Software

Catastrophic power outages on the rise, but new tech helps keep lights on

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 2, 2013   View Article

Last year, nearly a tenth of the world’s population — 620 million people — lost power at once. The cause? Two simultaneous failures on India’s enormous electric grid.

While these catastrophes are a symptom of infrastructure investment lagging behind rapid urbanization and modernization, technology can help: A new computer algorithm could lower the chances of such massive blackouts from recurring.

Virtual robot masters win real ones to send into disasters

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 27, 2013   View Article

Seven teams of software gurus whose code deftly controlled a virtual, human-like robot through a virtual obstacle course were awarded a real humanoid to program for a real-world competition to develop disaster response robots, the Pentagon’s advanced research arm announced Thursday.

The teams competed in the virtual leg of a competition run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, to develop machines that can operate with limited human supervision to assist in response to future natural and human-caused disasters.

Software may help predict cholera outbreaks

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 4, 2013   View Article

New software under development aims to stop history from repeating itself by using old news and related data to warn of pending trouble in time to take corrective action.

The system could, for example, help international aid agencies assess the likelihood of a cholera outbreak in time to treat a population with a limited-duration cholera vaccine, explained Kira Radinsky, a researcher at Technion-Israel.

Tap other people’s brains to make decisions

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 8, 2012   View Article

Researchers are working on a new software tool that will allow us to tap other people’s brains as we try to make sense of information online.

In the United States, we collectively spend 70 billion hours a year trying to mentally process the data we collect as we surf the Web and try to decide things such as what new gadget to buy or where to go on vacation.

IBM sees energy, money in motion of the ocean

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: October 31, 2011   View Article

The computer giant IBM sees a profitable future in high-tech analytical tools that could expedite and enhance the rollout of machines to turn the motion of the ocean into electricity.

Such machines, called wave energy converters, are under development around the world as a means to tap what appears to be a clean, green source of renewable energy — wave power.

Computer software helps engineer organisms

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: July 21, 2011   View Article

A computer software program is outfitting biotechnology companies with the ability to determine the genetic plans they need to engineer microorganisms for the production of products such as building materials, drugs and biofuels.

Companies routinely use microorganisms such as E. coli to manufacture products such as insulin. This has primarily been done by cutting and pasting DNA found in nature into organisms that can be grown in the lab, explained Howard Salis, a synthetic biologist at Pennsylvania State University.

Grow a new language in your head

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 23, 2011   View Article

For adults, learning a new language is often a long, frustrating process that inevitably ends up in failure. A memory expert and a neuroscientist hope to change that with a new online software package designed to make learning the vocabulary of a foreign language fast, fun and rewarding.

“Really good successful learning needs to be vivid, imaginative and creative. It needs to be active. And if you can make it a bit social, that’s great,” Greg Detre, a neuroscientist and co-founder of Memrise, the online destination to learn foreign words quickly, told me today.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach