Interesting Tech

collection of interesting topics on tech

Tabletop experiment could detect gravitational waves

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Tiny device could beat LIGO to detecting ripples in space–time, say physicists

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Microsoft CEO launches diversity training effort

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

(AP)—Microsoft’s CEO is continuing to try to repair damage caused by his gaffe last week at a women-in-computing conference. CEO Satya Nadella on Thursday sent a memo to staff saying all employees at Microsoft will receive expanded training on how to foster an inclusive culture.

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Bits Blog: A Look Behind the Snapchat Photo Leak Claims

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Three men who built a tool called Snapaved to store images from the messaging service have come forward to offer details of how a recent theft of thousands of private photos occurred.

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Bits Blog: Reddit Debuts an Official Mobile App

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

After nearly 10 years, an online messaging board with 174 million regular monthly users is focusing on its mobile efforts.

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Minecraft city built in two years

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

A student from Delaware has spent two years constructing Titan City from 4.5 million Minecraft building blocks.

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Lawmakers probing NSA face German secrecy hurdles

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

(AP)—German lawmakers probing the NSA following Edward Snowden’s revelations have hit a hurdle: their own government.

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Sunday Review: When Uber, Lyft and Airbnb Meet the Real World

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

For a new wave of tech start-ups, the belief that problems could be solved by software, not people, was the first wrong assumption.

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Australian volcanic mystery explained

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Scientists have solved a long-standing mystery surrounding Australia’s only active volcanic area, in the country’s southeast.

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Can Google Express deliver on same-day shopping?

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Google has found another way to reach into our lives with its same-day delivery service. But it needs to harness new technology to make Google Express viable

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‘Red effect’ sparks interest in female monkeys

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Recent studies showed that the color red tends increase our attraction toward others, feelings of jealousy, and even reaction times. Now, new research shows that female monkeys also respond to the color red, suggesting that biology, rather than our culture, may play the fundamental role in our "red" reactions.

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Q&A: Swatting Spam on Twitter

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Plus, how to wirelessly connect an old PC to the Internet.

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Sperm wars: Evolutionary biologist compiles international special issue on sperm competition

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Why do male animals need millions of sperms every day in order to reproduce? And why are there two sexes anyway? These and related questions are the topic of the latest issue of the research journal Molecular Human Reproduction published today (Oct. 16th, 2014). The evolutionary biologist Steven Ramm from Bielefeld University Bielefeld has compiled this special issue on sperm competition. In nature, it is not unusual for a female to copulate with several males in quick succession – chimpanzees are one good example. ‘The sperm of the different males then compete within the female to fertilize the eggs,’ says Ramm. ‘Generally speaking, the best sperm wins. This may involve its speed or also be due to the amount of sperm transferred. It can also be useful for the seminal fluid to be viscous, meaning it sticks inside the female reproductive tract to try to keep other sperm at bay.’

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High-speed evolution in the lab – Geneticists evaluate cost-effective genome analysis

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Life implies change. And this holds true for genes as well. Organisms require a flexible genome in order to adapt to changes in the local environment. Christian Schlötterer and his team from the Institute for Population Genetics at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna study the genomes of entire populations. The scientists want to know why individuals differ from each other and how these differences are encoded in the DNA. In two review papers published in the journals Nature Reviews Genetics and Heredity, they discuss why DNA sequencing of entire groups can be an efficient and cost-effective way to answer these questions. 

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In Layers of Gear, Offering Healing Hand to Ebola Patients in Liberia

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Doctors offer Ebola patients simple comforts, like feeding them or cleaning them up. But they also try to restrain their own impulses, because old habits might not be safe.

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A newborn supernova every night

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Thanks to a $9 million grant from the National Science Foundation and matching funds from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) collaboration, a new camera is being built at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory that will be able to survey the entire Northern Hemisphere sky in a single night, searching for supernovas, black holes, near-Earth asteroids, and other objects. The digital camera will be mounted on the Samuel Oschin Telescope, a wide-field Schmidt telescope that began its first all-sky survey in 1949. That survey, done on glass plates, took nearly a decade to complete.

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New data about marsh harrier distribution in Europe

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

The use of ringing recoveries —a conventional method used to study bird migration— in combination with more modern techniques such as species distribution modelling and stable isotope analysis helps to understand bird distribution patterns and origin considering place and time of the year. This is the main conclusion of the papers published in the Journal of Ornithology and Diversity and Distributions by a research group led by Dr Santi Mañosa and Dr Laura Cardador.

