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What will we do with all this "white space"?

Posted: 09/26/10 11:15 AM

There’s a vote coming up this week in Washington that will have a big impact on how you use the internet, what’s available to you, how much faster you’ll be able to get things online. On Thursday, the FCC is expected to open up unused parts of the broadcast spectrum, a lot of people call it “white space”. This is space that was positioned to be something of a buffer between television stations but such padding is proving less essential since the conversion to digital TV.

On today’s show, we talk to Glenn Fleishman from Wi-Fi Networking News and The Economist about how the spectrum works and what kind of new space we’re talking about. We also check in with Tim Wu from Columbia Law School about the companies that will look to use the space and what it all might mean for you and me as internet consumers.

Comments | Filed Under: policy government science

Bronado is the new Double Rainbow

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/17/10 12:53 PM

There was some heavy weather in Brooklyn yesterday. A tornado? A funnel cloud?

Regardless, these Dudes, capture all the excitement with a video camera, swear words, and much brohammer commentary. From there it was off to the Vampire Weekend concert.

Will it rise to Double Rainbow level in our cultural zeitgeist? Time will tell.

Comments | Filed Under: bronado Web Culture Entertainment science

CROWS USE TOOLS, EAT HEALTH FOOD

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/17/10 11:09 AM

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with the robots, now we gotta worry about rapidly smartifying crows. We’ve known for a while that crows are capable of using tools, but a new article in the journal Science (catchy name) says that New Caledonian crows got mad skillz, using sticks to fish for beetle larvae:

This is a very specialized task, because the crows fish for just one beetle species (the wood boring longhorn beetle) in the trunk of a single species of tree (the candlenut tree).

Why that beetle in particular? If a crow eats just three of those larvae, that’s enough food for the day.

Old Caledonian crows, meanwhile, just sit around and complain how it’s not like back in their day before everyone started using these fancy sticks, by cracky.

Next up in the animal world: rapidly evolving anti-stick technology for wood boring longhorn beetle larvae.

I’ll stop now.

After this:

Comments | Filed Under: science

Your car and your concentration are at issue in Washington

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 06:00 AM

The U.S. Department of Transportation will hold a Distracted Driving Summit next week. Tomorrow, OnStar is expected to announce new connectivity features for its service. And today, Representatives from Ford and a tech company called Nuance are in DC urging congress to be cautious in crafting new distracted driving laws. They say narrow legislation could stifle new technology that could make cars safer.

But while congress debates law, technology marches on and the car of tomorrow will be able to do things the car of today can only dream of. As connectivity becomes easier and more ubiquitous, our cars will be able to talk to each other and avoid accidents. That’s according to Raja Sengupta, a professor at UC Berkeley, with whom we speak today. We also check in with Marketplace reporter Alissa Roth who fills us in on the lack of legislation presently covering this issue.

Comments | Filed Under: transportation mobile phones law government science

White space spectrum to be made available by FCC

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/13/10 05:31 PM

It’s a complicated issue to explain but in short: when the switch to digital television happened, there were parts of the spectrum that were no longer in use. The FCC plans to make them available. What it means for you: bigger stronger wi-fi networks.

Comments | Filed Under: law government science sad time at the station

Wi-fi on steroids

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/13/10 12:02 PM

The FCC is set to approve use of unlicensed bandwidth for wireless use. Turns out there’s all this room on the spectrum and it can be used to make super powerful wi-fi networks that can cover entire university campuses. Or entire hotels.

The unused bands of spectrum were generated by the conversion of television signals from analog to digital. Because digital transmission uses a smaller slice of spectrum, more “white space” was freed up around each broadcast signal. It is those white spaces that the F.C.C. is now seeking to put to use. The new airwaves are particularly attractive because television signals are low-frequency waves, meaning they can travel farther, go more easily through walls, trees and other obstructions, and provide more reliable connections.

Testing is already under way in Wilmington, NC and Claudville, VA.

But, some people aren’t happy about this. Like Dolly Parton and the National Association of Broadcasters. They want the FCC to make special rules that would prevent TV interference and keep some spectrum reserved for wireless microphones.

Comments | Filed Under: policy science mobile

Machine translates brain waves into words.

Posted: 09/10/10 08:06 AM

The idea of a computer being able to read your thoughts and translate them into words seems like something from science fiction. Or fantasy. But it’s happening now. In Utah.

Bradley Greger is with the department of Bioengineering at the University of Utah. He and his colleagues have found a way to translate brain waves into words. They were able to perform an experiment with a volunteer who had had part of his skull removed as part of an epilepsy treatment. They affixed dozens of electrodes directly to the man’s brain and had him say simple words. Then they measured the electric pattern that accompanied those words and were able to recognize set patterns when the words were repeated.

Dr. Greger says this could be a potentially huge development for people who’ve had strokes, suffer from ALS, or are otherwise unable to speak. He says that if all goes well, it could be used on those people within a few years.

He isn’t entirely comfortable saying he’s invented a mind reading machine but at the same time he doesn’t know what else to call it.

Comments | Filed Under: science health

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