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- Google’s Computing Power Refines Translation Tool
- Google’s efforts to expand beyond searching the Web have met with mixed success. Its digital books project has been hung up in court, and the introduction of its social network, Buzz, raised privacy fears. The pattern suggests that it can sometimes misstep when it tries to challenge business traditions and cultural conventions. But Google’s quick rise to the top echelons of the translation business is a reminder of what can happen when Google unleashes its brute-force computing power on complex problems. [New York Times, 3/8/10]
- The Psychology of the Taboo Trade-Off
- The critical quality that leads people to treat rookie cards like rosaries is that of the sacred, whereby an object becomes worthy of boundless reverence, commitment, and protection. As diverse as people are in ascribing sacred status to possessions, they are equally varied in which values they consider sacred, a diversity that can breed substantial conflict. [Scientific American, 3/9/10]
- Porn: Good for us?
- Scientific examination of the subject has found that as the use of porn increases, the rate of sex crimes goes down. [The Scientist, 3/1/10]
- High-energy physics has a case of the Higgs
- One of the things that was abundantly clear in the high energy physics sessions at Physics@FOM is that everyone is very excited. The LHC is ready to roll later this winter, the Tevatron is putting out data like... well, a machine, and there is just so much stuff waiting around the corner. [Nobel Intent, 2/1/10]
- MicroRNA: A glimpse into the past
- The last ancestor we shared with worms, which roamed the seas around 600 million years ago, may already have had a sophisticated brain that released hormones into the blood and was connected to various sensory organs. The evidence comes not from a newly found fossil but from the study of microRNAs - small RNA molecules that regulate gene expression - in animals alive today. [Physorg.com, 2/1/10]
- Free Energy and the Meaning of Life
- At this very moment, tens of thousands of home computers around the world are quietly working together to solve the largest and most basic mysteries of our galaxy. Enthusiastic and inquisitive volunteers from Africa to Australia are donating the computing power of everything from decade-old desktops to sleek new netbooks to help computer scientists and astronomers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute map the shape of our Milky Way galaxy. [Cosmic Variance, 3/10/10]
- Could life exist on Jupiter moon?
- Icy moons may be the most common habitats for life in the Universe, so studying Europa will help tell us not just whether life exists elsewhere in our Solar System, but how common life may be throughout the Universe. [BBC News, 2/4/10]
- Searching for Network Laws in Slime
- Of all science’s model organisms, none is as weird as Dictyostelium discoideum, a single-celled amoeba better known as slime mold. When they run out of food, millions coalesce into a single, slug-like creature that wanders in search of nutrients, then forms a mushroom-like stalk, scatters as spores and starts the cycle again. In the rules governing the behavior of these creatures, researchers hope to find analogues for baffling biological mysteries, from the specialization of cells to how animals become altruistic. [Wired, 2/12/10]
- Quantum gravity and space's informational entropy
- Gravity is still a force, but it is generated by something more fundamental: entropy. Entropy can be described in the language of quantum mechanics and conformal field theory is one model for this sort of description. In these models, gravity kind of falls out of the equations for free—where "free" is an enormous amount of work done by someone else. [Nobel Intent, 2/14/10]
- Rethinking networking
- About 10 years ago, electrical engineers suggested that bundles of data could be transmitted over a network more efficiently if, instead of passing unaltered from one end to the other, they were scrambled together along the way and unscrambled at the end. In 2003, MIT electrical engineering professor Muriel Médard and her colleagues proved the counterintuitive result that, in many cases, the best way to scramble data together was to do it randomly. [Physorg.com, 2/12/10]
- Dark Energy: The Biggest Mystery in the Universe
- Astronomers have compiled evidence that what we’ve always thought of as the actual universe—me, you, this magazine, planets, stars, galaxies, all the matter in space—represents a mere 4 percent of what’s actually out there. The rest they call, for want of a better word, dark: 23 percent is something they call dark matter, and 73 percent is something even more mysterious, which they call dark energy. [Smithsonian Magazine, 3/22/10]
- The Big Bang: Solid Theory, But Mysteries Remain
- A popular picture of the early universe imagines a single Big Bang, after which space blew up quickly like a giant bubble. But another theory posits that we live in a universe of 11 dimensions, where all particles are actually made of tiny vibrating strings. This could create a universe stuck in a cycle of Big Bangs and Big Crunches, due to repeat on loop. Which scenario is closer to the truth remains to be seen, but scientists say new experiments underway could provide more answers soon. [Space.com, 3/19/10]
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