ananyo writes "From a few fragments out of a collection of 23-century-old Chinese bamboo strips, historians have pieced together what they say is the world's oldest example of a multiplication table in base 10. Each strip is about 7 to 12 millimeters wide and half a meter long, and has a vertical line of ancient Chinese calligraphy painted on it in black ink. The bamboo pieces constitute 65 ancient texts and are thought to be among the most important artifacts from the Warring States period before the unification of China. But 21 bamboo strips contained only numbers and, on closer inspection, turned out to be a multiplication table. As in a modern multiplication table, the entries at the intersection of each row and column in the matrix provide the results of multiplying the corresponding numbers. The table can also help users to multiply any whole or half integer between 0.5 and 99.5. The researchers suspect that officials used the multiplication table to calculate surface area of land, yields of crops and the amounts of taxes owed."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Tutter writes with news that Smellovision is being joined in reality by Tasteovision. "Possible applications in healthcare and gaming — it works by using electrodes on your tongue to stimulate salty, sweet, bitter and sour. It can produce the taste of virtual foods or drinks, allowing you to enjoy the taste without the calories (or chewing...). They are also good reasons to do this, for example, a diabetic can now taste sweets without actually affecting their blood sugar levels. Quote: 'The team is also working on a spin-off called a digital lollipop that will give the effect of a continuous sugar hit – but without sugar. For taste messaging they have developed TOIP — Taste Over Internet Protocol. This is a data format that makes it easy to transmit information on how to recreate the different tastes via the electrode. ... It is early days. The four major taste components, plus the fifth, the savoury 'umami' tang, are only a part of what we call flavor. Smell and texture are important, too — and the team now wants to work on adding those effects.' A video on youtube shows what it can do."
New submitter chrisjz writes "What happens when you combine a virtual reality headset and a brainwave reading device? Here's a simulation showing off what's possible with current technology, using the Emotiv EPOC to read a person's brainwaves for movement in a virtual environment. Along with the Oculus Rift, a VR headset, and the Razer Hydra for hand tracking, this demonstrates another alternative to using omni-directional treadmills or full body tracking for movement and interaction in virtual reality. Consumer level brain computer interfaces are still primitive these days, but it doesn't seem too far off that we'll have virtual reality similar to what William Gibson envisioned in his novels or movies such as The Matrix has shown us."
benrothke writes "David Mitchell Smith wrote in the Gartner report Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing last year that while clearly maturing and beyond the peak of inflated expectations, cloud computing continues to be one of the most hyped subjects in IT. The report is far from perfect, but it is accurate in the sense that while cloud computing is indeed ready for prime time, the hype with it ensures that too many firms will be using it with too much hype, and not enough reality and detailed requirements. While there have been many books written about the various aspects of cloud computing, Testing Cloud Services: How to Test SaaS, PaaS & IaaS is the first that enables the reader to successfully make the transition from hype to actuality from a testing and scalability perspective." Read on for the rest of Ben's review.
rueger writes "I can remember trading up from a daisy-wheel printer to dot matrix, and can remember when Jerry Pournelle used to say 'Buy the most expensive HP printer you can afford.' Mine was a 4P. Times have changed, though, and I'm looking for trustworthy advice before buying a couple of new printers. Specifically, a B&W Laser with sheet feed scanner, and a color inkjet with a solid flatbed scanner for copying music. We want solid, reliable machines that will give a few years of small office service, that have reasonably cheap consumables, and that will "just work" with Windows and Linux. Network ready of course. Let me expand. These days there seems to be no market leader in printers — they tend to be cheap disposable items. Part of the reason is that it is hard to find any real user reviews of these machines — most of the comments on Best Buy or other sites are full of fanboy enthusiasm, or extreme negativity — nothing that can be relied on. Between those, and the sock puppets, and the astroturfing, there's nothing I'd trust. I do trust Slashdot, though, for things like this. People here are able to offer realistic advice and experience that can usually tell the story. So, I ask: who's making good printers these days?"
Zothecula writes "In three years, if you happen to be 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) beneath the surface of the ocean, keep an eye out for the Cyclops. No, not the hairy giant, but the 5-passenger submersible. Once it's commercially available in 2016, it should be 'the only privately owned deep-water manned submersible available for contracts.' 'That 7-inch-thick hull will be made of carbon fiber, in which individual strips of pre-impregnated fiber are individually placed within the carbon fiber matrix. Developed by Boeing, this technique is said to offer finer production control than the more traditional filament winding process, and should allow the Cyclops to withstand the 4,300 psi (300 bar) of water pressure it will encounter at its maximum diving depth – the earlier-mentioned 3,000 meters.' As for why it's called the Cyclops, just check out its one-big-eye-like 180-degree borosilicate glass observation dome."
