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Healthcare Fiasco Energizes Federal IT Reform Efforts
January 29, 2014
The widespread problems in implementing the Affordable Care Act have provided some momentum to the efforts by the Obama administration and Congress to ratchet up reforms in the management and procurement of IT. President Obama conceded the need to put more emphasis on such reforms when he spoke about the troubled health exchange website and other IT problems with the Healthcare.gov rollout.
US, British Intelligence Scoop Data From Smartphone Apps
January 28, 2014
Don't get angry, but... U.S. and British intelligence agencies have long been mining data from smartphone apps such as the wildly popular Angry Birds. The National Security Agency and its British brethren at the Government Communications Headquarters reportedly have targeted the swell of data moving to and fro on mobile apps, based on previously secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
Learn Robotics and Amuse Office Mates With uArm
January 28, 2014
UFactory's uArm, which is an Arduino-powered 4-axis parallel-mechanism robot arm created for personal desktop use, has blown past its $5,000 funding goal on Kickstarter with more than a month to go. Clearly, uArm has struck a nerve, generating more than $60,000 in pledges in just a handful of days. The uArm features a suction-cup base that will adhere to your desk.
Google Buys DeepMind to Dig Deeper Into Data
January 27, 2014
News that Google is purchasing artificial intelligence company DeepMind for between $500 million and $650 million surfaced Monday. The first commercial applications of DeepMind are in simulations, e-commerce and games. "These are the areas most likely to benefit from -- and generate revenue from -- AI," aid Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.
Google's Smart Contacts Could Save Diabetics a Lot of Pricks
January 17, 2014
Google is taking the wearable tech trend to a new level. The company has announced it is working on smart contact lenses that measure the level of glucose in one's body. Diabetes affects around one in 19 people in the world, many of whom struggle to control the levels of blood sugar in their bodies, Google said. Blood sugar imbalances can lead to issues with eyes, kidneys and hearts.
Terrorist's Penalty Stiffened for Zipped Lips
January 17, 2014
Syed Farhan Hussain, a 22-year-old from Luton, UK, was hit with additional jail time for refusing to divulge the password for a memory stick that police were eager to take a peek at. Police were unable to crack the password themselves and therefore sought Hussain's help; Hussain declined, prompting a guilty verdict under Britain's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
Accenture Tapped to Doctor HealthCare.gov
January 13, 2014
The raft of problems connected to the launch of HealthCare.gov appears to have sunk the fortunes of the private contractor paid for running the site. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, charged with overseeing the health insurance marketplace, has awarded Accenture Federal Services a one-year contract for $45 million to implement technical improvements to the site.
Russian Spacewalkers to Install Videocams Providing ISS-View of Earth
December 27, 2013
Two Russian cosmonauts on Friday began a spacewalk outside the International Space Station to install camera equipment from UrtheCast, which soon could provide near real-time streaming images to viewers on Earth. Canada-based UrtheCast partnered with the Russian Federal Space Agency to launch two cameras, one high- and one medium-resolution, into space last month.
SMS via Alcohol Puts New Spin on 'Message in a Bottle'
December 20, 2013
Isopropyl alcohol is widely used as a solvent and as a cleaning fluid, but researchers at two universities in Canada and the UK recently managed to use it to transmit a text message. The experiment used Arduino computers, an electronic spray to release the alcohol, fans to blow the alcohol along, and sensors for detecting the chemical signals and demodulating them back into text.
Japanese Robot Shoots Breeze With Astronaut
December 20, 2013
A humanoid robot named "Kirobo" has had a chat with a Japanese astronaut on the ISS. The robot, also from Japan, is designed to process questions and construct answers from its vocabulary bank, as opposed to regurgitating preprogrammed responses. Asked if he could handle zero-gravity conditions, the robot replied, "I'm used to it now, no problem at all."
Microsoft Honcho Tapped to Clean Up Healthcare Mess
December 18, 2013
The Obama administration has reached into Microsoft's ranks for the tech talent it needs to fix the Affordable Care Act cock-up. The White House on Tuesday named Kurt DelBene, who started at Microsoft in 1992 and most recently served as president of its lucrative Office Division, to oversee HealthCare.gov, the website for consumers shopping for healthcare insurance under Obamacare.
Google Buys Military Robot Maker Boston Dynamics
December 16, 2013
Google has added to its portfolio of robotics acquisitions by snapping up Boston Dynamics. The company has conceived research robots for the military and is renowned for its agile robots that have a firm sense of balance. One can run faster than any human. While Boston Dynamics has not sold commercial robots, it has carried out extensive research and experimentation in the robotics field.
Norway Dashes Cold Water on Bitcoins
December 16, 2013
Norway's government ruled that Bitcoins don't qualify as a real currency, and it will treat them as an asset -- as opposed to a legitimate currency -- that is subject to capital gains tax. Many countries have been weighing in on how they will treat Bitcoins. Earlier this month, China said that its banks and financial institutions shouldn't handle the digital currency.
NASA May Schedule Spacewalks to Fix ISS Cooling Loop
December 13, 2013
NASA on Wednesday shut off one of the two external cooling loops on the International Space Station and has been struggling to fix it since. The problem appears to be in the flow valve within a pump module. There has been speculation that the situation could be more serious than NASA has acknowledged. Some noncritical systems in various nodes and laboratories have been powered down.
How to Use Twitter's New Crisis Alerts
December 12, 2013
Local government emergency managers have been trying for years to figure out ways to alert members of the public about crises and incidents, like natural disasters, that could affect them. Limited success has been achieved with auto-dialer implementation, which is dependent on phone lines' capacity. Twitter thinks it may have the best answer, though.
Chinese Supercomputer Gets a Job Forecasting Smog
December 10, 2013
Scientists in China will use the country's Tianhe-1A supercomputer to forecast and analyze smog in major cities. The Tianhe-1A will be used to create a simulation that will collate data from across more than 100 Chinese cities. Theoretically, this will enable scientists to predict the density of smog, how long it will linger, and where it might go next.
MX-1 to Shoot for Moon - and $20 Million
December 07, 2013
Moon Express on Thursday unveiled the design of its MX-1 robotic spacecraft to more than 10,000 attendees at the closing session of Autodesk University in Las Vegas. Moon Express plans to deploy the unmanned MX-1 to the moon and perhaps capture Google's Lunar XPrize. The MX-1 will be able to perform a variety of scientific and commercial functions.
Wormholes Might Link Quantum-Entangled Quarks
December 05, 2013
A postulate stating that quantum-entangled black holes in our three-dimensional universe are connected by microscopic wormholes created when the black holes are pulled apart might be correct, researchers Andreas Karch and Kristan Jensen have found. The suggestion, put forth by physicists Juan Malcadena and Lenny Susskind, "is a very exciting but somewhat speculative proposal," said Karch.
The Healing Begins for Healthcare.gov
December 04, 2013
The troubled Healthcare.gov website seems to have found its sea legs at last. After a botched rollout, the White House set itself a new deadline of Nov. 30 and hunkered down to repair the many glitches afflicting the site, through which Americans in the 36 states it serves must get their health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. By and large, it appears to have succeeded.
Google Makes Robotics Its Next 'Crazy Idea'
December 04, 2013
Hard on the heels of Amazon's recent announcement that it's planning deliveries by drone, Google this week acknowledged that it has embarked on a new robotics effort under the leadership of former Android head Andy Rubin. "I am excited about Andy Rubin's next project," said Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page. "His last big bet, Android, started off as a crazy idea that ended up putting a supercomputer in hundreds of millions of pockets."

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