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NASA investigating deep-space hibernation technology

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Manned missions to deep space present numerous challenges. In addition to the sheer amount of food, water and air necessary to keep a crew alive for months (or years) at a time, there’s also the question of keeping them busy for the entirety of a long-duration flight. Exercise is certainly an option, but the necessary equipment will take up space and be a drain on power.

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Emergency appeal to combat militant elephant poaching in DRC

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

As poaching in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) escalates, Fauna & Flora International seeks urgent public support to help ranger teams.

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Surface properties command attention

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Whether working on preventing corrosion for undersea oil fields and nuclear power plants, or for producing electricity from fuel cells or oxygen from electrolyzers for travel to Mars, associate professor of nuclear science and engineering Bilge Yildiz is motivated by a desire to understand the underlying physical phenomena that govern surface reactions.

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Superconducting circuits, simplified

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Computer chips with superconducting circuits—circuits with zero electrical resistance—would be 50 to 100 times as energy-efficient as today’s chips, an attractive trait given the increasing power consumption of the massive data centers that power the Internet’s most popular sites.

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BBC to publish ‘forgotten’ page list

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

The BBC is to publish a continually-updated list of articles removed from Google searches under the controversial "right to be forgotten" rule.

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VIDEO: Activists blockade Australian port

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Hundreds of climate change protestors have attempted to disrupt shipments of coal from a port north of Sydney using their canoes, kayaks and surfboards to form a blockade.

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Is Australia’s claim to Antarctica at risk?

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

While Australia’s commitment to a 20-year plan for Antarctica has been welcomed by some it has also raised concerns over the nation’s ability to fulfil a credible research role in the south polar region.

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Mapping the relationship between two quantum effects known as topological insulators

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

At very low temperatures and under strong magnetic fields, thin films of semiconducting materials can display a phenomenon known as the quantum Hall (QH) effect, which can allow electrons to flow with no energy loss. In a newly discovered class of materials known as topological insulators, the same state can be achieved without an external magnetic field, spurring interest in the development of low-power electronics and other promising applications.

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New progress of the Neogene Suidae research

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Dr. Hou Sukuan and Prof. Deng Tao from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology(IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences reported a new species of Chleuastochoerus from the Linxia Basin, Gansu Province, China, and discussed the systematic position of the genus. Their latest research result was published online in the journal Zootaxa.

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Drive system saves space and weight in electric cars

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Siemens has developed a solution for integrating an electric car’s motor and inverter in a single housing. Until now, the motor and the inverter, which converts the battery’s direct current into alternating current for the motor, were two separate components. The new integrated drive unit saves space, reduces weight, and cuts costs. The solution’s key feature is the use of a common cooling system for both components. This ensures that the inverter’s power electronics don’t get too hot despite their proximity to the electric motor, and so prevents any reduction in output or service life.

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Australian rock art is threatened by a lack of conservation (w/ Video)

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Australian rock art is under threat from both natural and cultural forces impacting on sites. But what saddens me the most is that there is so much government lethargy in Australia when it comes to documenting and protecting Australia’s rock art.

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Kickstarter project – KEECKER – rolling robot entertainment center

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

A new project on Kickstarter has gotten a lot of attention, it’s the KEECKER, billed as The World’s First HomePod, a rolling egg-looking robot that moves from room to room in a person’s house, bringing personal entertainment functionality with it. The idea is that instead of having music players, television sets, etc. in multiple rooms, have just one that can be summoned to wherever you want.

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Predicting volcanic eruptions and coping with ash rain

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Living alongside active volcanoes in places like Japan, the Philippines and especially Indonesia can be uncomfortable.

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BBC to publish ‘forgotten’ page list

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

The BBC is to publish a continually-updated list of articles removed from Google searches under the controversial "right to be forgotten" rule.

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Multiferroic material displays a novel spin structure that allows light to travel in only one direction

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

A research team led by Youtarou Takahashi from the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science has demonstrated a novel phenomenon called magnetochiral dichroism, which prevents light from propagating parallel or antiparallel to the direction of magnetization. The discovery, which was made in the multiferroic ‘helimagnet’ gallium-doped copper iron oxide, could lead to new possibilities in the control of light at gigahertz and terahertz frequencies.

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A new approach to biodiversity resurrects old questions

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

A new look at one of ecology’s unsolved puzzles—why biodiversity is higher in the tropics compared with colder regions—brought some unexpected revelations.

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‘Secret’ app denies tracking claims

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

An app designed for people to share secrets anonymously denies reports that it has been tracking users by location.

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AUDIO: Science shines light on dark matter

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Scientists from the University of Leicester say they may have solved one of the most enduring mysteries in modern physics: the nature of dark matter.

