NASA X-37B Space Plane MIA. High Flying Spy In The Sky, Next Generation Research Tool or Weapons Platform?…

The X-37B, a Space Plane with many masters, a true multi-purpose platform jointly developed by NASA, Boeing, DARPA, the US Air Force and more widely the US Defense Department. Starting life as the Space Shuttle utility belt the X-37B has evolved to be one of the most flexible and economical space platforms in use today.

Dressed in its black and white tux – heat shield – this James Bond wanna-be has once again disappeared from view, in easy to spot low Earth orbit – 300km -. Off on another top secret mission, what tales will he tell his masters upon his return? Orbital tracking records indicate the X-37B has been off station since the 12th of January, 2012. This is the third such disappearance of an X-37B since orbital testing began in 2010.

The tale of the X-37 Program is filled with mystery and intrigue, pleasant surprises from unexpected potential. Starting life as a blue collar maintenance droid, refueling and repairing satellites, the X-37B has by far exceeded those original aspirations. Partly out of necessity, with the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program leaving a large gap in NASA’s launch capabilities, and partly due to the X-37Bs brilliant design it has risen to every challenge. It is now a true multi-mission autonomous space plane. A little mini space shuttle that just gets the job done. What is the X-37B? A high flying spy in the sky, next generation research tool, weapons platform or all of the above!?

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AMD’s New Fusion APU, They Call Me Trinity…

The CES show in Las Vegas was the scene for the latest spaghetti western showdown between AMD and Intel, proprietors of PC processors. AMD was showing off its soon to be released – Q1 2012 – Trinity APU working in an Ultra-Thin laptop. AMD’s take on the Ultrabook seems to have been the surprise – in the box – this show.

At the same time Intel is up to hilarious shenanigans. Having a moment, like the scene from your favorite spaghetti western. Something’s gnawing on Intel’s conscience. Had they rushed out the demo, crossing the desert with something to hide. The trickery was exposed with the appearance of VLC’s UI, it wasn’t live but a clip. The laughter grew once more as the demo continued with no-one at the controls.

Intel’s Ultrabook specification is the yard stick AMD is using for these new Trinity laptops. Intel has set tough criteria with the spec’s calling for a combination of desktop level power while still allowing 8 hours battery life. To achieve this Intel defined the the 17W envelope. This is the most power the current generation battery can provide for 8 hours of go time. Trying to squeeze all this into a super-slim laptop is no easy task, something had to give. In Intel’s case graphics power, try to find an Ultrabook that can play the latest Call Of Duty, it isn’t going to happen.

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IBM, Expanding Humanities Boundaries And The Atomic Limits of Magnetic Memory…

Life’s smallest boundaries. As incredible as the constantly shrinking world of our electronic gadgets may seem to be we are fast approaching the next major boundary, the atomic boundary. Data storage, just as with all other technology is approaching this hard wall. As Clint Eastwood once said ‘A man has to know his limitations’, especially if you wish to invent ways around these same limitations.

A team of IBM scientists led by Andreas Heinrich – IBM Research Almaden, California – are preparing for this next barrier. Their work has led to the invention of a memory storage technology that may be able to use as little as a dozen iron atoms to store information. Not quite at the next sub-atomic level but instead a step closer, maybe the final step before we push past this next limitation.

“The chip industry will continue its pursuit of incremental scaling in semiconductor technology but, as components continue to shrink, the march continues to the inevitable end point: the atom. We’re taking the opposite approach and starting with the smallest unit — single atoms — to build computing devices one atom at a time.” said Andreas Heinrich, the lead investigator into atomic storage at IBM Research Almaden, in California.
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Kinect Fusion. Real Time 3D Modelling For The Masses, Animators Rejoice…

Since the earliest days of computer generated graphics – CGI, Tron and Max Headroom for example – artists have tried their hand at 3D animation. Applications such as Light wave and 3D Max have been available for over two decades now. Possibly one of the most difficult aspect of 3D animation is building the 3D models to use in your animations, especially when photo realistic animations are your aim. This is about to change with the creation of the KinectFusion, a combination of hardware and software that allows any artist with a reasonably powerful video card and Kinect for Windows to generate true to life 3D models of any objects in the immediate environment, all in real time.

Fusion is actually capturing far more than a single object, it will create a model of the entire scene in the surrounding environment. Moving the Kinect around the scene, capturing many angles, the Fusion system will use the information from every angle combining the data into a single model. The more angles you move the Kinect through the more detail it will collect of the scene. Currently the Fusion system is limited to room sized environments.

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HP’s New Super Villain, The Spectre…

CES in Las Vegas is in full swing, the Technorati are filling the digital wireless airwaves with stories of the latest gadgets and must have consumer electronics. HP has generating their fair share of buzz with the announcement of one of the sleekest 14″ laptops on the market, the HP Envy 14 Spectre. Aimed squarely at the MacBook Pro market HP has built a modern classic in glass and aluminium..

While the name may conjure up images of a villainous super organisation of James Bond ilk – SPECTRE SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion – HP’s Spectre is in fact the latest super stylised Ultrabook laptop.

HP have covered this latest Ultrabook in glass, the Emperor has new cloths on and they’re transparent. HP’s Spectre’s coverings are no ordinary glass though, toughened and scratch resistant this is as tough as it is good looking.

