As computer hardware and software becomes ever more powerful, they find ways to match and then exceed many human abilities. One point of superiority that humans have stubbornly refused to yield is tuning musical instruments. Pythagoras identified the precise, mathematical relationships between musical tones over 2,000 years ago, and modern machines can beat out any human when it comes to precise math. So why aren’t computers better than people? The professional tuner does have one incontrovertible advantage: a trained human ear.
Imprecision, it turns out, is embedded in our scales, instruments, and tuning system, so pros have to adjust each instrument by ear to make it sound its best. Electronic tuners can’t do this well because there has been no known way to calculate it. Basically, it’s an art, not a science. But now, a new algorithm published in arXiv claims to be just as good as a professional tuner.
» via Discover
Can physicists produce insights about language that have eluded linguists and English professors? That possibility was put to the test this week when a team of physicists published a paper drawing on Google’s massive collection of scanned books. They claim to have identified universal laws governing the birth, life course and death of words.
The paper marks an advance in a new field dubbed “Culturomics”: the application of data-crunching to subjects typically considered part of the humanities. Last year a group of social scientists and evolutionary theorists, plus the Google Books team, showed off the kinds of things that could be done with Google’s data, which include the contents of five-million-plus books, dating back to 1800.
Published in Science, that paper gave the best-yet estimate of the true number of words in English—a million, far more than any dictionary has recorded (the 2002 Webster’s Third New International Dictionary has 348,000). More than half of the language, the authors wrote, is “dark matter” that has evaded standard dictionaries.
The paper also tracked word usage through time (each year, for instance, 1% of the world’s English-speaking population switches from “sneaked” to “snuck”). It also showed that we seem to be putting history behind us more quickly, judging by the speed with which terms fall out of use. References to the year “1880” dropped by half in the 32 years after that date, while the half-life of “1973” was a mere decade.
» via The Wall Street Journal (Subscription may be required for some content)
Obama And ISP’s To Launch Largest Digital Spying Scheme In History (Must Read)
If you download potentially copyrighted software, videos or music, your Internet service provider (ISP) has been watching, and they’re coming for you.
Specifically, they’re coming for you on Thursday, July 12.
That’s the date when the nation’s largest ISPs will all voluntarily implement a new anti-piracy plan that will engage network operators in the largest digital spying scheme in history, and see some users’ bandwidth completely cut off until they sign an agreement saying they will not download copyrighted materials.
Word of the start date has been largely kept secret since ISPs announced their plans last June. The deal was brokered by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and coordinated by the Obama Administration. The same groups have weighed in heavily on controversial Internet policies around the world, with similar facilitation by the Obama’s Administration’s State Department.
The July 12 date was revealed by the RIAA’s CEO and top lobbyist, Cary Sherman, during a publishers’ conference on Wednesday in New York, according to technology publication CNet.
The content industries calls this scheme a “graduated response” plan, which will see
-Time Warner Cable
and others spying on users’ Internet activities and watching for potential copyright infringement. Users who are “caught” infringing on a creator’s protected work can then be interrupted with a notice that piracy is forbidden by law and carries penalties of up to $150,000 per infringement, requiring the user to click through saying they understand the consequences before bandwidth is restored, and they could still be subject to copyright infringement lawsuits.
Response: This is much worse than SOPA/PIPA and ACTA. It doesn’t necessarily censor the internet but it spys on everything you do. Your ENTIRE web history will be watched and recorded and might even assist the government. This was coordinated by Obama and his administration with the help of the MPAA and RIAA.
What is so dangerous about this is that this is not a law it is a policy adopted by several companies. That means this will not be debated in Congress and you will agree to be spied on by signing a contract with the company.
Internet censorship is becoming a reality and now the corporate elite will legally be able to spy on you. If we spread this and cause an uproar like what we did with SOPA, maybe they will back down. Either way people NEED to know about this.
The Justice Department’s warning to Apple about the company’s apparent collusion with publishers on e-book pricing couldn’t have been better timed. With the news breaking the day after CEO Tim Cook unveiled Apple’s new iPad, the idea that Apple’s breakneck speed of innovation has produced a wake of legal consequences is sure to get maximum play in the tech press. According to The Wall Street Journal’s sources — ”people familiar with the matter” seem to know everything — the DOJ has also warned five U.S. publishers about their pricing: Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan and HarperCollins.
This is not a new situation. Apple has been flirting with antitrust violations for years, and whispers of a damaging suit involving the company’s negotiations with publishers over the prices of e-books in iTunes have been circulating since last year. In December, the European Commission announced an almost identical investigation that involved the same publishers. Perhaps buoyed by complaints from Amazon, the Europeans took aim at the publishers alleging that they’d “possibly with the help of Apple, engaged in anti-competitive practices affecting the sale of e-books… in breach of EU antitrust rules.” This happened three months after a similar class action lawsuit was filed against Apple in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. Looking even further back, Apple raised suspicions within the DOJ in the spring of 2010 for anti-competitive behavior related to music sales in iTunes.
» via The Atlantic
Music: Freedom Fighters (Two Steps from Hell)
Many wonders are visible when flying over the Earth at night. A compilation of such visual spectacles was captured recently from the International Space Station (ISS) and set to rousing music.
Passing below are white clouds, orange city lights, lightning flashes in thunderstorms, and dark blue seas. On the horizon is the golden haze of Earth’s thin atmosphere, frequently decorated by dancing auroras as the video progresses. The green parts of auroras typically remain below the space station, but the station flies right through the red and purple auroral peaks.
Solar panels of the ISS are seen around the frame edges. The ominous wave of approaching brightness at the end of each sequence is just the dawn of the sunlit half of Earth, a dawn that occurs every 90 minutes.
Europe seems to be getting all the fiber love lately, as researchers at Deutsche Telekom hit transmission speeds of 512Gbps on a single fiber optic channel this week, with usable speeds up to 400Gbps. To put this context, that’s about 77 CDs of music being transferred at once. What’s even more impressive, it was accomplished under real-world conditions, sending the transmission 734km from Berlin to Hanover and back again alongside channels carrying the company’s standard 10Gbps signals. Once built out, this new technology could operate on all channels of a given fiber. For Deutsche Telekom’s 48-channel optical fibers, that means a theoretical throughput of 24.6Tbits on a cable thinner than a human hair.
» via The Verge
This nighttime panorama of Europe was photographed by one of the Expedition 30 crew members aboard the International Space Station on Jan. 25, 2012.
Scientists needed $3 billion and 13 years to sequence the three billion base pairs encoded in a single human genome—the first time. By 2011, eight years after that first project was completed, the cost of sequencing a human genome had fallen to $5,000, in a process that took just a few weeks. And in January, Jonathan Rothberg, a chemical engineer and the founder of the biotech company Ion Torrent, unveiled an approach that is faster and cheaper still. He says his machine will be able to sequence a human genome, some 3.2 gigabytes’ worth of data, in two hours for just $1,000. Now thousands, and soon enough millions, of patients will have their genetic makeup laid bare, which presents an entirely new problem: How to analyze all that information?
» via Popular Science