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Bits Blog: A Look Behind the Snapchat Photo Leak Claims

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Three men who built a tool called Snapaved to store images from the messaging service have come forward to offer details of how a recent theft of thousands of private photos occurred.

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Bits Blog: Privacy Questions Emerge for the Social App Whisper

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

The social network, which allows users to post updates without using their real names, is facing criticism that it promises more privacy than it’s capable of delivering.

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In Layers of Gear, Offering Healing Hand to Ebola Patients in Liberia

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Doctors offer Ebola patients simple comforts, like feeding them or cleaning them up. But they also try to restrain their own impulses, because old habits might not be safe.

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Divide and conquer: Novel trick helps rare pathogen infect healthy people

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

New research into a rare pathogen has shown how a unique evolutionary trait allows it to infect even the healthiest of hosts through a smart solution to the body’s immune response against it.

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New pill-only regimens cure patients with hardest-to-treat hepatitis C infection

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Two new pill-only regimens that rapidly cure most patients with genotype 1 hepatitis C infection could soon be widely prescribed across Europe. Two recently-published studies confirmed the efficacy and safety of combination therapy with two oral direct-acting antiviral agents, with around 90 percent of patients cured after just 12-weeks of treatment.

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Pollution-coated particles bypass ice formation, but influence clouds

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Wrapped in pollution, dust diverts from its usual course and steers clear of water. The result, found researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, closes one more gap in understanding how—and when—cloud ice crystals form. They found that dust, usually a primary catalyst encouraging ice formation, when modified by pollution from combustion becomes less attractive for water vapor to initiate ice crystals under certain conditions. The "aged" dust particles, poor at catalyzing ice crystals, significantly alter the cloud environment by decreasing the number and concentration of ice crystals and ice water content.

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NASA’s Hubble telescope finds potential Kuiper belt targets for New Horizons Pluto mission

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Peering out to the dim, outer reaches of our solar system, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered three Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) the agency’s New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit after it flies by Pluto in July 2015.

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Fifth launch for Ariane 5 this year (w/ Video)

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

An Ariane 5 has lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana and delivered two telecom satellites, Intelsat-30/DLA-1 and Arsat-1, into their planned orbits.

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Engineers build, test earthquake-resistant house (w/ Video)

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Stanford engineers have built and tested an earthquake-resistant house that stayed staunchly upright even as it shook at three times the intensity of the destructive 1989 Loma Prieta temblor 25 years ago.

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Name sought for comet landing site

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

The public are being invited to name the site on a comet where a European robot will try to land on 12 November.

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Gypsies and travellers on the English Green Belt

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

The battle between Gypsies, Travellers and the settled community over how land can be used has moved to the Green Belt, observes Peter Kabachnik of the City University of New York.

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New self-assembly method for fabricating graphene nanoribbons

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

First characterized in 2004, graphene is a two-dimensional material with extraordinary properties. The thickness of just one carbon atom, and hundreds of times faster at conducting heat and charge than silicon, graphene is expected to revolutionize high-speed transistors in the near future.

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Opportunity rover gets panorama image at ‘Wdowiak Ridge’

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

The latest fieldwork site for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which has been examining a series of Martian craters since 2004, is on the slope of a prominent hill jutting out of the rim of a large crater and bearing its own much smaller crater. It’s called "Wdowiak Ridge."

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New populations of endangered fresh water fish found

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Murdoch University researchers have discovered new populations of an endangered fresh water fish, the Little Pygmy Perch, near Denmark in Western Australia’s south.

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Genetic engineering may undercut human diseases, but also could help restore extinct species, researcher says

Written By: admin - Oct• 18•14

Mammoth DNA in recovered cells frozen for thousands of years is likely too fragmented to clone an animal, according to Harvard geneticist George Church. So he’s working instead to engineer one genetically from a close relative, the Asian elephant.

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Image: Lake County, Oregon from orbit

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

This image from Sentinel-1A was acquired over the Lake County in the US state of Oregon on 17 July.

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Data shows fewer tornado days in U.S. but more per event over past couple decades

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

A trio of researches with the U.S.’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has found that though there are fewer total days per year when tornados occur in the U.S., the number that occur on days when there are tornados has increased over the past couple of decades. In their paper published in the journal Science, Harold Brooks, Gregory Carbin and Patrick Marsh describe how they studied weather data over the past half century and what they found when looking for trends.

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UK builds child abuse image database

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The UK is creating a national database of images of child sexual abuse seized during police raids on paedophiles and sites that trade in the content.

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Twitter users respond to ‘experiments’

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The social media site tests ways to make timelines "interesting or entertaining" and releases Audio Card.

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Rosetta comet: More black swan than yellow duck

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

A fascination of comets is their blackness

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Dot Earth Blog: Never Mind the Anthropocene – Beware the ‘Manthropocene’

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

A look at the gender factor in assessing the Anthropocene — the age of “man.”

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Peru glaciers shrink 40% in 44 years: government

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Peru’s glaciers have shrunk by more than 40 percent since 1970 because of climate change, giving birth to nearly 1,000 new lagoons, national water authority ANA said Thursday.

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Arguments made in ex-dictator’s suit against game

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

(AP)—A judge has heard arguments from lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani calling for the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against video game giant Activision by former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

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Argentina launches its first home-built satellite

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

(AP)—Argentina launched its first domestically built communications satellite Thursday.

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All in a flap: Seychelles fears foreign bird invader

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

It was just a feather: but in the tropical paradise of the Seychelles, the discovery of parakeet plumage has put environmentalists in a flutter, with a foreign invading bird threatening the national parrot.

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iPhone glass maker to cut 727 jobs in Arizona

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

(AP)—A manufacturer of sapphire glass that Apple Inc. uses in iPhones plans to eliminate 727 jobs at an Arizona plant.

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Twitter tweets start to sing

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Twitter began letting people instantly listen to music and other audio by clicking on tweets from the popular messaging service.

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NASA begins sixth year of airborne Antarctic ice change study

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

NASA is carrying out its sixth consecutive year of Operation IceBridge research flights over Antarctica to study changes in the continent’s ice sheet, glaciers and sea ice. This year’s airborne campaign, which began its first flight Thursday morning, will revisit a section of the Antarctic ice sheet that recently was found to be in irreversible decline.

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Obama May Name ‘Czar’ to Oversee Ebola Response

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

After learning that a nurse infected in Texas had flown to Ohio, officials in two states closed schools and Americans debated how much they should worry.

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In ‘Cosmigraphics,’ Our Changing Pictures of Space Through Time

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Over thousands of years, humans have tried to represent the universe in graphic form, whether in manuscripts, paintings, prints, books or supercomputer simulations.

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Quality of Words, Not Quantity, Is Crucial to Language Skills, Study Finds

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

A new study found that the caliber of the words spoken to young children was more valuable than the number of words heard in the development of a child’s language skills.

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Analysts Ask What’s Next For Google

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Even though Google has expanded beyond its core search business, nothing has been as profitable as search, its original golden goose.

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F.B.I. Director Hints at Action As Cellphone Data Is Locked

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, said on Thursday that the “post-Snowden pendulum” that has driven Apple and Google to offer fully encrypted cellphones had “gone too far.”

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Apple Introduces iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

As sales of tablet devices decline, Apple showed off new versions of the iPad intended to impress consumers with their size and speed.

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Bits Blog: Privacy Questions Emerge for the Social App Whisper

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The social network faces serious accusations concerning its privacy practices.

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Bits Blog: Phone Use for Photos and Videos Is Increasing, Report Finds

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The Commerce Department reported that in 2012, for the first time, more than half of mobile phone users over 25 used their phone for taking photos or video.

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Bits Blog: Reddit Debuts Its First Official Mobile App

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

After nearly 10 years, an online messaging board with 174 million regular monthly users is focusing on its mobile efforts.

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Bits Blog: Poodle Bug Marks Third Major Security Flaw Discovered This Year

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

On Tuesday, researchers disclosed details of a security bug that could make web browsing sessions on a public network vulnerable to hackers.

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New disease ‘killing amphibians’

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

A deadly new disease has emerged in Spain that is wiping out amphibians, scientists report.

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The world’s fastest ambulance

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The world’s fastest paramedics at 300km/h

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Google’s Revenue Climbs, but Search Ad Growth Slows

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Even though Google has expanded beyond its core search business, nothing has been as profitable as that original golden goose in search.

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Dot Earth Blog: Does the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans, Deserve a Golden Spike?

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

A meeting of geologists and other analysts explores whether Earth has entered a geological age made by humans.

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Google’s Profit Climbs 5.6%, but Search Ad Growth Slows

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Even though Google has expanded beyond its core search business, nothing has been as profitable as that original golden goose in search.

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Google earnings miss expectations

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Internet giant Google reports third-quarter profits of $2.8bn, down 5% from the same period a year earlier, sending shares lower in after-hours trading.

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Google profit dips to $2.8 bn

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Google said Thursday its profit in the past quarter dipped slightly from a year earlier, even as revenues for the technology giant showed a sharp increase.

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Once in million years: Comet buzzing Mars on Sun

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

(AP)—The heavens are hosting an event this weekend that occurs once in a million years or so.

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Review: Macs, mobile unite with Yosemite system

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

(AP)—If you’ve upgraded your iPhone or iPad to iOS 8, the new software update for Mac computers will seem familiar.

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How a molecular Superman protects the genome from damage

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

How many times have we seen Superman swoop down from the heavens and rescue a would-be victim from a rapidly oncoming train?

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F.B.I. Director Calls ‘Dark’ Devices a Hindrance to Crime Solving

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The F.B.I. has long had concerns about devices with technology so sophisticated that the authorities cannot get data from them.

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Shrinking resource margins in Sahel region of Africa

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The need for food, animal feed and fuel in the Sahel belt is growing year on year, but supply is not increasing at the same rate. New figures from 22 countries indicate falling availability of resources per capita and a continued risk of famine in areas with low ‘primary production’ from plants. Rising temperatures present an alarming prospect, according to a study from Lund University in Sweden.

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First detailed map of aboveground forest carbon stocks in Mexico unveiled

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Available for download today, the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) and Allianza MREDD+ released the first detailed map of aboveground forest carbon stocks of Mexico. This carbon stock inventory is very valuable for Mexico, as one of the first tropical nations to voluntarily pledge to mitigation actions within the context of the United Nation’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) program.

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Formation and large scale confinement of jets emitted by young stars finally elucidated

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

An international team of scientists has succeeded in explaining the formation and propagation over astronomical distances of jets of matter emitted by young stars—one of the most fascinating mysteries of modern astronomy. Using a patented experimental device and large-scale numerical simulations, the team obtained data consistent with astrophysical observations. The results of this research—just published in the prestigious journal Science—open up new opportunities for studying the role of magnetic fields in astrophysics and thermonuclear fusion. Bruno Albertazzi, a doctoral student in the energy and materials sciences program at INRS (in co-supervision with Ecole Polytechnique en France), is the primary author.

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First evidence of a hydrogen-deficient supernova progenitor

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

A group of researchers led by Melina Bersten of Kavli IPMU recently presented a model that provides the first characterization of the progenitor for a hydrogen-deficient supernova. Their model predicts that a bright hot star, which is the binary companion to an exploding object, remains after the explosion. To verify their theory, the group secured observation time with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to search for such a remaining star. Their findings, which are reported in the October 2014 issue of The Astronomical Journal, have important implications for the evolution of massive stars.

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Carnivores ‘help trees shed thorns’

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The presence of carnivores, which control herbivore numbers, helps plants without thorny defences thrive, a study of life on the savannah reveals.

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Tiny "nanoflares" might heat the Sun’s corona

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Why is the Sun’s million-degree corona, or outermost atmosphere, so much hotter than the Sun’s surface? This question has baffled astronomers for decades. Today, a team led by Paola Testa of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is presenting new clues to the mystery of coronal heating using observations from the recently launched Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS). The team finds that miniature solar flares called "nanoflares" – and the speedy electrons they produce – might partly be the source of that heat, at least in some of the hottest parts of the Sun’s corona.

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F.B.I. Director Says Data Encryption Hurts Crime-Solving

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The F.B.I. has long had concerns about devices with technology so sophisticated that the authorities cannot get data from them.

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Australia aims to end extinction of native wildlife by 2020

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Australia’s Environment Minister Greg Hunt has pledged to end the extinction of native mammal species by 2020, with a focus on culprits such as feral cats.

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Researchers develop world’s thinnest electric generator

