Fishermen were casting their lines into the urban waters of Washington, D.C., into a river notorious as one of the dirtiest in the nation. What’s more, according to a recent study, they represented a small fraction of the 17,000 or more residents of this metropolitan area who are consuming fish from a river that has all the markings of a Superfund site.
Sometimes you just can’t believe it, the article even says that a sewer line directly dumps a billion gallons of human waste every year.
Japan’s Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry will soon embark on a project to realize an “autopilot system” for automatic driving, a system for guiding motor vehicles on expressways without human assistance.
The system is expected to contribute significantly to such goals as alleviating drivers’ fatigue, preventing road accidents and easing traffic congestion. It would be for vehicles referred to as self-driving cars capable of sensing their environment and navigating by themselves, with people not required to perform any mechanical operation besides choosing their destinations.
With a view to making an autopilot system a reality in the early 2020s, the ministry will launch a study panel of experts this year, to start full-scale discussions about a self-steering vehicle control project.
The ministry envisages an autonomous vehicle system in which, after leaving your home, motorists would enter an interchange of a nearby expressway while manually operating their cars.
When pulling into the expressway’s lane exclusively for the autopilot system, the driving mode would change to “automatic driving” and input your destination into the system. Motorists would take their hands and feet off the steering wheel, gas pedal and brake.
Last week, in the corners of the Internet devoted to outer space, things started to get a little, well, hot. Voyager 1, the man-made object farthest away from Earth, was encountering a sharp uptick in the number of a certain kind of energetic particles around it. Had the spacecraft become the first human creation to “officially” leave the solar system?
It’s hard to overstate how wild an accomplishment this would be: A machine, built here on Earth by the brain- and handiwork of humans, has sailed from Florida, out of Earth’s orbit, beyond Mars, beyond the gas giants of Jupiter and Saturn, and may now have left the heliosphere — tiny dot in the universe beholden to our sun. Had it really happened? How would we know?
We’re not quite there yet, Voyager’s project scientist and former head of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Edward Stone, told me. The spacecraft is on its way out — “it’s leaving the solar system” — but we don’t know how far it has to go or what that transition to interstellar space will look like.
“In a given day we translate roughly as much text as you’d find in 1 million books. To put it another way: what all the professional human translators in the world produce in a year, our system translates in roughly a single day. By this estimate, most of the translation on the planet is now done by Google Translate.”
The rise of the web has brought the world’s collective knowledge to the fingertips of more than two billion people. But what happens if it’s in Hindi or Afrikaans or Icelandic, and you speak only English—or vice versa?
In 2001, Google started providing a service that could translate eight languages to and from English. It used what was then state-of-the-art commercial machine translation (MT), but the translation quality wasn’t very good, and it didn’t improve much in those first few years. In 2003, a few Google engineers decided to ramp up the translation quality and tackle more languages. That’s when I got involved. I was working as a researcher on DARPA projects looking at a new approach to machine translation—learning from data—which held the promise of much better translation quality. I got a phone call from those Googlers who convinced me (I was skeptical!) that this data-driven approach might work.
I joined Google, and we started to retool our translation system toward competing in the NIST Machine Translation Evaluation, a “bake-off” among research institutions and companies to build better machine translation. Google’s massive computing infrastructure and ability to crunch vast sets of web data gave us strong results. This was a major turning point: it underscored how effective the data-driven approach could be.
But at that time our system was too slow to run as a practical service—it took us 40 hours and 1,000 machines to translate 1,000 sentences. So we focused on speed, and a year later our system could translate a sentence in under a second, and with better quality. In early 2006, we rolled out our first languages: Chinese, then Arabic.
We announced our statistical MT approach on April 28, 2006, and in the six years since then we’ve focused primarily on core translation quality and language coverage. We can now translate among any of 64 different languages, including many with a small web presence, such as Bengali, Basque, Swahili, Yiddish, even Esperanto.
Today we have more than 200 million monthly active users on translate.google.com (and even more in other places where you can use Translate, such as Chrome, mobile apps, YouTube, etc.). People also seem eager to access Google Translate on the go (the language barrier is never more acute than when you’re traveling)—we’ve seen our mobile traffic more than quadruple year over year. And our users are truly global: more than 92 percent of our traffic comes from outside the United States.
An interactive Flash animation titled “Scale Of The Universe 2“, covering everything in the universe from the fabric of space-time to the estimated size of the universe, was posted earlier this year, and it is awesome. A month or so later, it went viral, but why…so popular?
First, the actual scale of the universe is mind blowing as it spans 62 orders of magnitude (that’s multiplying 62 10′s together).
Second, the animation is very well produced and packed with information.
Third, it was created by a 14-year-old, Cary Huang, and his twin brother, Michael, who worked on it for a year and a half as a fun project…
It’s true, it is really fun to play with, especially with all the weird objects they use for comparisons. I snapped a few screenshots below to show you some of them.
The first one is where the animation starts and the second is after scrolling out a bit. In both, you can see the size of a human in comparison to many objects (in the second one, there is a tiny human in the center).
In the last screenshot, you can see how California, Texas, and Italy are about the size of many moons and Pluto!
The app makes it easy to get involved and includes some innovative (and fun) ways to learn about the work of the United Nations. An interactive photo-scramble game, “Pieces of Peace,” gives users the ability to have fun while they learn by unscrambling photos taken around the world that are related to the work of the UN. The game includes ways for users to learn as they play, helping build awareness and knowledge about international issues. Integrated social media options also allow users to organically share this content with friends, brag about their photo-unscrambling prowess, and encourage them to get involved. Continue reading →
SpaceX successfully test fires SuperDraco, a powerful new engine that will play a critical role in efforts to change the future of human spaceflight.
These engines will power a revolutionary launch escape system that will make Dragon the safest spacecraft in history and enable it to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy.
In a series of tests conducted at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas, the SuperDraco sustained full duration, full thrust firing as well as a series of deep throttling demonstrations.
Right here, on this blog I share everything about my crazy plan to build my own wings. My goal? To fly with it! Something Leonardo DaVinci, my grandfather and I dreamed of for a long time. But this summer I decided to really start building it.
There was some discussion about the authenticity of this video, but the MythBusters team tackled that:
The video of Jarno Smeets’ flight is cool, and I don’t see evidence that it was faked. It seems reasonable to accomplish, and is something I have wanted to try for a long time.
The still photos of the parts on a table are helpful and the components are appropriate to what the item does in the air. The motors are rare earth magnet low RPM, high torque, outrunners that look in the neighborhood of 3000 watts or so each. So you could have an output of just under 10hp there. The speed controllers look to be appropriate to those motors, and the batteries are lithium ion. This is all appropriate…
No kidding. I’m sitting in the water and I turn around: there are two human-looking heads staring right at me. Their heads are smooth like slicked back hair. I blink once, twice and then it occurs to me…they’re not human.
Yet we are still staring at each other. It’s one of those moments where wildlife meets human life and time stands still. We share the same thought and emotion…a “what the hell are you doing here!” moment.
Then I panic and take the next wave coming at me. As I ride down, I see them disappear underwater. Thoughts of seal attacks flood my brain even though there is no reason for a seal to attack me.
In a few moments I’m on the shore and the panic subsides. I feel like a big fool
The Harbour Seal is a very intelligent animal, and when alarmed, it has a curious habit of standing upright, with its head just above the water, in order to take observations. At such times its appearance is singularly like that of a man, and it is quite probable that the old legends of mermaids and mermen arose from seeing Seals in this position. The eyes are large, very full, and dark in colour, and the animal has an unexplained habit of opening and closing its nostrils.