Archive for October, 2010


Faith V/S SCIENCE


Faith v/s Science

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For the founders of a fledgling athletic-shoe company, there is only one thing better for business than having an N.B.A star endorse your new shoes: have the league say the shoes will not be allowed on its courts at all.

Bouncy Shoes

That is what has happened to Athletic Propulsion Labs, maker of a $300 shoe that the company says allows basketball players to instantly jump higher, thanks to a springlike device hidden near the front of the shoe.

“In terms of marketing, this is probably the greatest thing that could have happened to our company, because it basically blew us up overnight,” said Adam Goldston, one of the company’s 23-year-old twin co-founders.

“And it validates the claim,” added his brother, Ryan.

Just like that, Athletic Propulsion Labs had the answer it wanted. On Tuesday morning, it sent out a news release titled, “NBA Bans Basketball Shoes by Athletic Propulsion Labs Based on League Rule against ‘Undue Competitive Advantage’ That Increases a Player’s Vertical Leap.”

Within hours, word of the N.B.A.’s “ban” of the shoes spread across countless media outlets online, like Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and ESPN. The Associated Press wrote a short article. The Los Angeles-based company sold as many shoes in one day as it did in the previous month, the Goldstons said (without revealing numbers). The company’s Web site, AthleticPropulsionLabs.com, crashed from the demand.

 

Now the site’s home page features the shoes, called Concept 1, under a large red stamp reading “Banned by the NBA.” Presumably, a much larger market than the 450-player N.B.A. — the millions of others who play basketball — will be intrigued.

It was an extraordinary case study in introducing a product.

My Take

Now thats what you call blessing in disguise++


Wayne Rooney(England and Manchester United)

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is willing to make Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney the highest paid player at Stamford Bridge in an effort to beat their Premier League rivals Manchester City in the race for the 24-year-old. Various Chelsea stars have publicly courted the Old Trafford talisman most notably John Terry, Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka, while Sir Alex Ferguson plans to talk with David Gill at 10am this morning about the Rooney saga.(UK time of course)(Latest William Hill Odds on Rooney’s next club if he leaves: Man City 13/8, Chelsea 14/8, Real Madrid 9/2, Barcelona 6/1, Inter Milan 14/1, AC Milan 16/1, Arsenal 40/1, Liverpool 66/1, Bayern Munich 66/1, Everton 100/1)

In other latest stories…
Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson fears Manchester United could move for Fernando Torres if Wayne Rooney successfully engineers his move away from Old Trafford. The former Fulham coach is not naive enough to think Torres is untouchable by potential suitors but he remains hopeful the prolific Spaniard, who has looked out of sorts this season, will remain at Anfield.

Also…
Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are all battling for the latest Sporting Lisbon prodigy to be dubbed ‘the next Ronaldo’, Bruma. The 15-year-old can sign professional terms on his 16th birthday on Sunday, and as a result the aforementioned Premier League trio are trying to entice him to England prior to committing to Lisbon, who intend to place a £17.6 million release clause in his contract.

My take

I, being a hardcore MUFC fan, want Rooney, Torres and Bruno to appear in the MUFC squad, that would be the best thing to happen, eh?;-)…


Oftkinetic Optrima 3d camera

The days of rifling through couch cushions for a television remote could be coming to an end, as 3-D gesture-recognition technology finds its way into set top boxes following a deal between Intel and Softkinetic-Optrima.

Like a hyperevolved descendant of The Clapper, the devices will let television viewers navigate menus and control volume by moving their arms in a predefined patterns.

Gesture recognition technology, previously somewhat arcane, gathered momentum last year when Microsoft demoed its Project Natal to enormous acclaim. Natal applies similar technology to hard-core gaming on the Xbox, letting users play fighting games by actually punching and kicking in the air, using technology from Microsoft’s acquisition of Israel-based gesture-recognition company 3DV.

In addition to a partnership with EA Sports for games, Softkinetic Optrima plans to apply gesture recognition to the lean-back television experience, allowing people to turn up the volume by moving their hand in a circle, switch the channel by swiping to the right, pause by extending their hands in a “stop” gesture, and so on.

Softkinetic-Optrima’s gesture-recognition technology, which links up with cameras with radarlike properties, will be bundled in a box running on top of Intel’s powerful Atom Processor CE4100.

That chip will appear in Orange’s cable services in Africa, Europe and the Middle East by the end of this year or early next year, and likely in the United States as cable and satellite providers incorporate Intel’s chip, which also supports 3-D television. The jury is still out on 3-D TV, but regardless of whether people are willing to don 3-D glasses, Softkinetic Optrima’s gesture-recognition technique might come in handy (so to speak) because it works with regular broadcasts and menus.

How It Works

The 3-D camera Softkinetic-Optrima uses for these Intel-inside boxes (prototype pictured above) produces a depth map of the distance of each pixel from the camera. These work more like radar than like a traditional two-lens stereoscopic camera(like the one used by Earthmine to make more detailed amps than Google’s). That’s because stereo cameras need visible light to make a 3-D image, and people often watch television or play videogames in relative darkness. Making matters worse, a purely optical solution can’t distinguish between a white shirt and the white wall behind it.