At 20mm thick and a tad under 1.8kg’s the Spectre is in the middle of the laptop size and weight game, with the specifications of much larger laptops shoe horned into the sleek chassis. The glass treatment continues with the touch pad surface of the Spectre. The HP Imagepad which HP describes as ‘a HD image sensor enabling highly precise multi-touch gesture control’.

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Microsoft Metro, Watching Elephants Learn To Dance…

Microsoft has over decades built a reputation as the most famous corporate Dinosaurs. With legendary stories of inflexibility and decision by technical committee, it was a well-deserved reputation. Five years ago behind closed doors a single decision was made that would rock their world, like an evolution altering asteroid. A decision that somehow slipped under the media’s radar. A decision that has been slowly changing Microsoft from the inside.

Fast forward to today and the time has come to pay the reaper. Microsoft has a new design team and philosophy, their mobile phone operating system is winning design awards and with its brand new partner Nokia they need 2012 to be the year that the changes take hold.

The background for this particular tale begins way back in 2007 with the release of the iPhone. Apple single-handedly changed the landscape and the rules, all in one foul sweep. The Apple way quickly came to dominate the small touch screen world. Steve Jobs knew that people needed to be able to work naturally with their devices, his premise being that the machines should work with us, we shouldn’t’ have to change the way we work just to use a phone and he was right and even Microsoft realized it.

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Microsoft’s Curtain Call Keynote at CES gets the Pogo Treatment…

The end of an Era. Microsoft has drawn the curtain on an industry institution, The Microsoft Keynote at CES. For the past 15 years they have had a grip on the podium that kicks off America’s largest consumer and electronics show. This is the show that every Technoid worth his weight in silicon attends. Like Mecca it is every noids duty to make the journey at least once in their life time.

With Steve Ballmer and Ryan Seacrest taking center stage for Microsoft’s final keynote address to the CES the attending Technorati seemed to have given the final show a collective Meh. Still Ballmer did his best to emulate a living human being with an intact sense of humor.

In honor of this auspicious occasion Australian techno – doff doff – remix masters Pogo have pulled together a salute to the partnership. It’s funny, it’s moving and it will get you tapping your toes. Sourced from the highlights of 15 years of keynote events presented in 120 seconds Pogo have packed in the memorable moments.

With enough source material to give the best reality TV show an entertaining run for its money Pogo selected from 11 Bill Gates speeches – blue screen of death included -, 4 speeches from pre-eminent monkey man Steve Ballmer, 8 celebrity guests – including the Rock – and far too many interview sweaters to count.

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Japan’s F-Bomb Anti-Virus Virus…

The next generation battlefield is quickly evolving, cyber warfare is that new battleground and Japan is building its defenses. Hacking of government servers is no longer the domain of the lone wolf hacker, instead these are the acts of the governments of the world. The cyber arms race is well underway and those who are unprepared will be left in the dark.

The Japanese government is well aware of this new battle field, and is making preparations. Fujitsu has been put to work developing the cyber defense weapon on behalf of the Japanese Defense Ministry. The development of the Fujitsu virus – F-Virus -began in 2008 with the aim of being able to halt and trace any malicious software that may be attacking Japanese government servers. The F-Virus has so far been tested in a limited offline network, there are legal challenges to overcome before it can be let loose on the world. With an estimated cost of $2.3 million the F-Virus is possibly cheapest weapons development program in history.

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Gorilla Glass 2: Welcome To The Jungle…

Gorilla Glass, protecting our favourite gadgets this Superman tough glass is the unsung hero of the gadget world and is about to receive an upgrade. Producing by Corning the new generation of Gorilla Glass will be demonstrated at the upcoming CES show in Las Vegas next week. With hammers at the ready Corning will be demonstrating the almost indestructible nature of the Gorilla. Corning takes great pride in destroying its Gorilla Glass and posting the videos, not an easy task if the demonstrations is anything to go by. The testing that Corning puts Gorilla Glass through confirms the glass is tough, flexible and scratch resistant, with some saying it’s as tough as steel while still being crystal clear.

Corning Gorilla Glass has been a tremendous success for Corning, enjoying excellent market acceptance across mobile device industries. Handset and tablet device manufacturers are clearly driving toward higher functionality from thinner designs. Corning’s latest innovation in Gorilla Glass technology is very well positioned to meet these challenges and enable broader touch technology penetration,” said James R. Steiner, senior vice president and general manager, Corning Specialty Materials. Product details will be included in an announcement planned for Monday, January 9, 2012.

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Nature Blows, Rattles and Rolls. The Typhoon and Earth Quake Connection…

Nature is a harsh mistress. The more we study the natural world the more we come to understand how the various natural system are inter-connected. Recently scientists from Florida International University have established a connection between large Typhoons and earthquakes. While earthquakes are a complex event with many causes this is one more piece of the puzzle that will help us understand the world we live in.

The most destructive earthquakes are the result of the Earth’s crust being made of a number of separate plates – tectonic plates – that just won’t stand still. As the plates are made of rock and earth they are rough causing friction as they grind together. This friction causes the plates to lock at the edges while the rest of the plate behind continue to move forward, building up pressure where the plates meet – convergent plate boundaries -. When this pressure is released earthquakes are the result. The amount of energy that is released during an earthquake is astronomical. The total energy released by Japans recent earthquake – total energy or seismic moment – equates to 600 million times the energy released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. All of that energy had built in the crust and was released in just a few minutes of shaking.

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