Testing airline safety with the help of a fake ash cloud

When a volcano erupted in Iceland in 2010, it filled the skies over Europe with a massive ash cloud. From April 15-21, 2010, more than 100,000 flights were cancelled as officials scrambled to assess safety. The closures cost the airlines an estimated $2.6 billion.

Flights had to be cancelled because the ash can cause structural damage as it melts inside aircraft engines and sticks to engine blades. It also sticks to windshields and can interfere with other instruments. The ash is difficult to detect and track because it is incredibly fine.

Europe could see a repeat situation within the next couple of years, experts say, because Icelandic volcanoes erupt about once every five years. If the wind is blowing to the northwest, the ash ends up in European skies.

But the next time it happens, pilots should be better equipped to assess the dangers, with the help of a new sensor designed to detect ash in the atmosphere.… Read more

Review: Found: A Hidden Object Adventure is one of the better hidden object games

Found: A Hidden Object Adventure is a deep, sometimes funny, often challenging hidden object game that forces you to pit your wits against a series of deserted island-themed puzzles. With crisp graphics, a fun storyline, and plenty of game modes to keep you busy, Found becomes a successful app in almost every sense of the word -- pitting your skills at tracking down hidden objects against your iPad's screen.

When you load Found, you'll be treated to a short cinematic and then a tutorial walking you through each step of the process to find hidden objects. Each "… Read more

Move over, Mars: Manned Europa mission considered

Mars has been getting all the manned-mission love lately, but let's not forget all the other heavenly bodies. Jupiter's icy moon Europa is the target objective of a group of volunteer scientists, conceptual artists, and social-media experts looking into sending a one-way crewed mission on a search for knowledge and extraterrestrial life.

Officially, Objective Europa is a group that exists only on the Internet, with no legal organization attached to it. The goal statement reads, "Our purpose is to establish the foundation for and carry out a crewed mission to Jovian ice moon Europa through international crowd-research and participation."… Read more

Dangerous but beautiful: An asteroid we still don't want to meet

If you spent your time worrying about the number of asteroids and comets getting relatively close to our planet, you likely wouldn't log much sleep given that astronomers now have detected more than 10,000 so-called near-Earth objects (NEOs) flying through space.

What we're talking about is an assortment of objects varying in size -- from a few feet to as wide as 25 miles in diameter -- that approach within about 28 million miles of Earth's orbit. But while the risks of a planetary collision exist, the probability is low. At least for now.

Still, it … Read more

Review: Find the strangers in Hidden Objects Wilderness Free

Hidden Objects Wilderness FREE lets you find all sorts of silly things in a decent looking wilderness setting. It's a little too easy and rather unattractive, but it's fine if you're bored and just need a simple distraction.

When you first launch this app, you're hit with weird ads for other mobile games. It takes a few taps to get them to go away. The entire game has some of those unresponsive quirks, actually. Though the game promises "hauntingly beautiful" rainforest landscapes, they look like bad cardboard cutouts. The whole thing is incredibly cluttered … Read more

BotObjects 3D printer promises huge leap forward, draws skeptics

According to BotObjects' product copy, this previously unknown hardware and software company has a revolutionary product on its hands in its new ProDesk3D 3D printer. Among other highlights, which my colleague Michelle Starr wrote about earlier this week for CNET Australia, the ability to print objects in a full range of colors from common PLA plastic would instantly put the ProDesk3D at the top of the consumer-grade printer market.

Follow along the reader comments on the various posts covering BotObjects announcement though, and you'll find a common refrain of skepticism.

"So we have computer-generated images of the printer. … Read more

Google snaps up object recognition startup DNNresearch

Google has acquired a three-person Canadian research company that specializes in voice and image recognition.

DNNresearch, which was founded last year within the the University of Toronto's computer science department, specializes in object recognition and now belongs to Google.

As part of the deal, which was first reported by TechVibes, Google gets the technology and founder university professor Geoffrey Hinton, along with two graduate students -- Alex Krizhevsky and Ilya Sutskever.

"Geoffrey Hinton's research is a magnificent example of disruptive innovation with roots in basic research," University of Toronto President David Naylor said in a statement. &… Read more

Crave Ep. 109: The greatest drinking game ever

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This week on Crave, William Shatner has some choice words for J.J. Abrams, and we toss one back in the greatest drinking game ever invented. Cheers! Plus, we dodge a bullet the size of a football field as an asteroid nearly collides with Earth. Phew. … Read more

3D modeling and printing with a clean interface

SketchUp for Mac is a 3D design app that allows you to create 3D models and, using an online service, get those models built. SketchUp for Mac installs easily but was not available from the App Store when we tested the software, instead requiring a download from the publisher. SketchUp for Mac is a free app, but there's a Pro version for additional cost with more features and capabilities.

SketchUp for Mac lets you create surprisingly complex and detailed 3D models, but there's a learning curve to doing so. The interface is surprisingly clean and easy to work … Read more

Create original artwork with CorelDraw

CorelDraw Graphics Suite is a software package of design tools designed to run on Windows operating systems. The main application in this large package of tools is CorelDraw, which is used for vector designs and layouts. Corel Photo-Paint is designed to retouch and edit digital photos, and other apps in the package can do tasks such as screen grabs, collaborate with co-workers, and more.

The CorelDraw interface has the familiar Windows options with pull-down menus for File, Edit, and View. Main functions like effects are easily applied with large buttons on the left of the main window. New effects for … Read more