Friday, December 2, 2011

People go online for no reason? Really?

I know it's been a long time since I've posted anything here, but this really needs more attention...

The Pew Research Center has discovered that a majority of people surf the Web for no reason!

They even have a graph of this, just in case you wanted more details:

Who's brilliant idea was this?

I'd like to thank Pew, also, for this particular analytical piece of wisdom:

"These results come in the larger context that internet users of all ages are much more likely now than in the past to say they go online for no particular reason other than to pass the time or have fun."

Way to go, Captain Obvious.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A hacked heart?

How's this for an unusual target for hackers: Artificial hearts and other implantable medical gadgets.

Computer scientists at the University of Washington, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Harvard Medical School have found that those devices, which use wireless technology so doctors can monitor them, can be taken over and reprogrammed by computer-savvy evil-doers.

While I don't imagine these gadgets are a high priority target for the typical scruffy-haired, free-the-Internet type hackers in the United States, there are certainly others who could no doubt use the knowledge for devious ends.

Is there a digital gleam in the CIA's eye?

The scientists point out there are ways to make these devices more secure, and overall the goal is just to let the industry know that this could be a problem.

According to an article on Science Daily:

"We hope our research is a wake-up call for the industry," said Tadayoshi Kohno, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. "In the 1970s, the Bionic Woman was a dream, but modern technology is making it a reality. People will have sophisticated computers with wireless capabilities in their bodies. Our goal is to make sure those devices are secure, private, safe and effective."

Here's the full story link:

Implantable Medical Devices May Expose Patients to Security, Privacy Risks


Friday, March 7, 2008

Is using technology really cheating?

OK, if this is really true, it is ridiculous.

Apparently a student at Ryerson University in Toronto is facing 147 accusations of academic misconduct because he organized a study group on Facebook, the social networking site.

The student said the group was designed as a normal study group - where students discuss problems and help each other in the learning process.

Granted, this is more stupid academia than a stupid study, but really - if universities don't adapt to changing technology, that really gives students a huge disadvantage when they go out into the real world.

According to a story on London's

Kim Neale, Ryerson Student Union advocacy co-ordinator, said that the move makes no sense.

"All these students are scared s***less about using Facebook to talk about schoolwork, when actually it's no different than any study group working together on homework in a library," he said.

"That's the worst part. It's creating a culture of fear. If I post a question about physics homework on my friend's [Facebook bulletin board] and ask if anyone has any ideas how to approach this, and my prof sees this, am I cheating?

"No one did post a full final solution. It was more the back-and-forth that you get in any study group."

The university has refused to comment while the case is ongoing.

The full story link is here:

Student faces explusion for Facebook study group


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hexapus on parade

Scientists at Britain's Blackpool Sea Life Centre have found a new octopus that falls a bit short in the octo category.

It only has six legs, making it a hexapus.

He may be the first documented hexapus, but he's not really a new species, the scientists' noted. He's more of a genetic mutant.

Do I hear creepy monster movie music in the background?

The critter was found off the coast of Wales a few weeks ago, but despite his apparent weirdness, the aquarium folks still think he's pretty darned cool, according to a story on National Geographic's Web site:

"He's a lovely little thing," an aquarium spokesperson told AFP.

Here's the story link:

Six-legged "Hexapus" Discovered


Here's a pic from National Geographic of our hexapus friend:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Up the food chain and licking frogs

A scientist who just finished her master's degree from Cornell University is trying to figure out where, exactly, frogs get their poison from.

Her method? She licks them.

Valerie Clark is trying to trace how frogs in tropical forests send signals to predators that say "don't eat me." The thought is that poisons move up the food chain before they get into the frogs - from plants that are eaten by ants that are eaten by frogs.

In an article on National Geographic's Web site, Clark notes:

"What would be really amazing is to see the frogs eating the ants, and the ants and other insects eating the plants, and then we get lucky and the [samples of all three] that we've collected and filmed all have the same toxins," she said.

Frog-licking isn't for the weak, but it does help scientists determine certain toxins without the need to ship frog samples to a lab. You do have to be careful, though, she said in the story:

"I don't recommend this," the biologist cautioned, "because if you lick the wrong frog it can be very bad."

Check out the full story here:

For Frog-Licking Scientist, the Tongue Says It All


Friday, February 29, 2008

Bacteria raining down from the heavens

A group of scientists at Louisiana State University, Montana State University and in France have found that those ubiquitous microorganisms known as bacteria aren't limited to hanging around near Earth's surface.

They also sweep up into the sky and could play a major role in the production of rain and snow.

They found them widely distributed through the atmosphere, and it seems that when the bacteria are in clouds, water and ice clumps on them until they fall back down to the ground, replicate and blow up into the sky again.

According to a study on Science Daily:

"Dust and soot particles can serve as ice nuclei, but biological ice nuclei are capable of catalyzing freezing at much warmer temperatures. If present in clouds, biological ice nuclei may affect the processes that trigger precipitation."

The bacteria could help cloud-seeding technologies improve, they said, which could help prevent drought in many parts of the world.

Of course, when writing this I did come up with one major question of my own:

Do bacteria qualify as "critters?" I mean, they are alive, right?

Anyway, here's the full story:

Evidence of 'Rain Making' Bacteria Discovered in Atmosphere and Snow


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Eeek! Snakes!

Scientists at the University of Virginia have discovered that preschool children are scared of snakes and spiders.


Yeah, yeah, this isn't exactly news, but their theories about it are kind of interesting from an evolutionary standpoint.

It seems humans developed an instinctual ability to pick snakes and spiders out of the scene a lot faster than they can with harmless objects.

That's a way to stay alive in areas where there's lots of poisonous critters roaming around.

The scientists tested the theory by showing a bunch of preschoolers and their parents pictures of snakes and non-threatening objects, and the subjects were able to pick the snakes out faster than a frightened Indiana Jones.

According to a story on Science Daily:

"Preschool children and their parents were shown nine color photographs on a computer screen and were asked to find either the single snake among eight flowers, frogs or caterpillars, or the single nonthreatening item among eight snakes. As the study surprisingly shows, parents and their children identified snakes more rapidly than they detected the other stimuli, despite the gap in age and experience."

Here's the full story:

Evolution of Aversion: Why Even Children Are Fearful Of Snakes