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Researchers from Columbia Engineering and the Georgia Institute of Technology have reported the first experimental observation of piezoelectricity and the piezotronic effect in an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), resulting in a unique electric generator and mechanosensation devices that are optically transparent, extremely light, and very bendable and stretchable.
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Columbia Engineering have made the first experimental observation of piezoelectricity and the piezotronic effect in an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). Shown is a sample of the material that could be the basis for unique electric generator and mechanosensation devices that are optically transparent, very light, and extremely bendable and stretchable. (Click image for high-resolution version. Credit: Rob Felt)
In a paper published online October 15, 2014, in the journal Nature, research groups from the two institutions demonstrate the mechanical generation of electricity from the two-dimensional (2D) MoS2 material. The piezoelectric effect in this material had previously been predicted theoretically.
Piezoelectricity is a well-known effect in which stretching or compressing a material causes it to generate an electrical voltage (or the reverse, in which an applied voltage causes it to expand or contract). But for materials of only a few atomic thicknesses, no experimental observation of piezoelectricity has been made, until now. The observation reported today provides a new property for two-dimensional materials such as molybdenum disulfide, opening the potential for new types of mechanically controlled electronic devices.
“This material – just a single layer of atoms – could be made as a wearable device, perhaps integrated into clothing, to convert energy from your body movement to electricity and power wearable sensors or medical devices, or perhaps supply enough energy to charge your cell phone in your pocket,” says James Hone, professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia and co-leader of the research.
“Proof of the piezoelectric effect and piezotronic effect adds new functionalities to these two-dimensional materials,” says Zhong Lin Wang, Regents’ Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Materials Science and Engineering and a co-leader of the research. “The materials community is excited about molybdenum disulfide, and demonstrating the piezoelectric effect in it adds a new facet to the material.”
Georgia Tech researchers tested samples of an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide, which could be the basis for unique electric generator and mechanosensation devices that are optically transparent, extremely light, and extremely bendable and stretchable. Shown (l-r) are postdoctoral fellow Wenzhuo Wu and Professor Zhong Lin Wang. (Click image for high-resolution version. Credit: Rob Felt)
Hone and his research group demonstrated in 2008 that graphene, a 2D form of carbon, is the strongest material. He and Lei Wang, a postdoctoral fellow in Hone’s group, have been actively exploring the novel properties of 2D materials like graphene and MoS2 as they are stretched and compressed.
Zhong Lin Wang and his research group pioneered the field of piezoelectric nanogenerators for converting mechanical energy into electricity. He and postdoctoral fellow Wenzhuo Wu are also developing piezotronic devices, which use piezoelectric charges to control the flow of current through the material just as gate voltages do in conventional three-terminal transistors.
There are two keys to using molybdenum disulfide for generating current: using an odd number of layers and flexing it in the proper direction. The material is highly polar, but , Zhong Lin Wang notes, so an even number of layers cancels out the piezoelectric effect. The material’s crystalline structure also is piezoelectric in only certain crystalline orientations.
For the Nature study, Hone’s team placed thin flakes of MoS2 on flexible plastic substrates and determined how their crystal lattices were oriented using optical techniques. They then patterned metal electrodes onto the flakes. In research done at Georgia Tech, Wang’s group installed measurement electrodes on samples provided by Hone’s group, then measured current flows as the samples were mechanically deformed. They monitored the conversion of mechanical to electrical energy, and observed voltage and current outputs.
Georgia Tech researchers tested samples of an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide, which could be the basis for unique electric generator and mechanosensation devices that are optically transparent, extremely light, and extremely bendable and stretchable. Shown is Regents Professor Zhong Lin Wang. (Click image for high-resolution version. Credit: Rob Felt)
The researchers also noted that the output voltage reversed sign when they changed the direction of applied strain, and that it disappeared in samples with an even number of atomic layers, confirming theoretical predictions published last year. The presence of piezotronic effect in odd layer MoS2 was also observed for the first time.
“What’s really interesting is we’ve now found that a material like MoS2, which is not piezoelectric in bulk form, can become piezoelectric when it is thinned down to a single atomic layer,” says Lei Wang.
To be piezoelectric, a material must break central symmetry. A single atomic layer of MoS2 has such a structure, and should be piezoelectric. However, in bulk MoS2, successive layers are oriented in opposite directions, and generate positive and negative voltages that cancel each other out and give zero net piezoelectric effect.
“This adds another member to the family of piezoelectric materials for functional devices,” says Wenzhuo Wu.
In fact, MoS2 is just one of a group of 2D semiconducting materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides, all of which are predicted to have similar piezoelectric properties. These are part of an even larger family of 2D materials whose piezoelectric materials remain unexplored. Importantly, as has been shown by Hone and his colleagues, 2D materials can be stretched much farther than conventional materials, particularly traditional ceramic piezoelectrics, which are quite brittle.
The research could open the door to development of new applications for the material and its unique properties.
“This is the first experimental work in this area and is an elegant example of how the world becomes different when the size of material shrinks to the scale of a single atom,” Hone adds. “With what we’re learning, we’re eager to build useful devices for all kinds of applications.”
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Columbia Engineering have made the first experimental observation of piezoelectricity and the piezotronic effect in an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). Shown is a sample of the material that could be the basis for unique electric generator and mechanosensation devices that are optically transparent, very light, and extremely bendable and stretchable. (Click image for high-resolution version. Credit: Rob Felt)
Ultimately, Zhong Lin Wang notes, the research could lead to complete atomic-thick nanosystems that are self-powered by harvesting mechanical energy from the environment. This study also reveals the piezotronic effect in two-dimensional materials for the first time, which greatly expands the application of layered materials for human-machine interfacing, robotics, MEMS, and active flexible electronics.
For this study, the research team also worked with Tony Heinz, David M. Rickey Professor of Optical Communications at Columbia Engineering and professor of physics at Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
The study was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (No. DE-FG02-07ER46394) and U.S. National Science Foundation (DMR-1122594).
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Snakes and snake-like robots show how sidewinders conquer sandy slopes

