Computer

Humans wired for grammar at birth

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 13, 2011   View Article

“Blueberry!” I tell my 15-month-old son as I hand him one, hoping that he makes the connection between the piece of fruit and its name as I daydream about the glorious day when he says, “Please, Dad, can I have another blueberry?”

For now, he points at the bowl full of tasty morsels and babbles something incomprehensible. His pediatrician, family and friends all assure me that he’s on the right track. Before I know it, he’ll be rattling off the request for another blueberry and much, much more.

Cloudy skies for climate science

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: April 19, 2011   View Article

As spring storms rumble across the Great Plains in the coming weeks, government scientists will have their heads in the clouds hoping to gain a better understanding of the dynamics at play so they can improve models of the global climate.

“One of the real areas of hot debate in our field these days is what happens to the strength of storms as the climate warms,” Michael Jensen, a meteorologist with the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, told me today.

Smart phone ‘grip of death’ proved

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 1, 2011   View Article

How users of some smart phones grip their gadgets can indeed lead to dropped calls — and, at least in a lab setting, placing an Apple-style plastic bumper between the antenna and thumb failed to fix the problem, according to new research on the so-called “grip of death” and potential fixes.

The antenna problem was widely reported among users of Apple’s iPhone 4 last June, which prompted Mark Beach and colleagues at the University of Bristol’s Center for Communications Research to revisit and update data collected in 2005 using a personal digital assistant with a new round of tests on a smart phone prototype.

Leave the driving to your brain

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: February 23, 2011   View Article

The day that drivers no longer have to put their hands on the wheel and fiddle with the gas pedal, clutch, and brake is within our reach, thanks to German researchers who have developed a car that drives using brain waves.

Play a game and engineer real RNA

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 11, 2011   View Article

A new online game allows non-scientists to design molecules of RNA and then see how well the best of their virtual creations perform in a real-life lab.

The game, called EteRNA, breaks down a barrier that has long kept the virtual reality of video games separate from the real world and in the process may help scientists build ever more sophisticated RNA machines, according to the game’s creators.

How tweets reveal where you’re from

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 7, 2011   View Article

On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, but on Twitter, your tweets likely reveal where you are. Computer scientists report that the microblogging service reflects regional dialects and slang.

The physics behind the movie magic

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: December 23, 2010   View Article

Remember the Na’vi – the blue-stripped humanoid species with pointy ears and a powerful bond with nature in last year’s biggest sci-fi epic, “Avatar”? They were created in a physics lab.

In fact, the entire movie “stands out for the amount of physics that was involved,” Robert Bridson, a computer scientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, told me in an e-mail. “A lot of the environments, and of course the characters, were completely computer-generated.”

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach