School for Scoundrels
World Teacher's Day


by Craig Reynolds

Tech and politics: imagine a web-based fact checking system that will (among other things) allow voters to quickly determine if a politician is telling the truth: Google boss warns politicians about Internet power. See the very cool "robo-poll" technology developed by Constituent Dynamics, as nicely visualized at Majority Watch. Some background here: About those Majority Watch Congressional District Polls... (via). E-vote news: remember my snarky "we'll see" last week about Diebold's claim of a fix for problems with Maryland's voting machines. Par for the course, they were wrong: Diebold says: please don't touch the touchscreens and E-poll results undecided. See also: Diebold: Criticism Off-base, Play chess on your nearest e-voting machine and Pennsylvania Voters on E-Voting: Trust, But Verify.

Single-Pixel Camera: when the race has been toward digital cameras with more and more pixels, why the interest in a minimalist single pixel camera?  Its all done with mirrors! The basic win is that it is cheaper to make an array of mirrors than an array of multi-spectral light sensors. And this techniques works just as well with infrared, x-ray and other types of radiation as it does with the visible spectrum. Press reports from Photonics: Single-Pixel Camera Takes High-Resolution Images and Live Science: Researchers Aim for Single-Pixel Camera. Here is the abstract of the technical presentation.

Google code search: Google rolled out a search engine for software geeks. Google Code Search offers a whole new way to find sample code and potentially many other kinds of large scale software analysis.  You need to be a geek to make use of it -- or maybe even to know why a search for hello world gets 50,000 hits. This may have a profound effect on how software is developed, think of how Google search changed the way we use the web. Like other kinds of data mining, Google Code Search shines a light on information that was out there, but essentially hidden in the dark shadows of the web. See SecurityFocus on how Google Code Search peers into programs' flaws and kottke's take on the kind of things you can find with it.

Robot roundup: selections of the A Teams for the next DARPA Grand Challenge: Robot cars will race in real traffic, this time there will be grants, not prizes: 2006 DARPA Grand Challenge teams announced, prize plummets to zero dollars. Elsewhere in robotics: Musical robot composes, performs and teaches, orbiter takes picture of rover taking picture of giant Martian crater, Robot whiskers sense shapes and textures and Attack of the killer prototype robots.

Beetle juice: drinking water from humidity: last month I mentioned "Beetle spawns new material: a super-efficient biomimetic vapor collector" and then saw Air alchemy: Can humidity solve post hurricane drinking water problem? (also also). It described condensing emergency drinking water from humid Gulf coast air for post-hurricane recovery needs.  It also touches on using this approach in the third world where drinking water is often unhealthy. But in both cases lack of power/fuel is a significant problem. The passive beetle-inspired condenser developed at MIT seems well suited for this application, once it can be manufactured in significant quantities.

Recommendation systems: collaborative filtering systems continue to be a hot intersection of commerce and engineering, as has been covered previously here at TB. The ability to tell someone which new music or movies they will like has enormous commercial value. It increases sales volume and satisfaction. It is also a deep research problem, since current systems are only OK and improvements have slowed down.  Now Netflix has decided to jolt this impasse with a competition: And if You Liked the Movie, a Netflix Contest May Reward You Handsomely. The same approach has been used lately to spur research on autonomous vehicles (DARPA Grand challenge) and commercial spaceships (Ansari X Prize). The Netflix contest include both a cash prize and a valuable database of 100 million real user rating histories for contestants to verify their techniques. Winners will be judged by an objective measure comparing their systems to the current Netflix standard recommender. (Its worth noting that I find a lot of the news for TB via a news/blog recommender system: Findory.)

Technobits: $1.6 billion?!: Google in talks to buy Web video site YouTube: report --- tech sidebar on Brazilian midair crash: How Do Planes Avoid Colliding? --- Ceramic Microreactors Developed For On-site Hydrogen Production --- Quantum information teleported from light to matter --- Sketch-recognition turns doodles into websites --- old tech: Scientists piece together a US Navy zeppelin's past --- giant animal fossils: Dino-Era "Sea Monster" Found on Arctic Island and Remains of giant camel discovered in Syria --- Edward O. Wilson ("the father of biodiversity") warns half the world's species may be extinct by 2100 --- 3d animation fatigue? I remember when the computer animation community looked forward to that great day when a fully 3d animated film would be made, now we are up to our keisters in them: Is Th-Th-That All, Folks? --- two web based interactive animated toys, both based on simulated physics: Line Rider (via Lisa) and Drag the circles, have some fun (via).