Sep 24, 2009 | 10
Editor's Note: A team of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students are traveling up New York's Hudson River this week on the New Clermont, a 6.7-meter boat outfitted with a pair of 2.2-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cells to power the boat's motor. Their journey began September 21 from Manhattan's Pier 84 and will cover 240 kilometers (at a projected speed of 8 kilometers per hour). After making several stops along the way, the crew expects to arrive back at Rensselaer Polytech's campus in Troy, N.Y., on September 25. This is the third of Scientific American.com's blogs chronicling this expedition, called the New Clermont Project.
The New Clermont Project crew is learning valuable lessons about what it will take to make hydrogen power not only possible but practical as well. After losing both hydrogen fuel-cell-powered boat motors Tuesday, the New Clermont spent Wednesday docked in Beacon, N.Y., while the Rensselaer students figured out what went wrong.
Sep 23, 2009 | 10
A team of Duke University researchers in Durham, N.C., is studying new ways to use the abundance of sensors contained in most smart phones (including the camera, accelerometer, microphone, GPS and Wi-Fi radio) to determine mobile users' precise locations and thereby deliver hyper-localized services. This could enable a business such as Starbuck's to text-message a coupon to a person's phone as he or she enters the coffee shop, or it could allow Wal-Mart to send shoppers a listing of sales items as soon as the store's doors slide open. Another option could be to provide blind mobile subscribers with information about where they are as they move from store to store within a mall.
The researchers argue in a paper presented today at the ACM MobiCom 2009 conference in Beijing that the increasing number of sensors on mobile phones presents new opportunities for logical localization, which is more useful to people than simply representing their location as a set of latitude and longitude coordinates.
Sep 23, 2009 | 4
Editor's Note: A team of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students are traveling up New York's Hudson River this week on the New Clermont, a 6.7-meter boat outfitted with a pair of 2.2-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cells to power the boat's motor. Their journey began September 21 from Manhattan's Pier 84 and will cover 240 kilometers (at a projected speed of 8 kilometers per hour). After making several stops along the way, the crew expects to arrive back at Rensselaer Polytech's campus in Troy, N.Y., on September 25. This is the second of Scientific American.com's blogs chronicling this expedition, called the New Clermont Project.
New Clermont Project team members Jenn Gagner and Jason Kumnick took the helm of the New Clermont for the second leg of the journey between Manhattan and Troy, N.Y. It was rough going for Gagner, a Rensselaer materials science and engineering grad student, and Kumnick, a Rensselaer doctoral student studying decarburization and workability of hardened steels, as the New Clermont suffered repeatedly from engine problems while traveling from Ossining, N.Y., farther up the Hudson to Beacon.
Sep 22, 2009 | 10
Editor's Note: A team of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students are traveling up New York's Hudson River this week on the New Clermont, a 6.7-meter boat outfitted with a pair of 2.2-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cells to power the boat's motor. Their journey began September 21 from Manhattan's Pier 84 and will cover 240 kilometers (at a projected speed of 8 kilometers per hour). After making several stops along the way, the crew expects to arrive back at Rensselaer Polytech's campus in Troy, N.Y., on September 25. This is the first of Scientific American.com's blogs chronicling this expedition, called the New Clermont Project.
The New Clermont Project comes 200 years after Robert Fulton drove the world's first commercial steamboat, The Clermont, from New York to Albany. William Gathright, a doctoral student in Rensselaer's Materials Science and Engineering Department, began assembling the crew and resources necessary for this green-fueled tour of the Hudson earlier this year. Gathright is also pursuing a master's in management from Rensselaer's Lally School of Management & Technology.
Sep 9, 2009 | 29
Four years ago, President Bush signed a law requiring states to create driver's licenses that meet national standards, store related information in nationally connected databases and foot the bill for most of this nearly $4-billion project. Now, after the 2005 Real ID Act has alienated state governments and privacy advocates alike, the federal government is considering a replacement measure called Pass ID that it hopes will improve national security while being less expensive and less intrusive on privacy.
Sep 8, 2009 | 39
When hackers want to break into a computer system, they often attempt to reverse engineer the operating software to better understand how it works (and, of course, its vulnerabilities). While researchers have for years taken a similar approach to better understanding parts of our gray matter, neuroscientists now say that within a decade it will be possible to create a digital model that replicates all functions of the human brain.
Though the brain has trillions of synapses, billions of neurons, millions of proteins, and thousands of genes, scientists have already begun to build detailed models of the mouse, rat, cat, primate and human brain, says Henry Markram, director of neuroscience and technology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, where he founded the Brain Mind Institute (BMI) in 2002. One of the keys to furthering this work is cooperation among scientists who are gathering together fragments of information collected over the past century about the how the brain works.
Aug 31, 2009 | 7
Could President Obama, in the event of a massive cyber attack against government computers, be given the power to bring Internet traffic to a stop?
That's the big question being asked in cyber security circles today. The answer is no, at least not based on the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 that Sen. Jay Rockefeller first (D–W.V.) proposed in April nor on an excerpt of the revised bill that's been floating around the Web since late last week.
The confusion arises from some of the language in the bill's original version, which proposes to give the president authority to declare a cyber security emergency and "order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic to and from any compromised Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information system or network." By critical infrastructure, we're talking about the computers that run utilities, banks, hospitals and government agencies—the institutions that society relies on to function normally. The first draft of the bill also seeks to give the president the ability to "order the disconnection of any Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information systems or networks in the interest of national security."
Aug 28, 2009 | 20
It isn't the most picturesque of locations, but a number of scientists spent their summer taking in the 25.9-million-square-kilometer oval of the Pacific Ocean known as the North Subtropical Gyre, or "Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch," located about 1,600 kilometers off California's coast.
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition's (SEAPLEX) research vessel (R/V) New Horizon returned to California earlier this week after spending about three weeks studying pools of plastic debris that have collected in the gyre, in particular their impact on marine life.
Aug 27, 2009 | 3
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously today to scrutinize various aspects of the wireless industry with several new inquiries aimed at consumer protection, the Associated Press reports. One examination will look at so-called "truth-in-billing" rules that require phone companies to clearly identify and describe charges on consumer bills, while another will examine whether there is enough competition in the market.
These inquiries would join several others under way, including probes to determine if consumers are hurt by exclusive contracts between service providers and phone makers (e.g. AT&T and Apple, for its iPhone), long-term contracts between subscribers and service providers, and fees charged to subscribers who leave a contract early, according to Bloomberg.
Aug 26, 2009
Parkinson's disease sufferers typically face a long, difficult battle against the disorder's degenerative effects on their motor skills and speech. While many scientists are studying the potential for drugs, surgery and exercise to slow the disease's impact on the central nervous system—including tremors, stiff muscles and impaired movement—one team of researchers is experimenting with technology designed to help Parkinson's sufferers fend off voice and speech problems.
Parkinson's can leave its victims afflicted with speech that tends to be soft, hoarse and monotonous, particularly during the disease's later stages. Jessica Huber, an associate professor of speech, language and hearing sciences at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., is in the early stages of developing a device that could help Parkinson's sufferers articulate their thoughts more audibly by exploiting the Lombard effect, a reflex in which people automatically speak louder in the presence of background sound (for example, at a sporting event, party or restaurant).
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