NASA asks citizen scientists to become 'asteroid hunters'

NASA is looking for citizen scientists to help save planet Earth.

The space agency announced Monday that it is launching an "Asteroid Data Hunter" contest series to reach out to people to help create algorithms to identify asteroids zooming around outer space. NASA will give away $35,000 in awards to competition winners.

Millions of asteroids are thought to be currently orbiting the sun and scientists want to be sure to identify as many of them as possible. Why? So humans don't go the way of the dinosaurs.

While NASA deemed Earth safe last year from a … Read more

Apple acquires AlgoTrim, maker of compression tech, report says

Apple has acquired AlgoTrim, a Sweden-based specialist in algorithms for tasks like compressing images, video, and software, the Swedish publication Rapidus reported Wednesday.

The company got its start creating algorithms for feature phones but expanded to smartphones. AlgoTrim's Web site says its technology is used for fast decoding of images in Google's Gallery app for the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android and to compress firmware updates for Android phones for some device makers.

Asked about the report, Apple said in a statement, "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not … Read more

Google Play appears to confuse Mickey Mouse with gay erotica

Google makes all but four cents of its money from advertising.

Its systems are so sophisticated that, if only governments would bow to them, they could sell policies to the right people at the right time (and at the right price) for perfect social harmony.

And yet there are moments when Google's machines overexert themselves to the point of embarrassment.

One such instance appears to occur when you search for "Where's My Mickey" on Google Play.

This app, according to Google Play, "introduces a whole new world of life-like physics-based gameplay."

Please bear those … Read more

Google compression algorithm Zopfli may lead to faster Internet

Google has released a new data compression algorithm it hopes will make the Internet faster for everyone.

Dubbed Zopfli, the open-source algorithm will accelerate data transfer speeds and reduce Web page load times by compressing content up to 8 percent smaller than the zlib software library, Google said in a company blog post today. Named after a Swiss bread recipe, the new algorithm is an implementation of the Deflate algorithm, which is used in the ZIP archive format, as well as in gzip file compression.

"The higher data density is achieved by using more exhaustive compression techniques, which make … Read more

Robot airplane flies by itself and maneuvers without GPS

Imagine a robotic plane flying without a pilot -- or GPS. A team at MIT has just unveiled its latest prototype.

So, how does it work?

It's able to maneuver with the implementation of a new algorithm that can calculate its location, orientation, velocity, and acceleration.

And the implications are many. For example, your FedEx packages could be transported by autonomous planes, or autonomous helicopters could swoop down and rescue injured soldiers in battlefields. You might even find yourself on a commercial flight sans pilot -- well, maybe.

The songs remain the same (but louder), say scientists

It isn't true until the numbers say so.

That is the mantra of the modern world.

So I bring you news that the figures have been counted and the declaration has been made by unimpeachable scientists: pop songs are becoming noisier and increasingly homogenized.

Yes, should you wonder, on hearing a Lady Gaga song: "Gosh, haven't I heard that somewhere before?" you might well have, but this time it's accompanied by a few more decibels.

You might be wondering what sort of scientists have taken time out of their busy schedules to put a number … Read more

Slime mold a muse for science-minded designers

Looking for a gift for that science-minded someone (or your science-minded self)?

MIT alums Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Jessica Rosenkrantz (aka design studio Nervous System) recently announced a new line of jewelry -- "Ammonite" -- inspired by patterns found on the fossilized shells of ammonites, ancient relatives of the octopus.

Rosenkrantz, who studied biology and architecture, and Louis-Rosenberg, who studied mathematics, say they used "a simulation of dendritic solidification to make suture-like patterns" for the pieces. Wikipedia helpfully adds that "when materials crystallize or solidify under certain conditions, they freeze unstably, resulting in dendritic forms."

And Crave even more helpfully chimes in that the supertechnical translation of "dendritic forms" is "very-cool-looking fractally patterns which -- when worn on your wrists, earlobes, or around your neck -- will make you the envy of everyone at the Science Nerds Ball."… Read more

Find and replace it with Seeker

Seeker is a powerful freeware search tool that can replace the built-in Windows search feature. It offers advanced search-and-replace capabilities, regular expression searches, several reporting modes, and superfast, highly targeted searching.

Seeker's user interface resembles Office's design a bit, with expandable sections in its left-side control panel and a main report view with draggable categories. Under Search Criteria, we could enter everything from wildcard searches to highly specific file types, a specific word or phrase in the file, and include or exclude our listed files, as well as telling Seeker to search subfolders, ignore case, or use regular … Read more

Quick cleaning with Mz Ultimate Cleaner

Mz Ultimate Cleaner is a light, fast, free tool that scans your hard disks for junk files, browser traces, temporary files, and other files that can accumulate in your system, slowing it down and maybe even compromising your security. Its proprietary algorithm scans quickly, and it cleans quickly, too. It's by Mz Tweaks, a one-man band known to some as Michael Zacharias.

Mz Ultimate Cleaner's simple interface is all business. The compact dialog displayed our system's two hard disks with their total size, free space, and format. The program uses the Mz Intelligent Scanning Method by default, … Read more

Scientists pleasantly 'shocked' by skills of Foldit gamers

It's not every day that a news item details the intelligence of the masses, lurking in the brains of unassuming passersby, just waiting to be uncovered for the greater good. But when it comes to the massively multiplayer online game Foldit, this is precisely the story, and it keeps getting better.

Launched in 2008 at the University of Washington, the protein folding game first made news for its potential to use the collective brainpower of gamers everywhere to unlock the fundamental mysteries of certain diseases. Then gamers began to prove this potential, solving various protein riddles that further our … Read more