Stories from Around the Web (Week Ending May 24, 2013)
A roundup of the most interesting stories from other sites, collected by the staff at MIT Technology Review.
Inside Google’s Secret Lab
A bit light on detail and insight, but they got more out of Google than anyone else has.
—Tom Simonite, IT editor
Seven Must-Read Stories (Week Ending May 24, 2013)
Another chance to catch the most interesting, and important, articles from the previous week on MIT Technology Review.
Marketing to the Big Data Inside Us
In your DNA are clues to your health, your ancestry, and maybe even your purchasing preferences.
Companies market to you according to your shopping habits, your age, your salary, and your social-media activities. In the future, they may be able to advertise to you on the basis of your DNA.
Teens’ Coded Language is Latest Challenge for Facebook's Ad Algorithms
Most teenagers deliberately hide what they are really talking about on Facebook - a practice that could make it harder to pitch ads at them.
Next-Generation Consumer <br>3-D Printer Arrives, but a Lawsuit Looms
Formlabs is bringing down the costs of a better 3-D printing technique, but it must survive a patent lawsuit.
Desktop 3-D printers are about to become available with higher-definition capabilities, with a new startup shipping its first model this month.
Material That Sorts Molecules by Shape Could Lower the Price of Gas
A hydrocarbon-sorting material could replace energy-intensive oil refining steps.
A new material that sorts hydrocarbon molecules by shape could lower the cost of gasoline and also make the fuel safer by reducing the need for certain additives that have been linked to cancer, according to a paper in the next issue of the journal Science.
An Interplanetary GPS Using Pulsar Signals
Spacecraft could determine their position anywhere in the solar system to within five kilometres using signals from x-ray pulsars, say astronomers.
Tesla Wires Half a Billion Dollars to the Government
Tesla Motors’ loan repayment is a bright spot for the DOE loan program.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk hinted it would happen, and now it’s happened. Tesla, the electric car maker, has paid off the DOE loan that allowed it to build a factory and start building and selling its Model S electric car. And it’s done so nine years ahead of schedule, according to the company (see “Musk Says Tesla Will Pay Off Its Loans in Half the Time”).
Bitcoin Hits the Big Time, to the Regret of Some Early Boosters
The first major conference for the digital currency suggests it is gaining legitimacy, but in a manner disappointing to some early enthusiasts.
This past Sunday, Doug Scribner took out five $100 bills and began feeding them into what looked like a small, white ATM in San Jose Conference Center in California. The machine swallowed the bills smartly and credited him with an equivalent value in bitcoins, an intangible, digital currency that is backed by not gold or any government, but by math.
In a Data Deluge, Companies Seek to Fill a New Role
A job invented in Silicon Valley is going mainstream as more industries try to gain an edge from big data.
The job description “data scientist” didn’t exist five years ago. No one advertised for an expert in data science, and you couldn’t go to school to specialize in the field. Today, companies are fighting to recruit these specialists, courses on how to become one are popping up at many universities, and the Harvard Business Review even proclaimed that data scientist is the “sexiest” job of the 21st century.
What 5G Will Be: Crazy-Fast Wireless Tested in New York City
Samsung’s technology for ultrafast data speeds currently requires a truckload of equipment.
The world’s biggest cell-phone maker, Samsung, caused a stir last week by announcing an ultrafast wireless technology that it unofficially dubbed “5G.” And the technology has, in fact, been tested on the streets of New York.
The Phosphorous Atom Quantum Computing Machine
An Australian team unveils the fundamental building block of a scalable quantum computer that could be embedded in today’s silicon chips.
Back in the late 90s, a physicist in Australia put forward a design for a quantum computer. Bruce Kane suggested that phosphorus atoms embedded in silicon would be the ideal way to store and manipulate quantum information.
How Apple Avoids Taxes through R&D Spending
In Washington, CEO Tim Cook defended Apple’s R&D cost-sharing arrangements.
Apple CEO Tim Cook came under fire in Washington today at a U.S. Senate hearing focused on the elaborate strategies Apple used to avoid paying tens of billions of dollars in corporate taxes.
What Will Hackers Do with the New Kinect?
Upgraded robot vision will be just one of the uses for the new version of Microsoft’s gesture control camera.
