Daily Mail: Amanda Ghassaei, a software engineer from California, has previously shown how to use 3D printers to make vinyl music records. Now she has posted online instructions for an alternative method that uses a laser cutter to cut records out of wood. The process involves converting an MP3 into a digital waveform, which is then saved as a pdf. The pdf becomes the “vector cutting path” that the laser cutter follows to carve the pattern into the wood. Because the laser’s resolution is relatively low, the groove is twice as thick as a normal record groove. Hence, only about three minutes of music will fit on a standard-sized record, and the sound fades to static the closer the needle moves to the center as the sampling rate decreases. If no laser cutter is available, Ghassaei says that a computer numerically controlled (CNC) mill or CNC razor-blade paper cutter could also be used. Because of the lower resolution, the technique works best with songs that are dominated by low- to mid-range sounds. Ghassaei provided a video of one of the records playing Radiohead’s “Idioteque.”
MIT Technology Review: Streaming video, which requires large amounts of data, could account for 90% of the data transferred to mobile devices this year. Long-term evolution (LTE) is one of the dominant standards for mobile data and phone signals. An alternative version of LTE is in development that could make it possible to transmit a TV-like signal alongside the current LTE signal. Dubbed LTE Broadband, the system would reduce normal data congestion by broadcasting its signals, but it would likely be limited in the number of channels of video it could broadcast. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam has suggested that his company would like to provide video streaming of events like the Super Bowl in an à la carte fashion, where a large number of users pay to view a particular event. Qualcomm, which develops chip technologies for mobile devices, says that the hardware and software necessary for LTE Broadband will likely be available by early 2014.
Daily Mail: Researchers at the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Canada are developing a new smartphone called the morephone—a paper-thin device that curls up when someone is calling. Beneath its thin, flexible electrophoretic display are a number of shape memory alloy wires that contract to notify the user of an incoming call, email, or text message. Each corner can be individually programmed to convey which kind of message is coming. The morephone’s shape-shifting notification method was developed as a potentially more useful silent notification than setting a phone on vibrate. A prototype is being presented today at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris.
BBC: Last year, movie director James Cameron took his Deepsea Challenger submarine to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, almost 11 kilometers below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. He was the first person to have done so in 50 years, and the only one ever to do it solo. While submerged, he filmed three-dimensional images for a National Geographic movie to be released later this year. Because of a lack of funding, however, Cameron decided he would be unable to make a second dive, so he is donating the sub to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The institution, which already operates its own fleet of submersibles, plans to use components from Cameron’s vehicle, such as its lights and cameras. Cameron hopes that the Deepsea Challenger will dive again, but he says that at least its hardware and technology will be preserved.
Telegraph: In the 1930s Alan Turing wrote a paper describing a machine that laid the mathematical groundwork for modern computing. Recently, Turing’s concept of a “universal computing machine” received 18% of the more than 50 000 votes in an online poll held as part of the UK’s National Science and Engineering Week. Second place went to the British Motor Corp’s Mini, and third place to x-ray crystallography, whose invention and applications led to several British Nobel Prizes. In a separate similar poll to choose “the innovation most likely to shape the 21st century,” voters selected ionic liquid chemistry.
Los Angeles Times: Vulcan and Cerberus were the top two contenders in a recent international poll to name two moons of Pluto. The poll was conducted by the team that discovered the moons. Team leader Mark Showalter, a planetary astronomer working at the SETI Institute, said the group sought names from Greek mythology and associated with Hades and the underworld. “Vulcan” was proposed by William Shatner, the actor who portrayed Captain James T. Kirk on the TV series Star Trek. Although he chose the name because it is the home planet of Kirk’s first officer and best friend, Mr. Spock, Vulcan meets Showalter’s naming criteria by also being the nephew of Pluto. “Cerberus,” which was nominated by SETI, is the hound that guards the underworld ruled by Pluto. The final decision rests with the International Astronomical Union.
BBC: An international team of researchers has created a computer program that they believe can be used to help reconstruct the long-extinct precursors of modern languages. They used a database of 142 000 words and pronunciations from a collection of currently spoken Asian and Pacific languages and calculated probabilities of sound changes to calculate the parent language from which the current languages evolved. When compared to a parent language reconstructed by hand by linguists, 85% of the words in the computer generated language were within one sound difference of words in the linguist-constructed language. The benefit of the software is the large amount of data it can analyze quickly. However, that has to be balanced against its inability to recognize various quirks of language that make it less accurate than professional linguists.
New Scientist: To the ever-expanding field of video gaming, researchers in Germany have added a new twist: electrical muscle stimulation (EMS). Using two small wired electrodes attached to the gamer’s forearm, EMS sends strong, painless contractions to the hands. The user reflexively fights the contraction, which makes him or her feel more a part of the action. Such haptic technology, which provides tactile feedback to the user, has been likened to the visual enhancement of computer graphics. The mobile force-feedback device will be demonstrated at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris in April.
New Scientist: When Microsoft revealed the Kinect gaming device, which uses a depth sensor created by PrimeSense, various other companies began developing novel applications for the sensor. One company is using it to monitor shopper behavior in front of store shelves and to map where people pause or pick up items. Another company is using the sensor to make standard television and computer screens “touch sensitive” by detecting hand gestures in front of the screen. The sensor is also being used for quick, 360° three-dimensional room mapping and for creating virtual changing rooms, where people can “try on” clothing using a 3D model of themselves. PrimeSense also has developed a smaller version of the depth sensor that could be included in mobile devices as early as 2014.
Marketplace: Smartphone apps are now being used by researchers as a mechanism for collecting large amounts of data. With Project Budburst, for example, nature lovers can help scientists monitor plants through the seasons by taking photos of them. The app records the exact locations and observation times and can even allow the user to add notes. With some 13 000 participants, Project Budburst adds significantly to the amount of ecological data available to researchers. In a Marketplace audio file, Liyna Anwar interviews UCLA student Sophie Gerrick about her contributions as a citizen scientist.