bjhonermann writes "The Zambian government (along with partners) are currently rolling out an electronic medical records (EMR) system in public health facilities. The project has been going on for some time and is already in 600+ facilities with more than 700,000 patient records. One problem we're facing is that most information is still being double entered in the EMR as well as on primary paper documents at the facility, and sometimes additionally transcribed to paper registers. This double/triple entry takes time away from nurses who are already in short supply. There's an inability to fully move away from partially paper based systems both because clients often move between 'paper clinics' and 'electronic clinics' in the same communities and for follow-up care, and because the power systems in many sites are unreliable and require that there be sufficient paper backups of records for operations during periods where power is unavailable — perhaps for weeks at a time. We're providing solar panels and battery backups for sites, which work increasingly well with newer low power CPUs, but even if the power issue were solved this would not address the need for portable paper documents. The key objective of eliminating redundant manual entry of forms and paper registers by nurses might be accomplished if we had low cost low power B/W printers available at sites so that critical information could be entered electronically and then printed out as needed, either for client carried purposes (transfers/visits to 'paper facilities') or to serve as local backup when power is an issue. However, we've yet to find printing solutions that seem appropriate to the context and are hopeful the Slashdot crowd may have some ideas." Read on for some more specific criteria.
Craefter writes "It seems that the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset caught the attention of investors after its showing at E3 this year. Spark Capital and Matrix Partners were able to push $16 million at Oculus VR in the hopes that the product will live up to the hype. The HD unit looks a bit more slick than the ski-goggles-with-a-tablet-glued-to-it prototype, but the device would look even more appealing if the next-gen consoles would commit to supporting it. (We all know how well the PS3's 'wave-stick' did as an afterthought.) That said, major titles like the 9-year-old Half-Life 2 and the 6-year-old Team Fortress 2 are getting full support for the device. Hopefully some developers are looking into support for the Oculus Rift as a launch feature, rather than an addition years after the fact. IA bit like the EAX standard from Soundblaster. That worked out well too."
Last week you had the chance to ask Neil Gaiman, Amber Benson and the crew of Blood Kiss about the upcoming Kickstarter movie, vampires, and their past projects. The film has reached the initial funding goal with the new target being $200K, making it an entirely fan funded film. Below you'll find their answers to your questions.
sciencehabit writes "If you were a rat living in a completely virtual world like in the movie The Matrix, could you tell? Maybe not, but scientists studying your brain might be able to. Today, researchers report that certain cells in rat brains work differently when the animals are in virtual reality than when they are in the real world. In the experiment, rats anchored to the top of a ball ran in place as movie-like images around them changed, creating the impression that they were running along a track. Their sense of place relied on visual cues from the projections and their self-motion cues, but they had to do without proximal cues like sound and smell. The rodents used half as many neurons to navigate the virtual world as they did the real one."
DaBombDotCom writes "R, a popular software environment for statistical computing and graphics, version 3.0.0 codename "Masked Marvel" was released. From the announcement: 'Major R releases have not previously marked great landslides in terms of new features. Rather, they represent that the codebase has developed to a new level of maturity. This is not going to be an exception to the rule. Version 3.0.0, as of this writing, contains only [one] really major new feature: The inclusion of long vectors (containing more than 2^31-1 elements!). More changes are likely to make it into the final release, but the main reason for having it as a new major release is that R over the last 8.5 years has reached a new level: we now have 64 bit support on all platforms, support for parallel processing, the Matrix package, and much more.'"
Via Engadget, comes a press release that might bring joy to fans of science fiction dismayed by years without any new scifi shows: "Continuing its quest to sate subscribers' appetites with a flow of original content, Netflix has announced a new original series, Sense8. Due in late 2014, it's being developed by the Wachowskis of The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Cloud Atlas and Speed Race fame, as well as J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5. Details are thin, but the press release promises a gripping global tale of minds linked and souls hunted with a ten episode run for its first season." Hopefully it'll end up available on DVD eventually, for us poor GNU/Linux users who are not worthy enough for Netflix (or: to any Netflix engineers reading, make it work).
An anonymous reader writes "An article at Wired shows just how close we are to a 3-D printed car. Jim Kor's 'Urbee 2' design is a lightweight teardrop shape with three wheels. The engine, chassis, and wheels aren't printed, of course, but much of the car is formed layer-by-layer out of ABS plastic. It takes about 2,500 hours of printer time to create the whole thing. Assembly is easier, though, since many different parts can be consolidated into just a few. 'To negotiate the inevitable obstacles presented by a potentially incredulous NHSTA and DOT, the answer is easy. "In many states and many countries, Urbee will be technically registered as a motorcycle," Kor says. It makes sense. With three wheels and a curb weight of less than 1,200 pounds, it's more motorcycle than passenger car. No matter what, the bumpers will be just as strong as their sheet-metal equivalents. "We're planning on making a matrix that will be stronger than FDM," says Kor. He admits that yes, "There is a danger in breaking one piece and have to recreate the whole thing." The safety decisions that'll determine the car's construction lie ahead. Kor and his team have been tweaking the safety by using crash simulation software, but the full spectrum of testing will have to wait for an influx of investment cash.'"
