Technology

Software pinpoints Afghan fighters

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: April 5, 2011   View Article

The ongoing military campaign against Afghan insurgents may get a boost from new computer software designed to zero in on the locations of weapons caches and warlords.

“The idea is to say, look, this is a large area, where do you target your resources,” Venkatramanan Subrahmanian, co-director of the Lab for Computational Cultural Dynamics at the University of Maryland, told me today.

Device may find Martians in us all

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

Life as we know it has a common ancestor— somewhere. Is it a Martian? A new device under development to fly on a future mission to Mars to find and sequence bits of genetic material could provide an answer, according to MIT and Harvard scientists.

“Given what we know about meteorite impacts and transfer of material between Earth and Mars, we are hoping that life may in fact exist on Mars and that it may in fact be related to us,” Christopher Carr, a MIT research scientist who is leading the project, told me today.

Robots to the rescue in Japan

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 15, 2011   View Article

As the search for survivors and grim recovery of bodies continues following the devastating one-two punch of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, researchers are weighing what types of robots could be most helpful.

There are ground-based robots, for example, designed to climb up and down piles of rubble and slither into otherwise inaccessible cracks to look for survivors. Other robots are designed to work underwater, looking for survivors in cars that fell off bridges and to check the integrity of infrastructure.

Smart phone ‘grip of death’ proved

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 1, 2011   View Article

How users of some smart phones grip their gadgets can indeed lead to dropped calls — and, at least in a lab setting, placing an Apple-style plastic bumper between the antenna and thumb failed to fix the problem, according to new research on the so-called “grip of death” and potential fixes.

The antenna problem was widely reported among users of Apple’s iPhone 4 last June, which prompted Mark Beach and colleagues at the University of Bristol’s Center for Communications Research to revisit and update data collected in 2005 using a personal digital assistant with a new round of tests on a smart phone prototype.

Leave the driving to your brain

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

The day that drivers no longer have to put their hands on the wheel and fiddle with the gas pedal, clutch, and brake is within our reach, thanks to German researchers who have developed a car that drives using brain waves.

Magnetic soap made for oil spills

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 25, 2012   View Article

Scientists have created the world’s first soap that can be controlled by magnets.

That’s right: magnetic suds.

The breakthrough may revolutionize industrial cleaning products and the response to environmental disasters such as oil spills, reports the research team from Bristol University in England.

Get ready for invisible war machines

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 14, 2011   View Article

Within a few years the Brits may deploy invisible armored tanks onto the battlefield, a breakthrough in stealth technology that Harry Potter would certainly applaud.

Defense contractor BAE Systems is working on the technology, which uses a “display system within the structure of the vehicle” to display images captured by cameras on one side of the vehicle on the opposite side so that the vehicle “blends in with the background scenery,” company spokesman Mike Sweeney explained to me today.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach