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Japanese Firm Hosts Android Marathon

A Japanese technology firm has created the world's first marathon for robots, which is expected to last four days. Vstone, the event organizer, says there are now five robots entered in the "Robo Mara Full" race, some of which were built by the company, others were reportedly created by the Osaka Institute of Technology. Scheduled to begin 24 February, the event is open only to androids with two legs. Entrants must complete 422 laps around a 110-yard (100-meter) indoor racetrack in Osaka to cover 26 miles (42 kilometers). The robots will stop only for battery changes and repairs. The event is designed to test the machines’ durability and ability to maneuver. The event is timed so that the robots will finish their race at roughly the same time on 27 February as humans competing in the Tokyo marathon cross the finish line. (Associated Press)(The Telegraph)(The Sun)

Canadian Government Sites Successfully Hacked

The Canadian government’s Defence Research and Development Canada, a civilian agency within its defense department, was hacked in January.  The attackers reportedly accessed highly classified federal information on the systems of senior government officials and forced both the Finance Department and Treasury Board offline to prevent any stolen information from being transmitted via the Internet. The CBC reports that the government still has yet to comment on the situation, but says it appears the attacks originated in China. However, other news outlets state these were Chinese government hackers. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has denied any responsibility by the Chinese government. The CBC notes that the government’s cybersecurity “has long been described as a sieve.” The Canadian Auditor-General first called for stronger security in 2002, then again in 2005 after finding little had been done to eliminate any system vulnerabilities.  (SlashDot)(CBCNews)(AFP)

IBM's Watson, Jeopardy! Champ

IBM’s Watson supercomputer now adds Jeopardy! champion to its resume after beating two humans in a three-day tournament. Watson answered questions on topics such as "The Simpsons" and Bram Stoker accurately. The supercomputer was specifically designed to understand natural human language.  Watson won US$1 million for first place, all of which will be donated to charity; Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, each noted champions on the quiz show, won $300,000 and $200,000 respectively. The human contestants pledge to donate half of their winnings. Now, National Geographic is hailing the victory as one of six notable triumphs -- others include the creation of ELIZA and SRI International’s Shakey the Robot -- in the development of AI. IBM, which devoted four years to Watson’s development, has said it is interested in applying the technology commercially, particularly in health care and customer service. (SlashDot)(Bloomberg)(National Geographic)(Associated Press)

US Seeks Funding for Cybersecurity Technology Development

The US Defense Department wants to spend US$500 million to research new cybersecurity technologies including cloud computing and encrypted data processing, according to US Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn. The funding is reportedly part of the Pentagon’s 2012 budget request of $2.3 billion, which it is requesting to improve the Defense Department’s cyber capabilities. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a press conference that the money would be allocated through DARPA and would also be used as seed capital for firms that can provide applicable cybersecurity products. Some 100-plus foreign intelligence agencies have attempted to penetrate US government defense networks, Lynn said Tuesday at the 2011 RSA Conference in San Francisco. Strong defenses will continue to thwart such attacks. Related issues, such as the inadvertent spread of malware, he says, need to be addressed to prevent potential global economic problems. (SlashDot)(Bloomberg)(SC Magazine)(RSA Conference)

New Properties Found by Joining Superconductors and Graphene

Researchers at the University of Illinois have observed some unique electrical properties that occur when superconductors and graphene are connected. Typically, current applied to a normal conducting material will flow in a single stream of electrons and, in superconductors, the electrons travel in pairs. Two superconductors with a metal layer between them are able to impart the superconducting capacity to the metal material. Paired electrons from the superconductor create special electron-hole pairs in the normal metal, called Andreev bound states (ABS), which are difficult to measure or observe, but these researchers were able to isolate individual ABS by connecting superconducting probes to tiny, nanoscale flakes of graphene called quantum dots. In addition to being able to observe the property, the process also enabled them to manipulate the ABS. The new properties might have applications in computing. Superconductor junctions could be used as superconducting transistors or bits for quantum computers and the quantum dots might possibly be used as solid-state qubits by themselves. The full research results have been published in Nature Physics. (redOrbit)(Nature Physics)

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