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The amazing ability of sidewinder snakes to quickly climb sandy slopes was once something biologists only vaguely understood and roboticists only dreamed of replicating. By studying the snakes in a unique bed of inclined sand and using a snake-like robot to test ideas spawned by observing the real animals, both biologists and roboticists have now gained long-sought insights.
A sidewinder snake is shown in a sand-filled trackway at Zoo Atlanta. Researchers from Georgia Tech, Carnegie-Mellon University, Zoo Atlanta and Oregon State University studied the snakes to understand the unique motion they use to climb sandy slopes. (Click image for high-resolution version. Credit: Rob Felt)
In a study published in the October 10 issue of the journal Science, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Oregon State University, and Zoo Atlanta report that sidewinders improve their ability to traverse sandy slopes by simply increasing the amount of their body area in contact with the granular surfaces they’re climbing.
As part of the study, the principles used by the sidewinders to gracefully climb sand dunes were tested using a modular snake robot developed at Carnegie Mellon. Before the study, the snake robot could use one component of sidewinding motion to move across level ground, but was unable to climb the inclined sand trackway the real snakes could readily ascend. In a real-world application – an archaeological mission in Red Sea caves – sandy inclines were especially challenging to the robot.
However, when the robot was programmed with the unique wave motion discovered in the sidewinders, it was able to climb slopes that had previously been unattainable. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Office, and the Army Research Laboratory.
“Our initial idea was to use the robot as a physical model to learn what the snakes experienced,” said Daniel Goldman, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Physics. “By studying the animal and the physical model simultaneously, we learned important general principles that allowed us to not only understand the animal, but also to improve the robot.”
The detailed study showed that both horizontal and vertical motion had to be understood and then replicated on the snake-like robot for it to be useful on sloping sand.
“Think of the motion as an elliptical cylinder enveloped by a revolving tread, similar to that of a tank,” said Howie Choset, a Carnegie Mellon professor of robotics. “As the tread circulates around the cylinder, it is constantly placing itself down in front of the direction of motion and picking itself up in the back. The snake lifts some body segments while others remain on the ground, and as the slope increases, the cross section of the cylinder flattens.”
A sidewinder snake is shown in a sand-filled trackway at Zoo Atlanta. Researchers from Georgia Tech, Carnegie-Mellon University, Zoo Atlanta and Oregon State University studied the snakes to understand the unique motion they use to climb sandy slopes. (Click image for high-resolution version. Credit: Rob Felt)
At Zoo Atlanta, the researchers observed several sidewinders as they moved in a large enclosure containing sand from the Arizona desert where the snakes live. The enclosure could be raised to create different angles in the sand, and air could be blown into the chamber from below, smoothing the sand after each snake was studied. Motion of the snakes was recorded using high-speed video cameras which helped the researchers understand how the animals were moving their bodies.
“We realized that the sidewinder snakes use a template for climbing on sand, two orthogonal waves that they can control independently,” said Hamid Marvi, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon who conducted the experiments while he was a graduate student in the laboratory of David Hu, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Mechanical Engineering. “We used the snake robot to systematically study the failure modes in sidewinding. We learned there are three different failure regimes, which we can avoid by carefully adjusting the aspect ratio of the two waves, thus controlling the area of the body in contact with the sand.”
Limbless animals like snakes can readily move through a broad range of surfaces, making them attractive to robot designers.
“The snake is one of the most versatile of all land animals, and we want to capture what they can do,” said Ross Hatton, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Oregon State University who has studied the mathematical complexities of snake motion, and how they might be applied to robots. “The desert sidewinder is really extraordinary, with perhaps the fastest and most efficient natural motion we’ve ever observed for a snake.”
Researchers studied sidewinder snakes to understand the unique motion they use to climb sandy slopes. Shown (l-r) are Dan Goldman of Georgia Tech, Hamid Marvi of Carnegie Mellon and Joe Mendelson of Zoo Atlanta. (Click image for high-resolution version. Credit: Rob Felt)
Many people dislike snakes, but in this study, the venomous animals were easy study subjects who provided knowledge that may one day benefit humans, noted Joe Mendelson, director of research at Zoo Atlanta.
“If a robot gets stuck in the sand, that’s a problem, especially if that sand happens to be on another planet,” he said. “Sidewinders never get stuck in the sand, so they are helping us create robots that can avoid getting stuck in the sand. These venomous snakes are offering something to humanity.”
The modular snake robot used in this study was specifically designed to pass horizontal and vertical waves through its body to move in three-dimensional spaces. The robot is two inches in diameter and 37 inches long; its body consists of 16 joints, each joint arranged perpendicular to the previous one. That allows it to assume a number of configurations and to move using a variety of gaits – some similar to those of a biological snake.
“This type of robot often is described as biologically inspired, but too often the inspiration doesn’t extend beyond a casual observation of the biological system,” Choset said. “In this study, we got biology and robotics, mediated by physics, to work together in a way not previously seen.”
Choset’s robots appear well suited for urban search-and-rescue operations in which robots need to make their way through the rubble of collapsed structures, as well as archaeological explorations. Able to readily move through pipes, the robots also have been tested to evaluate their potential for inspecting nuclear power plants from the inside out.
A snake-like robot developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University climbs a tree. The robot was able to climb sloping sand when it was programmed with the unique wave motion discovered in the sidewinder snakes. (Click image for high-resolution version. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University)
For Goldman’s team, the work builds on earlier research studying how turtle hatchlings, crabs, sandfish lizards, and other animals move about on complex surfaces such as sand, leaves, and loose material. The team tests what it learns from the animals on robots, often gaining additional insights into how the animals move.
“We are interested in how animals move on different types of granular and complex surfaces,” Goldman said. “The idea of moving on flowing materials like sand can be useful in a broad sense. This is one of the nicest examples of collaboration between biology and robotics.”
In addition to those already mentioned, co-authors included Chaohui Gong and Matthew Travers from Carnegie Mellon University; and Nick Gravish and Henry Astley from Georgia Tech.
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under awards CMMI-1000389, PHY-0848894, PHY-1205878, and PHY-1150760; by the Army Research Office under grants W911NF-11-1-0514 and W911NF1310092; and by the Army Research Lab MAST CTA under grant W911NF-08-2-0004; and by the Elizabeth Smithgall Watts endowment at Georgia Tech. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the sponsoring agencies.
CITATION: Hamidreza Marvi et al., “Sidewinding with minimal slip: snake and robot ascent of sandy slopes,” Science 2014).
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Media Relations Contacts: John Toon (404-894-6986) (jtoon@gatech.edu) or Brett Israel (404-385-1933) (brett.israel@comm.gatech.edu).
Writer: John Toon

