chicken, apparently.

Terahertz scanners have long been touted as the future of security–electromagnetic waves in that frequency range can penetrate where other forms of radiation cannot, but they don’t produce the damaging ionizing radiation of X-rays. T-rays can sense every molecule, so they could theoretically detect illicit drugs or explosives, or even hunt for cancer cells. They can see through walls and inside objects, so they would be useful security screeners. The problem has been that the scanners are huge, requiring lasers and many lenses to focus light, not to mention cooling equipment to keep everything at operating temperatures.

For that reason, electrical engineers have been trying to build terahertz scanners using common and cheap manufacturing processes, especially the complementary metal-oxide semiconductors that power most consumer devices. Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas figured out how to build a special type of high-speed diode in CMOS, producing T-rays on a small scale. Now some researchers at Caltech have done one better, producing the world’s first integrated T-ray arrays.

The mere fact that it operates at terahertz frequencies is a breakthrough. No standard transistors can amplify a radio signal in that range. Silicon chips aren’t designed to operate in it. To get around those limitations, electrical engineering professor Ali Hajimiri and postdoc Kaushik Sengupta combined several transistors on one array, all operating in unison. When operating at the right frequencies, the transistors’ collective power can be combined, boosting the signal’s strength. In a Caltech news release, Hajimiri compared it to an army of ants hefting the same load as one elephant. “Nowadays we can make a very large number of transistors that individually are not very powerful, but when combined and working in unison, can do a lot more,” he said.

What’s more, they figured out how to get the entire chip to operate as an antenna, incorporating several pieces of metal instead of a single wire. (A wire wouldn’t work at terahertz frequencies.) The result is a chip-scale scanner that can produce and distribute T-rays. IBM helped produce the chip, according to Caltech. Hajimiri and Sengupta describe their new chip in the December issue of IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits.


from Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now

From Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now: Magic Foam Can Be Shot Into The Body To Stop Major Bleeding

The new DARPA-developed technology is aimed at buying soldiers enough time to get medical care.

Following the debut of an amazing new shapeshifting material that could improve drug delivery, military-tech wing DARPA has unveiled this equally impressive polymer foam. Just inject two liquids where a soldier is bleeding, and the chemicals react, creating a foam that presses against an internal wound and stanches the flow of blood. That buys at least a precious hour to find medical care.

About 85 percent of preventable battlefield deaths are from internal wounds that need surgery or other in-hospital treatment. There’s often just not enough time to transport a soldier from a firefight to a place where they can get the right medical attention. But during testing on pigs, DARPA says the foam increased the chances of survival after three hours from 8 percent to 72 percent, and surgeons removing the foam could do it in less than one minute.

Arsenal Medical, the company that received funding from DARPA to research the foam, says it’s working on a version for civilian use while DARPA is looking for FDA approval. Hopefully we’ll see it soon–and not need it.

[Arsenal Medical via CNET]

from Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now