Recently you had a chance to ask acclaimed author of comics, novels, and television, Warren Ellis, about his work and sci-fi in general. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
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An anonymous reader writes Amazon today quietly unveiled a new product dubbed Amazon Echo. The $200 device appears to be a voice-activated wireless speaker that can answer your questions, offer updates on what's going in the world, and of course play music. Echo is currently available for purchase via an invite-only system. If you have Amazon Prime, however, you can get it for $100. I've put in a request for one; hopefully we'll get a hands-on look at the Echo soon. It looks useful and interesting for random searches, and for controlling devices, but one small speaker (interesting driver arrangement notwithstanding) doesn't bode well for "fill[ing] any room with immersive sound," as Amazon's promo materials claim.
gollum123 writes: Back in the day, computer science was as legitimate a career path for women as medicine, law, or science. But in 1984, the number of women majoring in computing-related subjects began to fall, and the percentage of women is now significantly lower in CS than in those other fields. NPR's Planet Money sought to answer a simple question: Why? According to the show's experts, computers were advertised as a "boy's toy." This, combined with early '80s geek culture staples like the book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, as well as movies like War Games and Weird Science, conspired to instill the perception that computers were primarily for men.
jones_supa writes Since 1960s, we have been seeing the oil company Shell logo being featured in some Lego sets, and Legos being distributed at petrol stations in 26 countries. This marketing partnership is coming to an end, after coming under sustained pressure from Greenpeace. The environmental campaign, protesting about the oil giant's plans to drill in the Arctic, came with a YouTube video that depicted pristine Arctic, built from 120 kg of Lego, being covered in oil. CEO of Lego, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, wants to leave the dispute between Greenpeace and Shell, and the toy company is getting out of the way.
MojoKid writes Over the past couple of years, drones have become popular enough to the point where a new release doesn't excite most people. But Nixie is different. It's a drone that you wear, like a bracelet. Whenever you need to let it soar, you give it a command to unwrap, power it up, and let it go. From the consumer standpoint, the most popular use for drones is to capture some amazing footage. But what if you want to be in that footage? That's where Nixie comes in. After "setting your camera free", the drone soars around you, keeping you in its frame. Nixie is powered by Intel's Edison kit, which is both small enough and affordable enough to fit inside such a small device.
Zothecula writes No one with red blood in their veins buys a sports car and hands the keys to a chauffeur, so one of the barriers to truly personal submarining has long been the need for a trained pilot, not to mention the massive logistics involved in transporting, garaging and launching the underwater craft ... until now. Pioneering underwater aviation company DeepFlight is set to show an entirely new type of personal submarine at the 2014 Monaco Yacht Show next week, launching the personal submarine era with a submersible that's reportedly so easy to pilot that it's likely to create a new niche in the tourism and rental market.
Taco Cowboy (5327) writes with news of the Chinese military's latest toy, an ICBM capable of delivering multiple warheads across the Pacific. From the article: The DF-41 is designed to have a range of 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles), according to a report by Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems, putting it among the world's longest-range missiles. ... It is "possibly capable of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles", the U.S. Defense Department said in a report in June, referring to a payload of several nuclear warheads. It also quoted a Chinese military analyst as saying: "As the U.S. continues to strengthen its missile defense system, developing third generation nuclear weapons capable of carrying multiple warheads is the trend." China's previous longest range missile was the DF-5A, which can carry a single warhead as far as 12,000 km, according to Jane's.
New submitter melarky (3767369) writes This is a fun weekend project that most nerds will appreciate. Step by step instructions and also a handy video will make the construction of this project fast and easy. I have seen lots of plans for sale (or actual guns/kits for sale), but couldn't seem to find any plans for free. I played around with a few different designs (even cut my first few on a homemade CNC machine) and finally landed on this design. I made the guide more accessible to the general public (no need for a CNC machine here), so if you've ever dreamed of ending friendships because of hundreds of rubber band welts, now's your chance! We'd like to see your home-made projects, too.
mikejuk (1801200) writes After seven days the Jibo project has over $1.1 million. What is surprising is that Jibo isn't a complex piece of hardware that will do the dishes and pick up clothes. It doesn't move around at all. It just sits and interacts with the family using a camera, microphones and a voice. It is a social robot, the speciality of the founder, MIT's, Cynthia Breazeal. The idea is that this robot will be your friend, take photos, remind you of appointments, order takeaway and tell the kids a story. If you watch the promo video then you can't help but think that this is all too polished and the real thing will fall flat on its face when delivered. If it does work then worry about the hundreds of kids needing psychiatric counselling — shades of Robbie in I, Robot. Even if it is hopelessly hyped — there is a development system and I want one. It is the early days of the home computer all over again.