Microsoft announced a new version of the Xbox One today, and with it an improved and essentially reinvented version of Kinect, the company’s body- and gesture-control sensor. That bodes well for Xbox gamers, but also for the community of hackers that have found so many original uses for the first Kinect, from robot vision to 3-D doodling (see “Hackers Take the Kinect to New Levels”). It seems likely that a new wave of Kinect hacking activity will begin as soon as the new device becomes available.
Playing the Odds on Tornado Warnings
Pinpoint predictions are a long way off, but taking daily odds into account might help make the public more alert.
The devastation in Moore, Oklahoma, shows the limits of sensing, modeling, and warning technologies. While some technologies promise somewhat more accurate hurricane tracks and thus sharper evacuation orders (see “A Model for Hurricane Evacuation”), tornado warnings are another story altogether (see “The Limits of Tornado Predictions”).
How the Great Firewall of China Shapes Chinese Surfing Habits
Can cultural factors be more important than censorship in shaping Chinese surfing habits? Two researchers argue that a new study of the way global websites cluster together supports this idea.
Home Tweet Home: A House with Its Own Voice on Twitter
A techie’s San Francisco home has its own Twitter feed. Will yours be next?
At first glance, you’d never guess there’s anything unusual about Tom Coates’s San Francisco home. Nestled at the end of a narrow passageway on a side street, it’s a peaceful, sunny house decorated with modern furniture and bright posters that say things like “Machines help us work” and “Make your own path.”
Clawing From the Wreckage of Nokia Research
Jolla Mobile, formed by Nokia refugees, launches a phone with interchangable back panels and the Sailfish OS.
Almost one year after Nokia’s bloodletting, in which it cut 10,000 jobs and closed research and manufacturing facilities (see "Nokia Forced to Take Drastic Measures"), we’re starting to see new fruits of the startup culture that rose from the wreckage.
Second Life Founder's New Virtual World Uses Body-Tracking Hardware
Hardware that tracks your head, eyes, and hands will make the follow up to Second Life very different from the pioneering virtual world.
The founder of the once-popular virtual world Second Life, Philip Rosedale, is working on a new 3-D digital world that looks like it will be operated using gestures and body-tracking hardware. Rosedale declined to talk about his new company, called High Fidelity, just yet. But videos and other material posted online by the company suggest it is working on an impressively immersive virtual-reality experience where you control an avatar using head and hand movements.
Exxon Takes Algae Fuel Back to the Drawing Board
A $300 million project seems to have failed to produce a cheap way to make fuel from algae.
In 2009, ExxonMobil announced that it would pay Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics up to $300 million to develop algae-based fuels.
One-Time Pad Reinvented to Make Electronic Copying Impossible
The ability to copy electronic code makes one-time pads vulnerable to hackers. Now engineers have found a way round this to create a system of cryptography that is invulnerable to electronic attack.
One-time pads are the holy grail of cryptography—they are impossible to crack, even in principle.
Liquefied Air Could Power Cars and Store Energy from Sun and Wind
A 19th-century idea might lead to cleaner cars, larger-scale renewable energy.
Some engineers are dusting off an old idea for storing energy—using electricity to liquefy air by cooling it down to nearly 200 °C below zero. When power is needed, the liquefied air is allowed to warm up and expand to drive a steam turbine and generator.
Intel Fuels a Rebellion Around Your Data
The world’s largest chip maker wants to see a new kind of economy bloom around personal data.
Intel is a $53-billion-a-year company that enjoys a near monopoly on the computer chips that go into PCs. But when it comes to the data underlying big companies like Facebook and Google, it says it wants to “return power to the people.”
Other Interesting arXiv Papers (Week Ending 18 May 2013)
The best of the rest from the Physics arXiv preprint server
Performance of a Remotely Located Muon Radiography System to Identify the Inner Structure of a Nuclear Plant
From Our Archive: Wearable Computing, Long Before Google Glass
What was it like to use a wearable computer back in 1999?
SAP Makes Big Data Real– And Real-Time
The following View from the Marketplace was provided by SAP, the sponsor of our Big Data Gets Personal Business Report.
The Impending Headache of Google Glass Apps
Glass apps will require people to create new content filters. Maybe that’s just a losing battle.
