Popular Science News
Sadly, there's no room of requirement listed.
Carnegie MellonIt's geriatric Big Brother!
Using security cameras and algorithms, researchers at Carnegie Mellon created a nursing home monitoring system that "located individuals within one meter of their actual position 88 percent of the time." That's great news for people who want to be monitored all the time. For people who prefer to go about their business unobserved, it's another step toward a perfectly tracked future.
The system was inspired by the person-tracking Marauders' Map featured in Harry Potter books, and it's called multi-camera or multi-object tracking. Previous attempts at multi-object tracking have had limited success, accurate either one third or one half the time. But those systems were tested in tightly controlled labs. Carnegie Mellon decided to try a more organic environment. A nursing home is a great testing environment, the researchers say: cameras already exist and have to deal with realistic obstacles like inconvenient furniture placement, doors getting in the way, blind spots, and residents moving freely. It's also good because a tracking system in a nursing home reads as altruistic - it's important to be able to find and care for the elderly as soon as they might need assistance.
The technology works through a combination of facial recognition and color tracking. Colored clothing is a good way to identify people, because it is visible most of the time, but the same color shirt can look different under different lighting. Algorithms compensate for differences in color appearance under different light--they make it so that you can track someone wearing a red shirt as he moves from a dark hall to a brightly lit dining room. Facial recognition is the best way to identify people, but faces are rarely pointed directly at cameras, so it only works about 10 percent of the time.
That's why it's important to track both faces and colors at the same time. The process resembles how cell phones pinpoint personal location with different inputs. Signals sent to cell towers provide a constant, rough idea of where the phone user is, and occasionally a GPS double-checks the position and corrects it if need be.
Carnegie Mellon's program isn't yet ready for prime time. The researchers used 6 minutes of footage recorded by 15 cameras in a nursing home in 2005 to develop the algorithms and test the system. A live trial is still a long way off, but once the system completes identification in a real-time setting, expect it to move from nursing homes to prisons to casinos and then everywhere.
People wanting to say hidden from this might just turn to facial-recognition-thwarting makeup.
The different sizes of the quarks represent their masses. A proton and electron are shown at the bottom left corner, for comparison.
Incnis Mrsi on Wikimedia CommonsThis new finding confirms the particle exists.
Physicists have observed what they're confident is the first known particle with four quarks.
This isn't the first time the Belle detector, housed with the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization in Japan, has appeared to observe a four-quark particle, called a Zc(3900). This time, however, another particle accelerator, the Beijing Electron Positron Collider, confirmed the findings, Nature reported. There's only a 1 in 3.5 million chance that the observation is not true.
As Nature explains, current physics laws don't say that four-quark particles can't exist, but before the Belle observations, physicists only ever saw particles with two quarks and three quarks. Protons and neutrons have three quarks.
Check out Nature for more on the debate over how exactly the four quarks in the Zc(3900) are put together-and whether the particle represents a whole new building block of matter.
Wikimedia CommonsBe like the bat. Echolocate.
Researchers from American and French universities have discovered how to exactly map a room's shape solely by using a sense you wouldn't normally choose for this kind of task. Without sight or touch, this new technique can still reveal a room by using only the sense of hearing.
The system could fairly accurately be described as echolocation, just like bats use: it measures the time it takes for a sound to produce an echo at different points in the room. Essentially, what they've come up with is an array of microphones and an algorithm that picks up both the original source and its echoes. Our ears can't hear the tiny lags that make up the echoes in most sounds, but bats can, and so can this system.
From a single sound, they can reconstruct a room to within a few millimeters--provided the room isn't too complicated, at least for now. The system outputs a 3-D map, which until now could only be made with visual tools like LIDAR.
What could this be used for? Well, there are virtual reality possibilities--the Kinect, for example, might someday use audio as well as visual clues to more accurately map action. Or it could be used in forensics. A simple audio recording could reveal the shape of a room in which a crime was committed--a valuable clue to which we wouldn't have access before this.
The paper is published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Michael Bulcik / SKS Soft GmbH Düsseldorf via Wikimedia CommonsSympathies to the researcher who had to listen to amateur impressions all day.
Scientists have identified what happens in our brain when we mimic a foreign accent or impersonate another person, according to a recent study from the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
The researchers, led by psychologist Carolyn McGettigan from Royal Holloway University of London, wanted to explore the way the brain controls the non-verbal aspects of our speech--the different tones or styles people use when talking in different contexts, like talking to your boss on the phone versus chatting with a friend in a coffee shop or hitting on someone at a bar.