SoftKinetic-Optrima's software analyzes the output from the radarlike camera, assigns depth to each pixel, and creates a body model for controller-free, gesture-based interaction.
SoftKinetic-Optrima’s software analyzes the output from the radarlike camera, assigns depth to each pixel, and creates a body model for controller-free, gesture-based interaction images courtesy SoftKinetic-Optrima.

 

Because you shouldn’t have to turn on the light or change shirts just to switch the channel on your television, the current generation of 3-D gesture-recognition cameras shine their own invisible, infrared light against their subjects and judge the distance of each point based either on the time it takes to return (the “time of flight” method”) or deformations in a projected grid. Until recently, they were too expensive to be included in consumer devices, so SoftKinetic-Optrima focused on industrial uses, prior to its acquisition of Optrima, which makes the cameras. As tends to happen with technology, the price of gesture-recognition cameras has dropped significantly over time, to the point where set-top box manufacturers can include them in standard cable or satellite boxes.

The company’s software analyzes 3-D camera data at 50 frames per second, recognizing gestures and movements or recreating the bodies of one or more people in front of the camera on the television screen, like a lower-resolution version of the cameras-and-dots technique used to capture the movements of athletes for sports videogames. In the case of 3-D programming, it can place your avatar within the scene based on the size of the room, where you’re standing in it, your height, and so on, and allow you to grab objects that appear behind other objects.

My take on all this…

  • Are we ready to control televisions with movements?
  • And what about the privacy issues associated with pointing a connected camera at your living room, 24 hours a day?

According to Intel, we’ll need this technology in part to deal with the fire hose of content streaming through our television sets, which will grow stronger as internet delivered television becomes commonplace.

“By the year 2015, it’s expected there will be billions of consumer devices delivering billions of hours of video content, music, video games and web browsing, so naturally we’ll need much more sophisticated ways to organize and deliver content in interactive and intuitive ways, so they suggest this has to be one of them.


DARK MATTER

To weigh the universe, scientists use two kinds of cosmic scales: one to measure all the regular matter out there, and another to deduce how much invisible dark matter remains hidden underneath. These calculations have been taken further than ever before by a new study that tallied both types of mass in smaller and more distant groups of galaxies than any previous projects. The project found that these faraway galactic clusters have roughly the same proportion of dark matter to regular matter as the closer galaxy groups do. The findings could help astronomers understand more about dark matter, as well as its even stranger sibling – dark energy.

Invisible universe

Dark matter is a form of stuff that does not interact with light, so cannot be seen, but makes its presence felt by exerting a gravitational pull on normal matter.

Astronomers measure how much dark matter lies in galaxies by a fluke of physics called gravitational lensing. This phenomenon, predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, causes light to curve as it flies through space-time that has been dented by the gravity of large bodies of mass.

For example, groups of massive galaxies will gravitationally warp the space-time around them, forcing light to bend as it passes through, and causing them to look distorted when their light reaches our telescopes. Scientists can tell how much total mass there is by how much of this distortion occurs.

Next, researchers calculate how much normal matter is in a cluster of galaxies by looking at its X-ray light, since the light must be coming from only the regular stars and gas that make up the cluster.

Comparing these two calculations — the total matter to just the regular matter — gives a ratio astronomers call the mass-luminosity relation. So far, the mass-luminosity relation has been measured well for nearby, large galaxy clusters, but there has not been good enough X-ray data to probe farther or smaller, dimmer clusters of galaxies.

“We can map out the big cities, but no one’s been able to map out the villages yet,” said Alexie Leauthaud of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., leader of the new study.

New ranges

Astronomers used observations from the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite and from NASA’s Chandra satellite, as well as data from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS). These ultra-high resolution photos allowed the scientists to extend the mass-luminosity relation further than ever before.

With such dim objects, the gravitational lensing wasn’t immediately apparent. So researchers used a statistical analysis to measure the orientation and shape of the galaxies to find small distortions due to so-called weak lensing.

They found that the same general ratio of dark matter to normal matter prevailed in these distant, small clusters as for nearby, larger clusters.

“We didn’t know what to expect going down to lower masses or [farther distances], and we find this nice simple relationship,” Leauthaud told SPACE.com. “Now the aim is to find out why we find this nice, simple relationship.”

Dark energy enigma

The finding may help shed light on an even more bizarre aspect of the universe – dark energy. Dark energy is the name given to whatever mysterious force is causing the universe to accelerate as it expands.

“We want to try to understand the properties of dark energy,” Leauthaud said. “One way to measure properties of dark energy is to measure the number of structures that have formed for a given amount of dark matter.”

Dark energy basically works against gravity in a tug-of-war. While gravity constantly pulls mass inward, encouraging things to clump together and condense into smaller space, dark energy does the opposite. This force somehow pulls everything apart, causing everything in the universe to move away from everything else at ever-increasing speeds.

When mass clumps together enough to form galaxies, it means that gravity has won on those scales, helping things to stick together despite the pull of dark energy. So the more astronomers can measure when and how structures formed in the universe, the better they can understand just how far dark energy’s pull reaches.

What is dark matter and dark energy?

Google definitions…

NASA definitions…