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Satellites tracking Central Pacific’s Tropical Storm Ana

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Tropical Storm Ana continued on a path to the Hawaiian Islands as NASA’s Terra satellite passed overhead and gathered data on the storm. NOAA’s GOES-West satellite data was compiled into a movie that showed the intensification and movement of Ana. Watches are now in effect for Hawaii.

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Major Hurricane Gonzalo gives an ‘eye-opening’ performance

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

NASA and NOAA satellites have been providing continuous coverage of Hurricane Gonzalo as it moves toward Bermuda. NASA’s Terra satellite saw thunderstorms wrapped tightly around the center with large bands of thunderstorms wrapping into it. NOAA’s GOES-East satellite provided and "eye-opening" view of Gonzalo, still a Category 4 hurricane on Oct. 16.

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To wilt or not to wilt: MicroRNAs determine tomato susceptibility to Fusarium fungus

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Plant breeders have long identified and cultivated disease-resistant varieties. A study published on October 16th in PLOS Pathogens reveals the molecular basis for resistance and susceptibility to a common fungus that causes wilt in susceptible tomato plants.

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Geochemist uses helium and lead isotopes to gain insight into the makeup of the planet’s deep interior

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

A UC Santa Barbara geochemist studying Samoan volcanoes has found evidence of the planet’s early formation still trapped inside the Earth. Known as hotspots, volcanic island chains such as Samoa can ancient primordial signatures from the early solar system that have somehow survived billions of years.

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Wobbling of a Saturn moon hints at what lies beneath

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

Using instruments aboard the Cassini spacecraft to measure the wobbles of Mimas, the closest of Saturn’s regular moons, a Cornell University astronomer publishing in Science, Oct. 17, has inferred that this small moon’s icy surface cloaks either a rugby ball-shaped rocky core or a sloshing sub-surface ocean.

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Apple Introduces iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The new iPad Air 2 is thinner and faster than the last, building on similar changes made only last year.

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F.B.I. Director Calls ‘Dark’ Devices a Hindrance to Crime Solving

Written By: admin - Oct• 17•14

The F.B.I. has long had concerns about devices with technology so sophisticated that the authorities cannot get data from them.

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