Popular selections included Sean Connery, Elvis and Bill Clinton.
Before the study began, participants--all "non-professional impressionists"--were asked to make a list of 40 different accents and 40 people, from their mother to Arnold Schwarzenegger, they could try to impersonate. They then had to recite a few lines of a nursery rhyme in some of those accents while in an fMRI scanner. (Some popular selections included Sean Connery, Elvis and Bill Clinton.)
When study subjects consciously changed their voices, either with a new accent or during an impersonation, the left anterior insula and the interior frontal gyrus (LIFG), areas associated with planning and producing speech, lit up in fMRI images.
Impressions in particular generated greater responses in other regions of the brain, the posterior superior temporal/inferior parietal cortex and right middle/anterior superior temporal sulcus, but there was no difference in the increase in activity in the LIFG between accent and impersonation planning.
This research "could potentially lead to new treatments for those looking to recover their own vocal identity following brain injury or a stroke," lead author Carolyn McGettigan explained in a statement. Identifying the regions of the brain involved in controlling the voice could be helpful in treating rare afflictions like Foreign Accent Syndrome, a condition that distorts speech patterns, often after brain damage, giving a person a completely different accent.
Thanks to climate change, our oceans could rise by as much as 20 or 30 feet in the coming centuries. You can either build an ark (which sounds like an awful lot of work) or high-tail it to higher ground.
This map, designed by MIT music professor Michael Scott Cuthbert and researched by writer/designer Nate Barksdale, can help you plan your trip. The United States is organized by volume above sea level: the more high-reaching areas a state has, the more space on the map it gets. So the mountainous Southwest ends up holding on to a lot of its space, while the relatively low-lying South has almost completely vanished. If you're into cooler climes, Alaska seems to be doing pretty well, too. Rhode Island doesn't have much space left at all--but maybe if there's a tiny bit post-apocalypse you can create a Waterworld-style fortress island.
Anthony Leonardo, Janelia Farm Research Campus / HHMI via WiredStrapped in for learning
How do you figure out the way a dragonfly's mind works? That's the challenge for Anthony Leonardo, a neuroscientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farms Research Campus who studies the role neural circuits play in behavior. He's currently exploring the neuroscience of how dragonflies and salamanders capture their prey.
To study the hunting behavior of dragonflies, Leonardo and his team needed to record how their neurons and muscles responded mid-flight. So they developed a teeny backpack for their flighty subjects, one that would amplify the signals from electrodes recording the dragonflies' brain signals.
As Leonardo told Co.Create, "to load an insect up with gear is like dancing in a ballet wearing a backpack filled with rocks. You can put double the dragonfly's body weight on these creatures and they can fly, but they won't try to catch their prey."
The final version of the insect-borne pack is light enough that the dragonflies aren't dragged down by it. It weighs 40 milligrams, about 10 percent of a dragonfly's weight, and is secured to its body with a little dab of superglue. It's powered by radio waves gathered by the long antennae extending from the pack.
Once the dragonflies were strapped in for studying, the researchers set them loose in a room designed to look like a meadow, with turf and a pond--a plain white room stressed them out too much, and they spent too much time trying to escape rather than hunt down flies. In the artificial lushness of the fake meadow, Leonardo and his team could watch their subjects dart around on the hunt through high-speed infrared cameras.
Leonardo's goal is to figure out how the dragonflies' neurons translate the visual information of their surroundings and their prey into a definitive attack plan.
A city doesn't always sound great: car horns blare, people shout. But a new project from artist Marc De Pape makes music out of the noise.
"The Chime" is a wind-chime-shaped mass of sensors that pick up on the environment: if the sensors detecting something approaching, the device tinkles with xylophone notes; if something is moving away, it swells with the sound of strings; and the music all shifts key based on the temperature. The result is a changing, ambient soundtrack for a city. De Pape explains the project like this:Inspired by Georg Simmel's notion of the Blasé (an indifference towards the difference between things), I set out to explore the relationship between sensing technology and the routines of everyday life. I feel the city is all too commonly represented by abstract systems and maps, a tendency driven by a reductionist pursuit of efficiency, and one which ignores the idiosyncrasies occurring on street level. This is the noise in the system, the richness that ultimately renders cities generative landscapes. I thus set out to bring attention to the noise by building a musical instrument inspired by wind chimes: The Chime is a collection of 18 sensors measuring 27 parameters assembled to poetically translate the impulses and flows of the everyday city into sound.
