5/25/2011 11:06:29 AM
What’s the point of learning a second (or third, or fourth) language if you can just have your iPhone translate it on the fly? A new augmented reality app called Word Lens is capable of translating signs written in Spanish to English, or vice versa, reports Technology Review. Word Lens scans the input from your smartphone’s camera and, after decoding the Spanish, will repaint the picture in English.
According to the Technology Review, Word Lens was actually a programming tangent: It “pushes the boundaries of handheld computing, given that optical character recognition—a trick it performs in real time—was designed for the less challenging task of reading scans of paper documents.”
All of the bugs aren’t worked out yet, per Wired’s field test. “In our tests, it worked smoothly, although the words had a tendency to wiggle around a bit, switching between English and Spanish and flipping between alternate translations,” writes Charlie Sorrel at Wired. “You could get the gist of a sentence, but not read it clearly. Holding the camera very steady helped mitigate the ‘wiggling’ effect.” Ultimately, though, the magazine’s technofuturists were impressed:
Word Lens is a taste of science fiction, something like a visual version of the universal translator or the Babelfish. Only instead of being a convenient device to avoid movie subtitles, it’s a real, functioning tool.
Of course, the app doesn’t solve the problem of actually being able to speak to people from exotic locales. But until we’ve caught that Babelfish, Word Lens will inch us closer to speaking a digital Esperanto.
Sources: Technology Review(free registration required), Wired
5/23/2011 11:24:08 AM
Have you ever gobbled up a smallish bag of chips only to realize that, according to the food label on the side of the package, you’ve just consumed three servings, not the single serving you expected? Do you stop to recalculate the dreaded saturated-fat percentage? Or, wait a minute; is it the trans-fat percentage that’s going to kill you? And are thetwelve grams of protein you just ingested good or bad?
The familiar but perplexing black-and-white Nutrition Facts label is up for redesign. Good magazine and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s News21 program are sponsoring the Rethink the Food Label project. It is a contest that can be entered by anyone who has ideas that would make the label more useful to consumers. “Your design could incorporate the nutrition label’s existing break down of fats, sugars, vitamins, calorie counts and percent daily values. Or, you could re-imagine the label to include geography, food quality, food justice, carbon footprint, or lesser-known chemosensory characteristics,” the sponsors say.
Why does nutritional labeling matter? The program explains:
We all read these food labels, but we’re not always sure what they mean. Is 20 grams of sugar too much? How much is a gram of sugar anyway? How many grams of fat fit in a teaspoon? Should I care about folic acid more than riboflavin? Saturated fat more than cholesterol?
We are confused about what and how to eat and so we’re eating too much of the wrong things. In fact, we’re eating too much of everything. Two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. The obesity rate among preschoolers has doubled since 1970. Type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic. We want to make it easier to choose healthy food.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration attempts to decode the existing food label on their website, but it’s still confusing. Michelle Obama agrees, saying at last year’s Grocery Manufacturers Association conference, “We need clear, consistent, front-of-the-package labels that give people the information they’ve been asking for, in a format they understand.”
Submissions to Rethink the Food Label are accepted until July 1 and will be judged by Michael Pollan, among others. Watch the promotional video here:
Image by lyzadanger, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/16/2011 1:14:48 PM
“That’s no moon. It’s a space station.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi, A New Hope
With peak oil right around the corner, coal mines turning our lungs and mountaintops black, tar sands oil extraction exacerbating conservation efforts, and natural gas production still totally fracked, earthlings need a creative new source of alternative energy. Leave that to Shimizu, a forward-thinking Japanese construction company. The firm has a bold plan for the future of energy production: to build a ring of solar panels around the equator of earth’s moon.
No, seriously—despite what it sounds like, this isn’t a scheme lifted from a pulp sci-fi novel. Dubbing the project LUNA RING, the company imagines a robotic staff building and maintaining an array of photovoltaic panels that span the circumference of the moon. The harvested energy would then be shot back to earth using high-powered microwaves or lasers.
According to The Futurist’s profile of LUNA RING, the moon’s surface continuously receives 13,000 terawatts of solar power, or about “650 times the amount of power the entire human population would need to continue to grow economically.” What’s more, “Solar collection on the lunar surface would be 10 times more efficient than it is on Earth, where our ozone and rich atmosphere make solar collection less efficient.”