Presto Vivace (882157) links to a critical look in Time Magazine at the creepy side of connected household technology. An excerpt: A modern surveillance state isn't so much being forced on us, as it is sold to us device by device, with the idea that it is for our benefit. ... ... Nest sucks up data on how warm your home is. As Mocana CEO James Isaacs explained to me in early May, a detailed footprint of your comings and goings can be inferred from this information. Nest just bought Dropcam, a company that markets itself as a security tool allowing you to put cameras in your home and view them remotely, but brings with it a raft of disquieting implications about surveillance. Automatic wants you to monitor how far you drive and do things for you like talk to your your house when you're on your way home from work and turn on lights when you pull into your garage. Tied into the new SmartThings platform, a Jawbone UP band becomes a tool for remotely monitoring someone else's activity. The SmartThings hubs and sensors themselves put any switch or door in play. Companies like AT&T want to build a digital home that monitors your security and energy use. ... ... Withings Smart Body Analyzer monitors your weight and pulse. Teddy the Guardian is a soft toy for children that spies on their vital signs. Parrot Flower Power looks at the moisture in your home under the guise of helping you grow plants. The Beam Brush checks up on your teeth-brushing technique. Presto Vivaci adds, "Enough to make the Stasi blush. What I cannot understand is how politicians fail to understand what a future Kenneth Starr is going to do with data like this."
fluxgate (2851685) writes "A notice from the FAA announced earlier this week just turned a bunch of kids' toys into drones. In the past, the FAA had made the distinction between model aircraft (allowed) and drones (prohibited without special permission) according to whether they were used for recreation (okay) or commercial purposes (verboten). Now they have further narrowed the definition of model aircraft: If you fly it through video goggles, it no longer qualifies. This move eliminates First Person View (FPV) radio control flying. I'm an editor at IEEE Spectrum with a special interest and blogged about this disturbing development as soon as I heard the news."
Not everybody at a Maker Fair (or even Faire) is there to get kickstarted or to make a billion of whatever it is they're displaying. Ned Danyliw is one of the non-kickstarter people: an electrical engineering student displaying a quadcopter development platform he hopes can bring the cost of a quadcopter prototype down to $50 or so, or about the same price as a toy quadcopter. You can follow Ned's work step by step and see all the code at his blog, Burnt Transistors. (Alternate Video Link)
nairnr sends this news from the BBC: 'The 3D rendering software behind films such as Toy Story, Monsters Inc and Harry Potter is to be given away free for non-commercial use. RenderMan, which is developed by Pixar, has faced increased competition from rival animation rendering programmes such as VRay and Arnold. Although Pixar, which is owned by Disney, produces its own films, it licenses RenderMan to rival studios. In a statement, the firm said it would release a free version of RenderMan "without any functional limitations, watermarking, or time restrictions." "Non-commercial RenderMan will be freely available for students, institutions, researchers, developers, and for personal use," it added.'
An anonymous reader writes "The greatest geek toy ever invented turns 40 today and to celebrate there's an interactive Google Doodle, and the Telegraph has a short history of the toy. 'There are only a handful of toys that last more than a generation. But the Rubik's cube, which celebrates its 40th birthday, now joins the likes of Barbie, Play-Doh, Lego and the Slinky, as one of the great survivors in the toy cupboard. What makes its success all the remarkable is that it did not start out as a toy. The Rubik's cube was invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik, a Hungarian architect, who wanted a working model to help explain three-dimensional geometry.'"
Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "How risky is it to use the words "bomb," "plague," or "gun" online? That was a question we posed, tongue in cheek, with a web toy we built last year called Hello NSA. It offers users suggested tweets that use words that drawn from a list of watchwords that analysts at the Dept. of Homeland Security are instructed to search for on social media. "Stop holding my love hostage," one of the tweets read. "My emotions are like a tornado of fundamentalist wildfire." It was silly, but it was also imagined as an absurdist response to the absurdist ways that dragnet surveillance of the public and non-public Internet jars with our ideas of freedom of speech and privacy. And yet, after reading the mounting pile of NSA PowerPoints, are all of us as comfortable as we used to be Googling for a word like "anthrax," even if we were simply looking up our favorite thrash metal band? Maybe not. According to a new study of Google search trends, searches for terms deemed to be sensitive to government or privacy concerns have dropped "significantly" in the months since Edward Snowden's revelations in July."
An anonymous reader writes "If you were a kid in the late 70's or 80's chances are you owned a Rubik's cube. BBC News takes a look at the people who never lost the passion for the puzzle toy and those just learning. 'The speed world record for a single attempt is 5.55 seconds, set by Dutchman Mats Valk last year. The world championship is determined by averaging three attempts. The current champion is 18-year-old Australian Feliks Zemdeg who averaged 8.18 seconds last year. To ensure fairness, a computer generates a randomised cube which all the competitors are given. The record for most Rubik's cubes solved in 24 hours is 4,786, set by Milán Baticz of Hungary.'"
SpankiMonki sends this news from The Guardian: "Children are arriving at nursery school able to 'swipe a screen' but lack the manipulative skills to play with building blocks, teachers have warned. They fear that children are being given tablets to use 'as a replacement for contact time with the parent' and say such habits are hindering progress at school. Addressing the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Manchester on Tuesday, Colin Kinney said excessive use of technology damages concentration and causes behavioural problems such as irritability and a lack of control."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The NYT reports that US intelligence analysts studying satellite photos of Iranian military installations say that Iran is building a mock-up of an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with the same distinctive shape and style of the Navy's Nimitz-class carriers, as well as the Nimitz's number 68 neatly painted in white near the bow. Mock aircraft can be seen on the flight deck. The mock-up, which American officials described as more like a barge than a warship, has no nuclear propulsion system and is only about two-thirds the length of a typical 1,100-foot-long Navy carrier. Intelligence officials do not believe that Iran is capable of building an actual aircraft carrier. "Based on our observations, this is not a functioning aircraft carrier; it's a large barge built to look like an aircraft carrier," says Cmdr. Jason Salata. "We're not sure what Iran hopes to gain by building this. If it is a big propaganda piece, to what end?" Navy intelligence analysts surmise that the vessel, which Fifth Fleet wags have nicknamed the Target Barge, is something that Iran could tow to sea, anchor and blow up — while filming the whole thing to make a propaganda point, if, say, the talks with the Western powers over Iran's nuclear program go south. "It is not surprising that Iranian military forces might use a variety of tactics — including military deception tactics — to strategically communicate and possibly demonstrate their resolve in the region," said an American official who has closely followed the construction of the mock-up. The story has set off chatter about how weird and dumb Iran is for building this giant toy boat but according to Marcy Wheeler if you compare Iran's barge with America's troubled F-35 program you end up with an even bigger propaganda prop. "I'm not all that sure what distinguishes the F-35 except the cost: Surely Iran hasn't spent the equivalent of a trillion dollars — which is what we'll spend on the F-35 when it's all said and done — to build its fake boat," writes Wheeler. "So which country is crazier: Iran, for building a fake boat, or the US for funding a never-ending jet program?""
SternisheFan sends this news from CTV: "The Cubestormer 3 took 18 months to build but only needed 3.253 seconds to solve [a Rubik's cube], breaking the existing record. Unveiled at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, U.K., the Cubestormer 3 is constructed from the modular children's building-block toy but uses a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone with a special ARM chip addition as its brain. It analyzes the muddled-up Rubik's Cube and powers each of the robot's four 'hands,' which spin the cube until all sides are in order. Created by ARM engineer David Gilday and Securi-Plex security systems engineer Mike Dobson, Cubestormer 3's new record shaves just over two seconds off the existing record, set by Cubestormer 2, which the pair also built."