May 26, 2015

NASA patched Curiosity rover's autofocus problem over the air

posted by Larra Morris

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Curiosity rover recently received a patch that improved the autofocus of its "ChemCam" telescope. Over the air. On Mars. Before the update, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory would take nine pictures of a subject (each at a different focus) to get one usable close-up image of any of the Red Planet's rocks and soils, and send them back home. Same goes for any sample analyses the laser was doing. The problem is that for those analyses to be anywhere remotely useful, the telescope projecting said laser needsto be in focus and the workaround in place wasn't very efficient.

The solution? Get the rover to keep taking nine images, but for it to self-analyze the photos and choose the one that has the best focus -- all with software totaling 40 kilobytes. That's right: The software used to spot water in Martian soil is lighter than the last Gmail update for your phone. The patch went live this week and Curiosity's already back in action.
via Engadget

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May 26, 2015

Bohemian Rhapsody on played on a 110 year old fairground organ

posted by Larra Morris

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This organ is 110 years old, but with new programming (on paper strips), it can play the relatively modern "Bohemian Rhapsody" in a uniquely majestic way.

The instrument is a Marenghi Organ with 81 keys and 350 pipes, from the collection of Bill Nunn. It was used in a dance hall in Antwerp, Belgium, for the first half of its life.
via Neatorama

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May 26, 2015

Canadian Catalin Duru breaks world record for furthest hoverboard flight

posted by Larra Morris

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A man from Canada has broken the world record for the furthest hoverboard flight.

Catalin Alexandru Duru's propeller-based prototype managed to travel a total distance of 275.9m (905ft 2in) along the edge of Lake Ouareau in Quebec.

The inventor claims the machine, which he built and designed over 12 months, can be used anywhere and can reach "scary heights" which he says he'd like to explore in the future.
via BBC News

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May 25, 2015

This light bulb costs less than $1 and fits in your wallet

posted by Christy Wilding

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With summer coming, chances are that you'll be spending a little more time outside at night than usual. Which means you'll need artificial sources of illumination.

I just came across one such glowing goodie that I needed to share with Crave readers.

It's called the "New LED Design Renovation Credit Card Size Ultra-slim Fold-up LED Pocket Wallet/Purse Lamp/Light," which is truly an unfortunate name for something so cool. I think "Pocket Bulb" or something like that would have done much better.

via C Net

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May 25, 2015

Bus powered by cow poop beats speed record

posted by Christy Wilding

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The land speed record for a regular bus has been shat on. "Bus Hound," powered by biomethane derived from cow manure, clocked 76.785mph in speed trials in England.

Operated by Reading Buses, the vehicle was painted black and white in honor of the Frisian cows whose excrement powers its mighty engines. It was designed to advance the "power and credibility of buses fuelled by cow poo," reports the BBC.

via Boing Boing

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May 25, 2015

In the future, a virtual heart may test your medical device for you

posted by Larra Morris

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“CyberHeart” sounds more like something we’d come across in a Terminator movie, but the new virtual heart platform, led by computer scientists at Stony Brook University, is very much tooled toward humans. CyberHearts will specifically be used to test and validate new medical devices early on during their design phase. By detecting flaws in such devices before animal and human trials begin, CyberHeart, researchers hope, will speed the development process along, while helping to prevent the rollout of products with dangerous and costly bugs.
via Gizmodo

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Image: Stony Brook University

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May 25, 2015

The brain's unique reaction to words could sign people into devices

posted by Larra Morris

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Blair Armstrong and his team of researchers from the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language in Spain observed the brain signals of 45 subjects while they read a list of 45 acronyms, such as FBI and DVD. According to New Scientist, they found that the volunteers' brains reacted differently to each one, enough for the system to pinpoint their identities with 94 percent accuracy.

Brain signals are typically hard to analyze, so Armstrong's team decided to focus on the part of the brain associated with reading and recognizing words. That part's in charge of recognizing word definitions, which can have subtle differences between people. It can't replace fingerprint scanners just yet, since you still need to be attached to electrodes for the method to work. But Armstrong believes that the technique could be refined further and developed into a viable alternative to fingerprints.
via Engadget

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