You can check more videos of the project over at De Pape's site. It's much nicer to hear than people talking on their phones.
Wikimedia CommonsHow the world's only known white gorilla came to be.
Snowflake, the long-lived gorilla who died in 2003, was famous for being the only known albino gorilla. He became a wildly popular attraction at the Barcelona Zoo in Spain, where he lived almost his entire life, becoming almost a mascot for the city. But until now, nobody knew why Snowflake looked the way he did.
Snowflake was a western lowland gorilla--the smallest subspecies of gorilla. It's not the rarest subspecies, but no gorilla subspecies are particularly healthy; the western lowland gorilla is listed as critically endangered. But it's the most common to be found in zoos, and in 2012, its genome was sequenced. That's what finally enabled researchers at the University of Pompeu Fabra to figure out what made snowflake so unusual.
Albinism is caused a genetic mutation; there are four specific ones in humans. Things don't work quite the same way in gorillas, but albinism in other animals, like mice, is fairly well-understood. Using a vial of frozen blood taken from Snowflake before he died, the researchers were able to sequence his genome and compare it with a non-albino gorilla genome. Then they could search for any of the other mutations known to cause albinism in animals.
The researchers pinned Snowflake's albinism down to a single gene: SLC45A2. The gorilla inherited the mutation from his parents--but why only Snowflake? The genome sequencing also revealed that Snowflake had large stretches of inherited genes from his mother and father that were identical--in fact, his mother and father shared 12 percent of their DNA, which indicates that they were uncle and niece.
Western lowland gorillas don't normally struggle with inbreeding, but as their population decreases and their habitat is destroyed, it's increasingly becoming a problem. Snowflake appears to be the result of that--though he lived a long and healthy life, fathering six children to adulthood and living to the ripe old age of 40 (western lowland gorillas usually only live to about 25).
Nelson Minar via FlickrAnd you thought the U.S. had deserts!
Who knew America was so well hydrated? These maps, created by former Google engineer Nelson Minar using data originally from the U.S. Geological Survey, show America's extensive system of waterways, including streams, tributaries and creeks. Even in places you don't often think of as water-logged, it's a surprisingly expansive network.
As beautiful as the maps turned out, Minar created the project largely just as a tutorial on how to make a vector-based map. (His code and more background on the process are on GitHub.) "It's mostly a demo project with readable source," he writes on his blog, "but it's also kind of pretty."
This particular map includes all flow lines, which is why you see a lot more blue than you might expect in desert areas--it encompasses seasonal water flow, like creek beds that are dry for much of the year. Down in Florida, the Everglades don't have well-defined enough flow lines, so the swampy preserve isn't included, and the state looks mysteriously white in comparison to, say, New Mexico.
And here's California and some of the surrounding area (look how all the squiggles converge on the California Delta near the San Francisco Bay over at the left):
You can see the full zoomable map and pinpoint precise waterways here.
Two weeks ago, the Guardian published PowerPoint slides detailing a previously unknown, sweeping surveillance program by the National Security Administration. Shortly thereafter, the source of those leaks revealed himself to be Edward Snowden, a former security contractor now seeking asylum in Hong Kong. Yesterday he held an online question-and-answer session at the Guardian. Here are the six most important things we learned:
1. The NSA stores people's calls.
A leak revealed that the NSA had collected three months of phone records on all Verizon customers. Early analysis focused on the role of metadata, like when the call was and to what number, thinking that warrants protected the actual voice content of a call from being read. Snowden disagreed:
Snowden was straightforward about NSA spying on the voice content of phone calls, which are stored automatically and accessed with warrants passed by the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court, which Snowden called a rubber stamp.
2. The extent of the NSA's access to tech company information is still unclear.
PRISM is a program that involves the NSA having access to information stored by nine major American internet technology companies. The most contested part of that program was a claim about the NSA having "direct access" to tech company servers, which most organizations named in the program have explicitly denied. According to Snowden:
SIGINT is short for signals intelligence, which just means electronic communication. By this account, phone and email communications are stored and accessed by government agencies when needed. Left unanswered is how or where this information is stored; the best theory so far involves tech companies uploading raw data to specific NSA servers when asked. Snowden promised further revelations were forthcoming.
3. Snowden sought refuge in Hong Kong deliberately.
Fearing persecution and treatment similar to that of WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, he chose to flee the United States. Why Hong Kong and not popular bastion of freedom Iceland?
4. Snowden is confused by where cyberespionage starts and cyberwar begins.Congress hasn't declared war on the countries - the majority of them are our allies - but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people.