SternisheFan writes "Nobel winner Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini, who discovered chemical tools that the body uses to direct cell growth and build nerves, has died. She was 103. From the article: 'Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini, a Nobel Prize-winning neurologist who discovered critical chemical tools that the body uses to direct cell growth and build nerve networks, opening the way for the study of how those processes can go wrong in diseases like dementia and cancer, died on Sunday at her home in Rome. She was 103. Her death was announced by Mayor Gianni Alemanno of Rome. "I don't use these words easily, but her work revolutionized the study of neural development, from how we think about it to how we intervene," said Dr. Gerald D. Fishbach, a neuroscientist and professor emeritus at Columbia. Scientists had virtually no idea how embryo cells built a latticework of intricate connections to other cells when Dr. Levi-Montalcini began studying chicken embryos in the bedroom of her house in Turin, Italy, during World War II. After years of obsessive study, much of it at Washington University in St. Louis with Dr. Viktor Hamburger, she found a protein that, when released by cells, attracted nerve growth from nearby developing cells.'"
SternisheFan writes "As Syria's rebels work to overthrow the tank-equipped Assad regime, they've learned that it helps to have tanks of their own. They deserve bonus points for integrating video game technology. This is no exaggeration. Have a look at the opposition forces' "100 percent made in Syria" armored vehicle, the Sham II. Named for ancient Syria and assembled out of spare parts over the course of a month, the Sham II is sort of rough around the edges, but it's got impressive guts. It rides on the chassis of an old diesel car and is fully encased in light steel that's rusted from the elements. Five cameras are mounted around the tank's outside, and there's a machine gun mounted on a turning turret. Inside, it kind of looks like a man cave. A couple of flat screen TVs are mounted on opposite walls. The driver sits in front of one, controlling the vehicle with a steering wheel, and the gunner sits at the other, aiming the machine gun with a Playstation controller."
olsmeister writes "Ever wonder if the universe is really a simulation? Well, physicists do too. Recently, a group of physicists have devised a way that could conceivably figure out one way or the other whether that is the case. There is a paper describing their work on arXiv. Some other physicists propose that the universe is actually a giant hologram with all the action actually occurring on a two-dimensional boundary region."
Fifteen years from now, your alarm goes off at 7:30 AM, pulling you out of a dead sleep. You roll over, grumbling a command, and the alarm obediently shuts up. You drift off again, but ten minutes later the alarm returns, more insistent. It won't be so easily pacified this time; the loose sensory netting inside your pillow will keep the noise going until it detects alpha waves in drastically higher numbers than theta waves. Or until it gets the automated password from the shower. Sighing, you roll out of bed, pull your Computing ID (CID) card from the alarm unit, and stumble out of the bedroom. Pausing briefly to drop your CID into your desktop computer, you make your way to the shower and begin washing. Your alarm triggered the shower's heating unit, so the water comes out at a pleasant 108 degrees, exactly your preference. (42 degrees, you remind yourself — the transition to metric still isn't second nature, after almost two full years.) You wash quickly to avoid exceeding your water quota, and step out refreshed, ready to meet the day. (Read on for more.)
MrSeb writes with news about our coming cybernetic overlords. From the article: "After more than four years of research, DARPA has created a system that successfully combines soldiers, EEG brainwave scanners, 120-megapixel cameras, and multiple computers running cognitive visual processing algorithms into a cybernetic hivemind. Called the Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System (CT2WS), it will be used in a combat setting to significantly improve the U.S. Army's threat detection capabilities. There are two discrete parts to the system: The 120-megapixel camera, which is tripod-mounted and looks over the battlefield; and the computer system, where a soldier sits in front of a computer monitor with an EEG strapped to his head, looking at images captured by the camera, wedding out false threats. In testing, the 120-megapixel camera, combined with the computer vision algorithms, generated 810 false alarms per hour; with a human operator strapped into the EEG, that drops down to just five false alarms per hour. The human brain is surprisingly fast, too: According to DARPA, CT2WS displays 10 images per second to the human operator — and yet that doesn't seem to affect accuracy."
An anonymous reader "Scientists have developed a software simulation, running on 128 computers, of an entire organism, a step toward carrying out full experiments without traditional instruments (abstract). 'For their computer simulation, the researchers had the advantage of extensive scientific literature on the bacterium. They were able to use data taken from more than 900 scientific papers to validate the accuracy of their software model. Still, they said that the model of the simplest biological system was pushing the limits of their computers. "Right now, running a simulation for a single cell to divide only one time takes around 10 hours and generates half a gigabyte of data," Dr. Covert wrote. "I find this fact completely fascinating, because I don’t know that anyone has ever asked how much data a living thing truly holds. We often think of the DNA as the storage medium, but clearly there is more to it than that." In designing their model, the scientists chose an approach that parallels the design of modern software systems, known as object-oriented programming. Software designers organize their programs in modules, which communicate with one another by passing data and instructions back and forth. Similarly, the simulated bacterium is a series of modules that mimic the different functions of the cell.'"
Aciel writes "Ruby has long been popular in the web/business community, while Python dominates the scientific community. One new project seeks to bring balance to the force: SciRuby. We've already introduced a linear algebra library called NMatrix (currently alpha status). There's at least one fellowship available for students interested in working on the project this summer."