Would you want your daily horoscope beamed to your right eye? That’s the vision of the future I saw when I tried out the fashion magazine Elle’s app for Google Glass yesterday, one of several apps announced at the extravagant software developer love-fest the internet company puts on every year.
The Latest Hardware Hacking Tool: A Machine that Carves Custom Circuit Boards
Otherfab’s Kickstarter project offers an easy way to make custom circuit boards at home.
Building Solar in Spain Instead of Germany Could Save Billions
Building solar and wind projects in the wrong place is wasting billions of dollars in Europe.
Siemens says it would make sense to build solar power plants in sunny countries in Europe rather than in cloudy ones. And wind turbines should be built in windy places.
Brain Training May Help Clear Cognitive Fog Caused by Chemotherapy
The mental fuzziness induced by cancer treatment could be eased by cognitive exercises performed online, say researchers.
Cancer survivors sometimes suffer from a condition known as “chemo fog”—a cognitive impairment caused by repeated chemotherapy. A study hints at a controversial idea: that brain-training software might help lift this cognitive cloud.
Smartphone Tracker Gives Doctors Remote Viewing Powers
Here’s the smartphone technology that alerts a doctor when patients are headed for trouble.
At the Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, nurses can see into the lives of some diabetes patients even when they’re not at the clinic. If a specific patient starts acting lethargic, or making lengthy calls to his mom, a green box representing him on an online dashboard turns yellow, then red. Soon, a nurse will call to see if he is still taking his medication.
Cheap Magnetic Helmet Detects Some Kinds of Brain Damage
Prototype spots swelling and bleeding in a pilot study—but the novel technique employed is relatively unproven.
A helmet that sends a magnetic field through the wearer’s head might someday offer a quick way to reveal whether the brain is swelling or bleeding as the result of an injury.
Seven Must-Read Stories from the Past Week (May 11-17)
Another chance to catch the most interesting, and important, articles from the previous week on MIT Technology Review.
Terahertz Image Reveals Goya's Hidden Signature in Old Master Painting
Darkened varnish obscures Goya’s signature in a 1771 masterpiece, according to a new analysis using terahertz waves
Google and NASA Launch Quantum Computing AI Lab
The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab will use the most advanced commercially available quantum computer, the D-Wave Two.
Quantum computing took a giant leap forward on the world stage today as NASA and Google, in partnership with a consortium of universities, launched an initiative to investigate how the technology might lead to breakthroughs in artificial intelligence.
Novel Material Shows Promise for Extracting Uranium from Seawater
A so-called metal-organic framework could offer a better way to get at the vast uranium resource dissolved in the ocean.
A new material could potentially be used to extract uranium from seawater more efficiently, new research suggests.
Google’s Social Network Gets Smarter
With dozens of new features, Google’s social network is becoming more like a photo service and a news site.
Despite the 190 million people that Google says use its social network every month, Google Plus has always struggled to escape Facebook’s shadow and seem like a hopping social destination.
Human Embryonic Stem Cells Cloned
Scientists produced embryonic stem cells from the DNA of one person combined with a human donor egg.
Scientists from Oregon Health and Science University reported on Wednesday in the scientific journal Cell that they had created embryonic stem cells from a cloned human embryo. This is the first time that human stem cells have been produced using nuclear transfer, a cloning technique in which the nucleus of one person’s cell is transferred into an egg that has had its nucleus removed. The technique could be used to create patient-specific human embryonic stem cells, which could be used to study genetic diseases, aid drug development, and for therapeutic transplantation back into a patient.
Google Wants to Help Apps Track You
Google will help people who build Android apps follow their users around without draining too much battery life.
Google is giving mobile app creators more ways to tap into people’s activities and locations without draining too much phone battery power.
Aereo's on a Roll
Aereo CEO says he’s boosted by winning a round in court—and that “lines are very, very long” for his Internet TV offering, despite ABC’s new competing streaming service.
The legal battles are not over for Internet TV startup Aereo. But for now CEO Chet Kanojia, whom I had a chance to interview yesterday, says things couldn’t be better—with “very, very long” lines in markets across the United States for his streaming local TV service that has the broadcast industry in full battle cry.