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Posts from June, 2009

Graphene Could Make Magnetic Memory 1000x Denser

Jun 30

KentuckyFC writes “The density of magnetic memory depends on the size of the magnetic domains used to store bits. The current state-of-the-art uses cobalt-based grains some 8nm across, each containing about 50,000 atoms. Materials scientists think they can shrink the grains to 15,000 atoms but any smaller than that and the crystal structure of the grains is lost. That’s a problem because the cobalt has to be arranged in a hexagonal close packing structure to ensure the stability of its magnetic field. Otherwise the field can spontaneously reverse and the data is lost. Now a group of German physicists say they can trick a pair of cobalt atoms into thinking they are in a hexagonal close packing structure by bonding them to a hexagonal carbon ring such as graphene or benzene. That’s handy because the magnetic field associated with cobalt dimers is calculated to be far more stable than the field in a cobalt grain. And graphene and benzene rings are only 0.5 nm across, a size that could allow an increase in memory density of three orders of magnitude.”

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Does the ‘Hacker Ethic’ Harm Today’s Developers?

Jun 30

snydeq writes “Fatal Exception’s Neil McAllister questions whether the ‘hacker ethic’ synonymous with computer programing in American society is enough for developers to succeed in today’s economy. To be sure, self-taught ‘cowboy coders’ — the hallmark of today’s programming generation in America — are technically proficient, McAllister writes, ‘but their code is less likely to be maintainable in the long term, and they’re less likely to conform to organizational development processes and coding standards.’ And though HTC’s Vineet Nayar’s proclamation that American programmers are ‘unemployable’ is overblown, there may be wisdom in offering a new kind of computer engineering degree targeted toward the student who is more interested in succeeding in industry than exploring computing theory. ‘American software development managers often complain that Indian programmers are too literal-minded,’ McAllister writes, but perhaps Americans have swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. In other words, are we ‘too in love with the hacker ideal of the 1980s to produce programmers who are truly prepared for today’s real-life business environment?'”

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Being Slightly Overweight May Lead To Longer Life

Jun 30

Hugh Pickens writes “Findings of a new study show that underweight people and those who are extremely obese die earlier than people of normal weight — but those who are only a little overweight actually live longer than people of normal weight. ‘It’s not surprising that extreme underweight and extreme obesity increase the risk of dying, but it is surprising that carrying a little extra weight may give people a longevity advantage,’ said one of the coauthors of the study. ‘It may be that a few extra pounds actually protect older people as their health declines, but that doesn’t mean that people in the normal weight range should try to put on a few pounds.’ The study examined the relationship between body mass index and death among 11,326 adults in Canada over a 12-year period. The study showed that underweight people were 70 percent more likely than people of normal weight to die, and extremely obese people were 36 percent more likely to die. But overweight individuals defined as a body mass index of 25 to 29.9 were 17 percent less likely to die than people of a normal weight defined as a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. The relative risk for obese people was nearly the same as for people of normal weight. The authors controlled for factors such as age, sex, physical activity, and smoking. ‘Overweight may not be the problem we thought it was,’ said Dr. David H. Feeny, a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. ‘Overweight was protective.'”

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13-year-old Trades iPod For a Walkman For a Week

Jun 30

BBC Magazine convinced 13-year-old Scott Campbell to trade in his iPod for a Walkman for a week and see what he thought. Scott thinks the iPod wins when it comes to sound quality, color, weight, and shuffle feature. The Walkman however offers two headphone sockets making it much easier to listen to music with a friend. My favorite part of the review is, “It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equalizer, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.”

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China Bans Gold Farming

Jun 30

InformationWeek is reporting that the Chinese government has declared a ban on the sale of virtual goods for real currency. This move is poised to shut down a several billion yuan a year business that has been growing by leaps and bounds every year. “The trading of virtual currency for real cash employs hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and generates between $200 million and $1 billion annually, according to a 2008 survey conducted by Richard Heeks at the University of Manchester. He estimates that between 80% and 85% of gold farmers are based in China. […] Game companies typically forbid gold farming but committed virtual currency traders find ways around such rules. Some game companies have recognized the futility of trying to ban the practice and have built virtual commerce into their game infrastructure.”