This is a confusing division! Snowden is attempting to describe cyberwar, but cyberwar is such a weird vague term that what he's actually describing here is mostly just espionage. The NSA is trying to track how people are connected, for reasons of national security, without the consent of foreign governments. That's sketchy, but that's because it is spy work, and all spy work is sketchy. Nations never feel the need to declare war before they start spying, and the U.S. has only ever declared war five times, which makes it a bad metric.
Snowden also objects to cyberattacks against civilian institutions, universities, and private businesses. It's worth noting that Snowden himself was working as a civilian in private business doing work for government on a contract. The lines between government, business, and private blur when it comes to online security. As cyber becomes a bigger part of the future, it's important to understand how the rules and norms of war will change. A great place to start is NATO's Tallinn Manual, a non-binding statement by legal experts on how the laws of war apply in cyberspace.
5. Snowden is disappointed in the TMZ-style coverage of him, instead of a larger conversation about the leak.
Stories that have focused on Snowden's girlfriend, his 19-year-old online profile, and a modeling photoshoot all detract from what was supposed to be a national debate about sweeping government surveillance powers. This is true! But the public's ability to put a face and a personality to the source of the leaks is perhaps what has made this already-compelling story that much more powerful.
6. Snowden thinks that "being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American."
He's also disappointed in Obama, noting:
Researchers in Switzerland recently developed a concept to use a swarm of UAVs as a local communication network for emergency workers in disaster areas.
Fight is freedom. The power to rise into the air and reach a destination unshackles us from gravity, distance, topography, and time. This is why we, as a publication, return to flight so often. It is humanity's greatest victory against the limitations of being human.
It can also, at its fringe at least, seem a bit fantastical. For example, I recently shook hands with Bertrand Piccard, adventurer and pilot of the Solar Impulse, just before he set off from California on the first cross-country flight of a sun-powered plane. I pointed out that the craft seemed a bit rickety. In order to make it on today's meager batteries, it needs to be unbelievably light. Piccard smiled brilliantly. "When the Wright Brothers went up, no one could have imagined a plane carrying 300 people," he said. He's right. Dreaming far beyond today's limitations made flight possible.
That was the spirit with which we undertook our survey of the Future of Flight . We want to provide a showcase for all that could be when you strip limitations away. Likewise, it was with this same spirit that we undertook an experiment.
Modern life looks a lot like the dreams of the past century. Why not ask today's best sci-fi minds what they dream about?As Hollywood's summer flood of rockets and phasers began, we asked sci-fi writers and artists people whose award-winning work will undoubtedly be optioned soon, at which point they'll stop emailing us back) to take on a few big topics. Cities. Work. Space travel. The self. Modern life looks a lot like the dreams of the past century. Why not ask today's best sci-fi minds what they dream about? We've also included whole chapters of out-there, visionary sci-fi in our digital edition. And on your tablet, July includes my conversation with M. Night Shyamalan, who reinvented our planet as it might look 1,000 years from now in his first space opera, After Earth. You'll also find a hard-core geek-out between writers Dan Engber and Erik Sofge, who dissect the jetpacks and robot interfaces of summer blockbusters in this issue. Please let us know if you enjoy our effort to forecast tomorrow based on today's dreams. Because we just might do it again.
Wikimedia CommonsAll human voices, not just the annoying ones.
The causes, symptoms, and effects of autism are some of the most puzzling mysteries in all of psychology and neuroscience, but researchers at Stanford University may have connected a few of the dots. They dove deep into the brains (not literally) of a selection of kids with and without autism, and found that those with autism respond differently to the human voice than those without.
The researchers took 20 kids with similar IQs and reading abilities, 10 with high-functioning autism and 10 without any sign of autism, and examined activity between several parts of the brain. There is a theory, says the lead researcher, that social cues don't interact with the brain's reward system in the same way as in non-autistic people. This study supports that: it found that in the brains of the kids with autism, there's a significantly weaker connection between the parts of the brain that interprets voices and the part that doles out pleasure. In other words, the sound of the human voice gives those with autism less joy.
There's also a weaker link between those voice-processing centers and the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that deals in emotion. That suggests a neurological reason for an autistic person's inability or disinterest in social cues--their brains don't reward them for caring about these things.
The study doesn't have any immediate ramifications for the treatment or even diagnosis of autism, and it only tested one very particular segment of those on the autism spectrum. Still, it's pretty fascinating, and may lead these or other researchers down a path that could help treat or diagnose autism in the future.
