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Friday, April 28, 2006

SCIFRI 4: Fight terror with tongues

Posted by: Hammer / 8:19 AM

UW leads the world in porn-inspiring research

Here's a super power that Karl Pilkington never considered -- the super-powered tongue. My best guess is that there are shelves full of porn based on the same theme. Certainly Sex in the City took on the topic. But what good would it be for Army Rangers and Navy SEALs?

In their quest to create the super warrior of the future, some military researchers aren't focusing on organs like muscles or hearts. They're looking at tongues. By routing signals from helmet-mounted cameras, sonar and other equipment through the tongue to the brain, they hope to give elite soldiers superhuman senses similar to owls, snakes and fish.

Researchers at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition envision their work giving Army Rangers 360-degree unobstructed vision at night and allowing Navy SEALs to sense sonar in their heads while maintaining normal vision underwater -- turning sci-fi into reality.

The device, known as "Brain Port," was pioneered more than 30 years ago by Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, a University of Wisconsin neuroscientist. Bach-y-Rita began routing images from a camera through electrodes taped to people's backs and later discovered the tongue was a superior transmitter.

Plus, it would reduce the divorce rate in the armed forces.


Congress is taking a second look at the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, also known as a sop to backwards-thinking record executives. The same people who thought it should be really, really hard to rip songs from your CD and copy them to a MP3 player are looking to double the criminal penalty for copyright infringement.

[The proposed legislation b]oosts criminal penalties for copyright infringement originally created by the No Electronic Theft Act of 1997 from five years to 10 years (and 10 years to 20 years for subsequent offenses). The NET Act targets noncommercial piracy including posting copyrighted photos, videos or news articles on a Web site if the value exceeds $1,000.

The Inquirer points out that the penalty for copyright infringement would be greater than the penalty for downloading child pornography or assaulting a police officer. I'm not sure if those claims are correct, but the penalty for copyright infringement would be at least as severe as the penalty for assaulting a member of Congress or Supreme Court justice.

Revolution no more

Nintendo's next-generation console is now formerly known as the Revolution. As of yesterday, it's now "Wii", pronounced "we". The alternative, and likely more popular pronunciation, remains "rev-oh-lu-shun". ABC reports:

Nintendo's entry into the next generation video game console war has been called many things by many people, but now it has an official name: "Wii" -- pronounced "we."

The official naming of the console, which had been code named "Revolution" for what a spokesperson calls its "disruptive nature," comes less than two weeks before the world's biggest industry-only video game trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3.

Looks like there will be a new version of Madden for the Revolution:

"You're...a receiver, you just caught the ball. You want to stiff arm? Take your hand out and extend it. You want to juke left or right? Jerk your arm left or right. So in addition to using the pointing device to select plays, we've completely redone the control scheme as if the Revolution was the only platform."

Super Monkey Ball and a Sponge Bob game are also in the works for the Revolution. Plus a little guy named Mario.

Mini cars

I don't think mini cars will ever take off in the U.S. the way mini skirts have, but there's a new prototype in England:

Running on compressed natural gas, its fuel consumption is equivalent to 108 miles per gallon.

A commercial version could be a decade away, assuming a manufacturer is interested, Owen said. He said it would be priced in the micro-car bracket of around $8,500-$17,000.

The depressing part to me is that it takes 10 years to go from an idea to a consumer product. The auto industry should be more nimble. This is just one of the many, many reasons why I'm extremely skeptical about President Bush's hydrogen car push.

Net neutrality

Kevin Drum runs down the pros and cons of the Barton-Rush bill. One conclusion makes a lot of sense to big-government liberals like me:

Conversely, if the federal government subsidized the whole thing at the cost of a few billion dollars a year, just as they did with the interstate highway system half a century ago, we could build an internet backbone that would be cheap, universal, public, and a huge boost to the American economy. The feds don't even have to own it, they just have to pay for it.

MyDD has a run down with lots of good information.

Microsoft fights the EU

The EU took strong exception to Microsoft's predatory, monopolistic business practices and imposed a $500 million fine in 2004. Rather than taking it out of petty cash, Bill Gates and Company are still fighting the claims. The EU says:

But the commission hit back, claiming that the world's largest technology group was hell-bent on extending its global monopoly in desktop operating systems into new areas such as search engines and security, and accusing it of squeezing out rivals and stifling innovation.

Rival hi-tech firms backing Brussels presented secret Microsoft emails from 1997 between Bill Gates, its founder, and executives outlining a concerted strategy to wipe out its rival Real Networks from the streaming video and music market just as Microsoft toppled Netscape, replacing it with its own Internet Explorer, which now has a 90% market share.

Anyone who has wrestled with XP to edit video without using Microsoft's proprietary video encoding scheme knows how Microsoft works. Come up with something no better than the alternative, then leverage a strong cash position and dominating desktop presence to herd consumers into your system. Apple's iTunes/iPod/iMusicStore scheme isn't much better, but it's easier to opt out. Still, it should be possible to install QuickTime without having iPodHelper.exe launch when you boot up.


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