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Unlocking Android

Jun 30

Michael J. Ross writes “Of all the potential challengers to Apple’s phenomenally popular iPhone, perhaps the one with the best prospects is Google’s Android, which is not a mobile phone per se, but rather an open-source platform that the company encourages phone manufacturers to deploy in their own products. Similarly, Google encourages computer programmers to develop applications for the Android environment. But learning how to create such applications is daunting to the uninitiated, particularly for developers who have never before worked with the user interface controls, Web services, and other resources involved. A recently published book, Unlocking Android, is designed to help such developers.” Read below for the rest of Michael’s review.

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Google Claims They "Just Aren’t That Big"

Jun 30

The New York Times is reporting that Google is making the case that they just aren’t that big, especially from an anti-trust point of view. While they certainly corner the market in search, advertising, and online video, Dana Wagner, Google’s “senior competition counsel,” is working hard to convince the public that “competition is a click away.” “None of the investigations take aim at Google’s core advertising business. And unlike other technology giants in years past, Google has not been accused of anticompetitive tactics. But the investigations and carping from competitors and critics have Google fighting to dispel the notion that it has a lock on its market, even as it increases its share of search and online advertising. Eyes are rolling, especially in reaction to the idea that Google is a relatively small player in a giant market. ‘They describe where they are in a market under a kind of a fairy-tale spun gloss that doesn’t reflect their dominance of key sectors,’ said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. ‘Google search is an absolute must-have for every marketer in the world.'”

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First Electronic Quantum Processor Created

Jun 30

ScienceDaily is reporting that the first rudimentary solid-state quantum processor has been created by a team led by Yale University researchers. “Working with a group of theoretical physicists led by Steven Girvin, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics & Applied Physics, the team manufactured two artificial atoms, or qubits (‘quantum bits’). While each qubit is actually made up of a billion aluminum atoms, it acts like a single atom that can occupy two different energy states. These states are akin to the ‘1’ and ‘0’ or ‘on’ and ‘off’ states of regular bits employed by conventional computers. Because of the counterintuitive laws of quantum mechanics, however, scientists can effectively place qubits in a ‘superposition’ of multiple states at the same time, allowing for greater information storage and processing power.”

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Comic Artist Detained For Script Containing 9/11 Type Scenarios

Jun 30

Comics writer Mark Sable was detained by security at Los Angeles International Airport because he was carrying a script for a new issue of his comic miniseries, Unthinkable. Unthinkable follows members of a government think tank that was tasked with coming up with 9/11-type “unthinkable” terrorist scenarios that now are coming true. Sable wrote about his experience saying, “…I was flagged at the gate for ‘extra screening.’ I was subjected to not one, but two invasive searches of my person and belongings. TSA agents then ‘discovered’ the script for Unthinkable #3. They sat and read the script while I stood there, without any personal items, identification or ticket, which had all been confiscated. The minute I saw the faces of the agents, I knew I was in trouble. The first page of the Unthinkable script mentioned 9/11, terror plots, and the fact that the (fictional) world had become a police state. The TSA agents then proceeded to interrogate me, having a hard time understanding that a comic book could be about anything other than superheroes, let alone that anyone actually wrote scripts for comics. I cooperated politely and tried to explain to them the irony of the situation. While Unthinkable blurs the line between fiction and reality, the story is based on a real-life government think tank where a writer was tasked to design worst-case terror scenarios. The fictional story of Unthinkable unfolds when the writer’s scenarios come true, and he becomes a suspect in the terrorist attacks.” It’s too bad that the TSA can’t protect us from summer blockbuster movies and not just graphic novels.

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Standard Cellphone Chargers For Europeans

Jun 30

k33l0r writes “The European Commission is confident that all major cellphone companies have reached an agreement on a standard cellphone charger for consumers within the EU. ‘People will not have to throw away their charger whenever they buy a new phone,’ said EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen. Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Apple, LG, NEC, Qualcomm, Research in Motion, Samsung and Texas Instruments have all signed the agreement.”

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