WrigleyMannitol, a plant-produced sweetener used in gum and candies, has proven effective at blocking production of a Parkinson's-related protein.
A sweetener produced by most plants could hold the key to treating Parkinson's disease, a recent paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry asserts.
Mannitol, a sugar alcohol found in plants and fungi, is used as a sweetener for candies and jams, as well as as the dusting powder on chewing gum and in chewable pharmaceutical tablets. Researchers from Tel Aviv University have found it can also prevent a protein called α-synuclein from clumping in the brain, which has been associated with Parkinson's Disease.
After discovering that mannitol could effectively prevent the protein from clumping in test tubes in the lab, the researchers studied the locomotive abilities of fruit flies that had been genetically altered to carry the gene for α-synuclein by watching their climbing behavior in a test tube. Only 38 percent of the transgenic flies could climb up a test tube at first, versus 72 percent of normal flies.
After eating food laced with mannitol for almost a month, 70 percent of the transgenic flies could then climb up the tube. The protein's presence in the brain had also been reduced by 70 percent.
One of the study's authors, Daniel Segal, a professor of molecular microbiology and biotechnology at Tel Aviv University, suggests that combining mannitol with other Parkinson's medications may help the other treatments break through the blood/brain barrier.
Mannitol would be an attractive treatment option because it's already approved for various medical uses by the FDA, as a diuretic and as a rinsing agent during certain surgical procedures.
joel.geerling via Wikimedia CommonsIt's 6.5 times bigger than the network Google premiered last year, which has learned to recognize YouTube cats.
Last summer, in conjunction with Stanford researchers, Google[x], the R&D arm where ideas like Project Glass are born, built the world's largest artificial neural network designed to simulate a human brain. Now Andrew Ng, who directs Stanford's Artificial Intelligence Lab and was involved with Google's previous neural endeavor, has taken the project a step further. He and his team have created another neural network, more than six times the size of Google's record-setting achievement.
Artificial neural networks can model mathematically the way biological brains work, allowing the machine to learn to think in the same ways that humans do--making them capable of recognizing things like speech, objects and even cats like we do.
The model Google developed in 2012 was made up of 1.7 billion parameters, the digital version of neural connections. It successfully taught itself to recognize cats in YouTube videos. (Because, what else is the human brain good for?)
Since then, Ng and other Stanford researchers have created an even bigger network, with 11.2 billion parameters, that only requires the computational power of 16 servers with graphics processing unit, or GPU, computing--compared to the 16,000 CPU processors Google's network required. The technology is being presented at the International Conference on Machine Learning in Atlanta this week.
From an AI standpoint, that means we're getting a smidgen closer to being able to give our robots (or drones) human-level intelligence. On the other hand--we should probably just accept the fact that we're that much closer to the sentient-robot takeover. Looking on the bright side, compared to what you're lugging around on top of your neck, 11 billion neural connections isn't that many--the human brain boasts some 100 trillion connections.
From Applied DNA Sciences' explanation of how its suspect-tagging technology works
Applied DNA SciencesForget dye packs. Banks and police agencies are trying out some interesting new DNA-based devices.
You know DNA makes proteins. It tells living things how to tick. It carries blue eyes and an early receding hairline from father to son (Sorry, son!). But beyond what it does biologically, it's also just a carrier for information-a barcode, but one that can barely be seen even under advanced microscopes.
Now, a few different companies are making devices that use DNA in that way, as an invisible bar code to tag people. The devices allow banks and police officers to spray or splat suspects with millions of copies of a colorless DNA tag at the scene of the crime. For example, Applied DNA Sciences of Stony Brook, New York, advertises a system that is able to spray a room with DNA-laden fog in case someone comes in, demanding money. Later, investigators may identify the criminal from those DNA bits, Discovery News reported.
The DNA tags are made with entirely artificial sequences, so that every tagging device may have a different sequence. The genetic material is difficult to wash off completely and lasts about two weeks, Discovery News reported.
Check out Discovery for some of the specific devices companies have made, from that fog machine to a kind of DNA paint gun.
Before it thought of misting bank robbers with DNA, Applied DNA Sciences also created genetic material-based barcodes for verified genuine luxury goods and for tracking stolen cash.
What Inspires You?
"Astrophotography and shooting landscapes is what I do, and I love photographing the night sky and capturing what can't be seen by the naked eye. That's why I blended this surreal image of a dragon sculpture out in the desert with a series of time exposures of concentric star trails. In my mind I saw the dragon as red so I light painted it. I hope my images inspire people to get out into nature themselves."
What Enables You?
"I stepped up to the full-frame Canon EOS 6D because it expands my creative potential. It captures an extremely wide brightness range and delivers images with amazing detail, vibrant color, and virtually no noise, even in low light and at high ISOs. Its precise and super-sensitive AF system lets me focus on a single star to set my infinity point! And with its enhanced battery capacity I can shoot for hours on a single charge."
Inspired by DaVinci's drawing of the Vitruvian Man, Maker Twins created a colorful way to mix your own music.
Lillian HwangIn this year's Red Bull Creation challenge, makers built musical instruments in just three days.
Click here to enter the gallery.
Yesterday six teams of makers built futuristic musical instruments, conceived of and created in just 72 hours for Red Bull's Creation competition. The DIY competition asked teams to create never-before-seen instruments that could compose and play live music. A third constraint: the general public had to be able to interact with each instrument. All six instruments were on display and available to explore yesterday at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn.
A panel of judges deemed Chicago's MB Labs the overall winner for a virtually controlled drum set and awarded the Labs $10,000 and a trophy. The "People's Choice" award, determined by festival-goers, was awarded to Minneapolis's 1.21 Jigawatts for a device that converts drawings into music. i3 Detroit was voted Team Choice winner for a contraption of musical tubes called Whirly Turbulator. Check out our gallery for more.
Don't be evil!
Wikimedia CommonsA suspicious email attack leads to...nothing?
Government email spying in the United States may have all the headlines, but America hardly has a monopoly on privacy violations. Google revealed a massive phishing scheme against users of Google products in Iran last Wednesday.
Phishing is the malevolent cousin of Spam email. A phishing email looks legitimate, and contains a link that sends users to a page perfectly mimicking the actual official page, and then asks for login information. It's a technique criminals commonly use to get bank account information, but it can also give attackers access to a user's email, allowing them to log in as the user themselves and find everything normally kept away under lock and password. It's a costly problem for businesses. It's even more devastating for political activists; a government that can read activists' email can probably find statements of "propaganda against the system," which is both loosely defined and in Iran a criminal offense.
In the three weeks leading up to the Iranian presidential election, tens of thousands of phishing emails were sent to Google users in Iran. The email appeared to come from an email settings account at Gmail, which looked legitimate enough. The email requested a second email backup for the account from users, and contained a misleading link. Users who followed that link were prompted to enter account information, which the attacker would keep.
Google revealed the Iranian phishing attack last Wednesday, which was ominously timed in advance of the presidential election on Friday. Google is keeping quiet about how it detected the attack, so as not to tip off future attackers. And while the source of the attack is not known, the timing and the attacks' origin within Iran suggest it came from the Iranian government, Google says. As soon as Google detected the attack, Google notified the targeted people, warned of phishing, and recommended two-step authentication.
It's unclear how the attackers intend to use this information. The election went smoothly. The most moderate of the six candidates won, and unlike the protests that animated Iran following the messy 2009 election, this election was peacefully celebrated. The Supreme Leader of Iran accepted the results even though his preferred candidate didn't win. Google believes the target selection was "politically motivated" but whatever information was gained from the targeted phishing attempt, it certainly wasn't used this weekend.
Perhaps the Iranian government--or whoever is behind the attacks--is just collecting information through questionable means without a specific offense in mind, to ultimately be used later. Perhaps Iran and the United States aren't that dissimilar after all.
Closeup of an e-book on a reader device by NotFromUtrecht on Wikimedia CommonsNew software automatically changes words and grammar in e-books.
Sounds like a scenario that could have come straight from The Phantom Tollbooth's Dictionopolis. Researchers have created a program to catch pirates by their commas... to trap them with paragraph breaks.
The new program, still under development at the Darmstadt Technical University in Germany, automatically creates subtle alternative versions of an e-book by moving words around, using synonyms, or adding or removing grammatical marks, the blog Torrent Freak reports. If a pirated version of the book appears online, then publishers are able to narrow down its source by looking at which version it is. The program also creates some invisible marks to help track e-books.
If publishers adopt the program, it could be part of a system that protects copyrighted works while allowing people who have bought e-books to do some small-time sharing, such as copying the book onto all of their devices. One major potential problem is the possibility of mistakes-or just changing the literary intent of the author. I'm guessing Lolita wouldn't be the same with synonyms or re-phrasings, especially if created by a computer program.