Of course, government budgets are under the knife right now. “A project of such size and scope would require the willingness of hundreds of millions of souls to re-embrace government-funded space programs,” writes The Futurist. “It would require sacrifice in the form of higher taxes, cuts in other areas, or both. At present, this seems beyond the capacity of the developed world.” Finding funding for such an astronomically bold idea would be next to impossible, but as the article points out, “we said the same thing about reaching the Moon.”
Source: The Futurist
Images courtesy of Shimizu.
5/12/2011 1:14:25 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the
MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference
in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for the best science/technology coverage, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.
American environmentalists would be wise to look to Canada’s Alternatives Journal for cogent, well-informed reporting and commentary on green issues. The official publication of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada puts topics from climate change to local food into perspective.
Writing about science for a broad audience is a challenge—one that Discoverrises to each time it puts out a fact-packed issue. The magazine delves into scientific discoveries, personalities, and debates, turning biology, chemistry, physics and other disciplines into compelling stories that illuminate as they entertain.
Engineers are responsible for some of the most exciting innovations in modern science. IEEE Spectrum, the official magazine of the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers, translates the advances in computers and robotics into a language that geeks can love and anyone can understand.
We wish more reporters would go to Johns Hopkins Public Health for story ideas and analysis instead of relying on oversimplified press releases. The biannual publication brings a global perspective to everything from malaria and AIDS research to sleep disorders and innovations in eyewear.
Only one magazine would teach readers how to make a steam pump electrostatic generator and a letterpress-printing machine in the same issue.Make magazine takes science away from the scientists and puts technology in the hands of garage innovators and do-it-yourself enthusiasts.
In a world besieged by a seemingly endless list of baffling challenges, Miller-McCuneis a smart, clear-eyed tonic. The monthly’s editors seek out cutting-edge research to demystify the day’s most pressing issues and highlight institutions and innovators that provide reason for hope.
is inexhaustible. Every two weeks it surveys groundbreaking research in a variety of disciplines to deliver in-depth, inviting stories. Want to know a lot more about archaeology? A little something about superstring theory? This is your go-to guide.
does much more than review the day’s coolest gadgets and mind-blowing scientific innovations. MIT’s magazine gets into the cultural and political implications of those innovations to help experts and casual readers better understand how new technology will change the wider world.
See our complete list of 2011 nominees.
Image by woodleywonderworks, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/3/2011 3:54:16 PM
And you thought the stacks of vacuum-packed pork chops sold at Costco were creepy. At the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, scientists are growing meat in petri dishes, reports Nicola Jones in Conservation.
Utne Reader has been following the in-vitro meat discussion for several years and was interested to read Eindhoven University’s progress. There, researchers like Mark Post harvest myosatellite cells (stem cells responsible for muscle growth and repair) from living pigs, cows, sheep, turkeys, or chickens and turn them into thin strips of animal muscle, only about 200 micrometers thick, through a series of cell division and bundling.
Unsettling as the idea of manufactured meat sounds, the field’s leaders have the best intentions. Post hopes to end the “wasteful production of farm animals for food by helping to develop life-like steaks.” Like vegetarianism and veganism, the prospect could benefit the environment, Jones writes:
Largely because of the inefficiency of growing crops to feed livestock, a vegetarian diet requires only 35 percent as much water and 40 percent as much energy as that of a meat-eater. Future “in-vitrotarians” should be able to claim similar savings.
So, how does it taste? Don’t ask Post—he hasn’t eaten the pork grown in his lab. Jones explains:
The thing that enthusiasts for fake meat talk least about is its taste, perhaps because they haven’t tried it. In the U.S., researchers have largely avoided eating anything grown in the lab for fear of violating a Food and Drug Administration regulation . . . or of being seen as publicity hounds. Researchers generally believe that, if they can get the texture right, taste will follow—particularly once flavoring is added.
As far as [Post] knows, the only person who has swallowed a strip of the pale, limp muscle tissue is a Russian TV journalist who visited the lab this year to film its work. “He just took it with tweezers out of the culture dish and stuffed it in his mouth before I could say anything,” says Post.
Image by cbertel, licensed under Creative Commons.
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