New image-recognition software helps computers 'see'

MIT researchers have developed a computing system that could lead to great advances in the automated identification of online images and, ultimately, provide a basis for computers to ‘see’ in a manner similar to humans, Science Daily reports. For the study, researchers created a mathematical system that can shrink the data from a single picture. Using the system, they found that many images are recognizable even when coded into a numerical representation containing as little as 256 to 1024 bits of data. Reducing the size of an image to such small amounts of data enables ordinary PCs to search through a database of millions of images or similar pictures in less than a second, according to the lead researcher. Science Daily adds that, “unlike other methods that require first breaking down an image into sections containing different objects, this method uses the entire image, making it simple to apply to large datasets without human intervention.” Currently, the system can be applied to the most common kinds of images, such as those depicting cars, people, flowers and buildings. However, the more complex or unusual an image is, the less likely it is to be correctly matched (Science Daily, 5/26/08).

Chinese nanotechnology researchers encouraged to set up new application systems

Chinese Academy of Sciences President LU Yongxiang recently called on the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNT) to strengthen its strategic research and further clarify its strategic objectives, Nanowerk News reports. Speaking at a meeting of the NCNT governing board held on May 23 in Beijing, Lu urged nanotechnology researchers to bolster their efforts in promoting the application of nanoscience and nanotechnology in energy sources and public health, as well as information technology. In addition, he underscored the importance of nanotechnology’s impact on ecology and human health. Specifically, Lu said that the researchers should be bold enough to create a new service system and actively guide, support and drive the sound development of Chinese society (Nanowerk News, 5/27/08).

EU security agency wants social network scrutiny

The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), Europe's top Internet security agency, on Tuesday called for new legislation to police social networking sites, IDG News Service reports. Specifically, ENISA leaders recommended that EU legislation should be expanded "to cover the taking of photos of people and posting them on the internet," adding that currently consent is not required to, for instance, post a photo of an individual. In addition, officials noted that there is a "crucial need" to educate consumers about how social networking sites work, as many users do not know that it is nearly impossible to erase material once it has appeared on the Internet (Paul Meller, IDG News Service/Yahoo! News, 5/27/08).

Utah researchers outline business strategy to limit computer fraud

Southern Utah University researchers have developed an antifraud strategy for business, which involves educating managers about security issues, Science Daily reports. Published in the International Journal of Business Information Systems, the study indicates that opportunistic computer fraud can be minimized by raising managers' awareness and knowledge of how organizational structure can affect the effectiveness of security measures. Specifically, Science Daily notes that the “seemingly obvious solution” simply involves educating management and then “subtly communicating management's new-found knowledge to employees” (Science Daily, 5/27/08).

Biotech medical group launches $600 million research initiative

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute on Tuesday announced a $600 million, five-year initiative to fund U.S. biomedical research, the Washington Business Journal reports. The Maryland-based not-for-profit aims to discover long-term medical advances in genetics and biology through the fund, which will support 56 handpicked scientists. The 42 men and 14 women represent 31 universities and research institutions, including The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The scientists were chosen from more than 1,000 applicants in the institute's first open competition that allowed scientists to apply directly, a strategy that officials said would help diversify the applicant pool with researchers such as physicists and engineers. Under the program, participating scientists will keep working at their current institutions but will join roughly 300 Hughes investigators (Plumb, Washington Business Journal, 5/27/08).

Copyright deal aims to toughen info rules for iPods, computers

The Canadian government is secretly working to revamp international copyright laws, negotiating changes that could make the information on Canadian iPods, laptop computers or other personal electronic devices illegal, Canwest News Service reports. Called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the new plan would involve joining an international coalition against copyright infringement, which already involves countries such as the United States and members of the European Union. ACTA would not only make it more difficult to travel with such technologies, but also may impose strict regulations on Internet service providers, forcing the release of customer information without a court order. According to Canwest, the agreement structure will resemble that of the North American Free Trade Agreement, though it will create rules and regulations regarding private copying and copyright laws (Pilieci, Canwest News Service, 5/26/08).

Future Apple devices may be solar powered

Employees at Apple have filed a patent for integrating solar cells into portable devices by placing them underneath the layers of a touch-sensitive display, IDG News Service reports. According to IDG, solar power can help make devices truly portable, eliminating the need for a wired connection to a power supply. IDG notes that the use of solar powered charging in portable devices is growing, citing examples such as solar-powered phone chargers from Vodafone as part of the company’s plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2020. Meanwhile, the Ugandan Minister for Communications and Information and Communication Technologies at the recent ITU Telecom Africa 2008 conference also addressed local plans for trials of solar-powered charging (Ricknas, IDG News Service\New York Times, 5/26/08).

Beatles may hold key to faster computers

A study from the University of Utah published this week in Physical Review E suggests that the inch-long Brazilian beetle's iridescent green scales are composed of chitin arranged by evolution in the exact molecular configuration necessary for optical computing, Wired News reports.  Unlike electrons, which are used in current computing chips, photons can cross paths without interfering with each other. This affect means that optical chips can compute in three dimensions rather than two, crunching data that now takes weeks to process in just seconds. Optical chips, however, require crystals that channel photons as nimbly as silicon channels electrons, and researchers have yet to determine how to construct the ideal photonic crystal. Until now: Wired notes that, "by using the scales as a semiconductor mold, researchers hope to finally build the perfect photonic crystal" (Keim, Wired News, 5/23/08).

 

Serbia, India sign technology cooperation deal

Serbia and India recently agreed to cooperate for science and technology research, B92 News reports. Under the new agreement, the governments will prioritize cooperative researchers in the fields of information technology, agro- and biotechnology, nanotechnology, energy efficiency, water resource management, and the construction of innovation centers. According to officials, the agreement may also lead to closer ties between the countries, who are already cooperating on many issues, including those in the political domain (B92 News, 5/23/08).

Research advances quantum computing

ETH Zurich physicists have developed a semiconductor system that involved creating superimposed quantum dots that “trap” single electrons, which may be leveraged for supercomputing, Science Daily reports. Not only can these dots be studied with lasers, their energy can be influenced as well, a finding that brought the researchers one step closer to quantum computers, according to Science Daily. For the system, the Quantum Photonics Group researchers “grew” a gallium arsenide crystal and applied two layers of indium-gallium arsenide to it, which created tiny bubbles—the quantum dots. Writing in the journal Science, the lead author notes that “this kind of dot is like an artificial atom only bigger, and two superimposed dots constitute an artificial molecule.” Ultimately, the researchers successfully populated these quantum dots with single electrons and manipulated them with lasers. They also determined exactly how many electrons were present in one of their semiconductor system’s quantum dots. Moreover, they were able to imprison the charged particles in them individually (Science Daily, 5/23/08).

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