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Oct 21

Uploaded by Stanford University Channel on YouTube, Stanford Electrical Engineering Department, Stanford EE380 Computer Systems Colloquium.

(November 9, 2011) R. Stanley Williams presents the results of his work with prototype memristors at HP, including their fundamental properties, potential uses in circuits, and speed and energy measurements.

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Oct 21

Reported by Adam Mann, in Wired Science News, 10 Oct. 2013.

Still from the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, considered a landmark film of the New Hollywood era. A new analysis suggests that this period coincided with a burst of novel elements in cinema.

Tell your film buff friends they’re right: the most creative period in cinema history was probably the 1960s. At least that’s the takeaway from a detailed data analysis of novel and unique elements in movies throughout much of the 20th century.

How do you objectively measure creativity in movies? Though there’s probably no perfect way, the recent research mined keywords generated by users of the website the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), which contains descriptions of more than 2 million films. When summarizing plots, people on the site are prompted to use keywords that have been used to describe previous movies, yielding tags that characterize particular genres (cult-film), locations (manhattan-new-york), or story elements (tied-to-a-chair).

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Oct 20

Reported by Jake Miller, in Harvard Medical School News, 17 Oct. 2013.

Wyss Institute file photo of E. coli. Image: Rick Groleau.

In two parallel projects, researchers have created new genomes inside the bacterium E. coli in ways that test the limits of genetic reprogramming, opening new possibilities for increasing flexibility, productivity and safety in biotechnology.

In one project, researchers created a novel genome—the first-ever entirely genomically recoded organism—by replacing all 321 instances of a specific “genetic three-letter word,” called a codon, throughout the organism’s entire genome with a word of supposedly identical meaning. The researchers then reintroduced a reprogrammed version of the original word (with a new meaning, a new amino acid) into the bacteria, expanding the bacterium’s vocabulary and allowing it to produce proteins that do not normally occur in nature. Continue reading »

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Oct 18

Reported by Caroline Perry, Harvard University, 16 Oct. 2013.

Computer scientists at Harvard and cognitive scientists at MIT team up to settle a debate over “chart junk”.

Which of these visualizations will you remember later? (Images courtesy of Michelle Borkin, Harvard SEAS.)

It’s easy to spot a “bad” data visualization—one packed with too much text, excessive ornamentation, gaudy colors, and clip art. Design guru Edward Tufte derided such decorations as redundant at best, useless at worst, labeling them “chart junk.” Yet a debate still rages among visualization experts: Can these reviled extra elements serve a purpose?

Taking a scientific approach to design, researchers from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are offering a new take on that debate. The same design elements that attract so much criticism, they report, can also make a visualization more memorable.

Detailed results were presented this week at the IEEE Information Visualization (InfoVis) conference in Atlanta, hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Continue reading »

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Oct 16

Reported by Jennifer Ouellette, in Quanta Magazine of Simons Foundation, 9 Oct. 2013.

Tang Yau Hoong

The nature of computing has changed dramatically over the last decade, and more innovation is needed to weather the gathering data storm.

When subatomic particles smash together at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, they create showers of new particles whose signatures are recorded by four detectors. The LHC captures 5 trillion bits of data — more information than all of the world’s libraries combined — every second. After the judicious application of filtering algorithms, more than 99 percent of those data are discarded, but the four experiments still produce a whopping 25 petabytes (25×1015 bytes) of data per year that must be stored and analyzed. That is a scale far beyond the computing resources of any single facility, so the LHC scientists rely on a vast computing grid of 160 data centers around the world, a distributed network that is capable of transferring as much as 10 gigabytes per second at peak performance. Continue reading »

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Oct 15

Reported by Martin Wikelski and Daniel Piechowski, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft,  October 15, 2013.

Using animal behaviour data to better inform mathematical models of animal movements.

Many animals are adapting to human encroachment of their natural habitats. Carnivores in particular require territories of sufficient size and so are often forced to move between numerous small habitat patches. To date, scientists often use mathematical models to predict these important routes, but fishers fitted with GPS sensors are now showing that their calculations may be missing the mark if they ignore animal behaviour.

Corridors are spaces that receive too little attention and yet are vitally important. How else would we get from the bedroom to the bath or from the couch to the kitchen? Without the  hallway in between, we would starve on the sofa, unable to reach our food. In the wild the areas that connect animals’ living spaces are known as corridors. It is vital for the conservation of many species that animals can move freely and safely from their hunting grounds to their mating areas, for example. If a new road is built through the middle of an important corridor, it may put an entire population at risk. Continue reading »

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Oct 12

Reported by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office, 7 October 2013.

A neglected statistical tool could help robots better understand the objects in the world around them.

A statistical construct called the Bingham distribution enables a new algorithm to identify an object's orientation using far fewer data points (red and purple circles) than previous algorithms required. Images courtesy of the researchers.

Object recognition is one of the most widely studied problems in computer vision. But a robot that manipulates objects in the world needs to do more than just recognize them; it also needs to understand their orientation. Is that mug right-side up or upside-down? And which direction is its handle facing?

To improve robots’ ability to gauge object orientation, Jared Glover, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is exploiting a statistical construct called the Bingham distribution. In a paper they’re presenting in November at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Glover and MIT alumna Sanja Popovic ’12, MEng ’13, who is now at Google, describes a new robot-vision algorithm, based on the Bingham distribution, that is 15 percent better than its best competitor at identifying familiar objects in cluttered scenes. Continue reading »

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Oct 11

Reported by Fabio Bergamin, in ETH Life, 10 October 2013.

Whether a person turns criminal and commits a robbery depends greatly on the socio-economic circumstances in which he lives (staged photograph). (Photo:

More punishment does not necessarily lead to less crime, say researchers at ETH Zurich who have been studying the origins of crime with a computer model. In order to fight crime, more attention should be paid to the social and economic backgrounds that encourage crime.

People have been stealing, betraying others and committing murder for ages. In fact, humans have never succeeded in eradicating crime, although – according to the rational choice theory in economics – this should be possible in principle. The theory states that humans turn criminal if it is worthwhile. Stealing or evading taxes, for instance, pays off if the prospects of unlawful gains outweigh the expected punishment. Therefore, if a state sets the penalties high enough and ensures that lawbreakers are brought to justice, it should be possible to eliminate crime completely. Continue reading »

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Oct 10

Reported by Neha Okhandiar, Queen Mary University of London News, 21 August 2013.

Certain types of video games can help to train the brain to become more agile and improve strategic thinking, according to scientists from Queen Mary University of London and University College London (UCL).

The researchers recruited 72 volunteers and measured their ‘cognitive flexibility’ described as a person’s ability to adapt and switch between tasks, and think about multiple ideas at a given time to solve problems.

Two groups of volunteers were trained to play different versions of a real-time strategy game called StarCraft, a fast-paced game where players have to construct and organise armies to battle an enemy. A third of the group played a life simulation video game called The Sims, which does not require much memory or many tactics. Continue reading »

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Oct 09

How CPU is made.

The microprocessors shaping our world. Continue reading »

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