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Updated: 2 hours 27 min ago

Buzzwords Are Stifling Innovation In College Teaching

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 7:53am
jyosim writes: Tech marketers brag about the world-changing impact of 'adaptive learning' and other products, but they all mean something different by the buzzword. On the other side of it, professors are notoriously skeptical of companies, and crave precise language. Richard Culatta, director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, says the buzzwords have thus become a major obstacle to improving teaching on campuses, since these tribes (professor and ed-tech vendors) must work together.

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Why In-Flight Wi-Fi Is Still Slow and Expensive

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 7:12am
An anonymous reader writes: Let's grant that having access to the internet while on an airplane is pretty amazing. When airlines first began offering it several years ago, it was agonizingly slow and somewhat pricey as well. Unfortunately, it's only gotten more expensive over the years, and the speeds are still frustrating. This is in part because the main provider of in-flight internet, Gogo, knows most of its regular customers will pay for it, regardless of cost. Business travelers with expense accounts don't care if it's $1 or $10 or $50 — they need to stay connected. Data speeds haven't improved because Gogo says the scale isn't big enough to do much infrastructure investment, and most of the hardware is custom-made. A third of Gogo-equipped planes can manage 10 Mbps, while the rest top out at 3 Mbps. There's hope on the horizon — the company says a new satellite service should enable 70 Mbps per plane by the end of the year — but who knows how much they'll charge for an actual useful connection.

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Modular Touchpad Aims To Replace Most Input Devices

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 6:30am
An anonymous reader writes: Wired reports on the 'Sensel Morph' input device, which launched on Kickstarter yesterday and blew past its funding goal almost immediately. It's a tablet-sized touchpad, but the key feature is the ability to place custom overlays on it. For example, you can snap on a flexible keyboard and the device starts behaving like a normal keyboard. Other overlays can imitate a game controller or a musical instrument. It's sensitive enough to detect paintbrushes, or you can put a simple overlay on it and use pencil or pen. The magnetic connectors in these overlays tell the device how to process the input, and they're making an open source API so developers can create their own. The touchpad has 20,000 individual sensors, with pressure sensitivity ranging from 5g to 5kg.

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NASA Mulls Missions To Neptune and Uranus, Using the Space Launch System

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 5:47am
MarkWhittington writes: According to a story in Astronomy Magazine, NASA is contemplating sending flagship sized space probes to the so-called "ice giants" of Uranus and Neptune. These probes would orbit the two outer planets, similar to how Galileo orbited Jupiter and how Cassini currently orbits Saturn. The only time NASA has previously had a close encounter with either of these worlds was when Voyager 2 flew by Uranus in 1986 and then Neptune in 1989. Each of these missions would happen after the Europa Clipper, a flagship-class mission scheduled for the mid-2020s.

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Oakland Changes License Plate Reader Policy After Filling 80GB Hard Drive

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 5:05am
An anonymous reader writes: License plate scanners are a contentious subject, generating lots of debate over what information the government should have, how long they should have it, and what they should do with it. However, it seems policy changes are driven more by practical matters than privacy concerns. Earlier this year, Ars Technica reported that the Oakland Police Department retained millions of records going back to 2010. Now, the department has implemented a six-month retention window, with older data being thrown out. Why the change? They filled up the 80GB hard drive on the Windows XP desktop that hosted the data, and it kept crashing. Why not just buy a cheap drive with an order of magnitude more storage space? Sgt. Dave Burke said, "We don't just buy stuff from Amazon as you suggested. You have to go to a source, i.e., HP or any reputable source where the city has a contract. And there's a purchase order that has to be submitted, and there has to be money in the budget. Whatever we put on the system, has to be certified. You don't just put anything. I think in the beginning of the program, a desktop was appropriate, but now you start increasing the volume of the camera and vehicles, you have to change, otherwise you're going to drown in the amount of data that's being stored."

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When Should Cops Be Allowed To Take Control of Self-Driving Cars?

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 4:23am
HughPickens.com writes: A police officer is directing traffic in the intersection when he sees a self-driving car barreling toward him and the occupant looking down at his smartphone. The officer gestures for the car to stop, and the self-driving vehicle rolls to a halt behind the crosswalk. This seems like a pretty plausible interaction. Human drivers are required to pull over when a police officer gestures for them to do so. It's reasonable to expect that self-driving cars would do the same. But Will Oremus writes that while it's clear that police officers should have some power over the movements of self-driving cars, what's less clear is where to draw the line. Should an officer be able to do the same if he suspects the passenger of a crime? And what if the passenger doesn't want the car to stop—can she override the command, or does the police officer have ultimate control? According to a RAND Corp. report on the future of technology and law enforcement "the dark side to all of the emerging access and interconnectivity (PDF) is the risk to the public's civil rights, privacy rights, and security." It added, "One can readily imagine abuses that might occur if, for example, capabilities to control automated vehicles and the disclosure of detailed personal information about their occupants were not tightly controlled and secured."

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US Scientists Successfully 'Switch Off' Cancer Cells

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 3:41am
iONiUM sends news that Mayo Clinic cancer researchers have developed a technique to reprogram cancer cells in a lab, essentially "turning off" their excessive cell growth. That code was unraveled by the discovery that adhesion proteins — the glue that keeps cells together — interact with the microprocessor, a key player in the production of molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs). The miRNAs orchestrate whole cellular programs by simultaneously regulating expression of a group of genes (abstract). The investigators found that when normal cells come in contact with each other, a specific subset of miRNAs suppresses genes that promote cell growth. However, when adhesion is disrupted in cancer cells, these miRNAs are misregulated and cells grow out of control. The investigators showed, in laboratory experiments, that restoring the normal miRNA levels in cancer cells can reverse that aberrant cell growth.

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Wired: IBM's School Could Fix Education and Tech's Diversity Gap

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 1:20am
theodp writes: Wired positively gushes over IBM's Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), saying it could fix education and tech's diversity gap. Backed by IBM, the P-TECH program aims to prepare mainly minority kids from low-income backgrounds for careers in technology, allowing them to earn a high school diploma and a free associate degree in six years or less. That P-TECH's six inaugural graduates completed the program in four years and were offered jobs with IBM, Wired reports, is "irrefutable proof that this solution might actually work" (others aren't as impressed, although the President is drinking the Kool-Aid). While the program has only actually graduated six students since it was announced in 2010, Wired notes that by fall, 40 schools across the country will be designed in P-TECH's image. IBM backs four of them, but they'll also be run by tech giants like Microsoft and SAP, major energy companies like ConEdison, along with hospital systems, manufacturing associations, and civil engineering trade groups. They go by different names and are geared toward different career paths, but they all follow the IBM playbook.

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Scientific Papers With Shorter Titles Get More Citations

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 10:14pm
sciencehabit writes: Articles with shorter titles tend to get cited more often than those with longer headers, concludes a study published today, which examined 140,000 papers published between 2007 and 2013. It appears in the journal Royal Society Open Science. Citations are a key currency in the academic world. The number of times other researchers cite a scientist’s work is often an important metric in hiring and workplace evaluations. Citations also play a role in determining a journal’s place in the scholarly pecking order, with journals that publish more highly cited papers earning a higher “impact factor” (although many critics challenge that measure).

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