2014年4月28日 星期一


Physicist demonstrates dictionary definition was dodgy
The Oxford English Dictionary corrected the error and removed the reference to atmospheric pressure after Dr Hughes pointed it out. However, he said ...

On These Dairy Farms, Cows Decide When to Be Milked 擠奶機械人

On These Dairy Farms, Cows Decide When to Be Milked

EASTON, N.Y. — Something strange is happening at farms in upstate New York. The cows are milking themselves.
Desperate for reliable labor and buoyed by soaring prices, dairy operations across the state are charging into a brave new world of udder care: robotic milkers, which feed and milk cow after cow without ever touching one with a human hand.
  • 查看大图 Tom Borden, owner of O. A. Borden, said machines like the Astronaut A4 robotic milking system gave him more time to care for the cattle.
    Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
    Tom Borden, owner of O. A. Borden, said machines like the Astronaut A4 robotic milking system gave him more time to care for the cattle.
  • 查看大图 “I’d rather be a cow manager,” Mr. Borden said, “than a people manager.”
    Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
    “I’d rather be a cow manager,” Mr. Borden said, “than a people manager.”

Scores of the machines have popped up across New York’s dairy belt and in other states in recent years, changing age-old patterns of daily farm life and reinvigorating the allure of agriculture for a younger, tech-savvy — and manure-averse — generation.
“We’re used to computers and stuff, and it’s more in line with that,” said Mike Borden, 29, a seventh-generation dairyman, whose farm upgraded to robots, as others did, when disco-era milking parlors — the big, mechanized turntables that farmers use to milk many cows at once — started showing their age.
“And,” Mr. Borden added, “it’s a lot more fun than doing manual labor.”
The view is improved as well. “Most milking parlors, you see, you really only see the back end of the cow,” Mr. Borden’s father, Tom, said. “I don’t see that as building up much of a relationship.”
The cows seem to like it, too.
Robots allow the cows to set their own hours, lining up for automated milking five or six times a day — turning the predawn and late-afternoon sessions around which dairy farmers long built their lives into a thing of the past.
With transponders around their necks, the cows get individualized service. Lasers scan and map their underbellies, and a computer charts each animal’s “milking speed,” a critical factor in a 24-hour-a-day operation.
The robots also monitor the amount and quality of milk produced, the frequency of visits to the machine, how much each cow has eaten, and even the number of steps each cow has taken per day, which can indicate when she is in heat.
“The animals just walk through,” said Jay Skellie, a dairyman from Salem, N.Y., after watching a demonstration. “I think we’ve got to look real hard at robots.”
Many of those running small farms said the choice of a computerized milker came down to a bigger question: whether to upgrade or just give up.
“Either we were going to get out, we were going to get bigger, or we were going to try something different,” said the elder Mr. Borden, 59, whose family has been working a patch of ground about 30 miles northeast of Albany since 1837. “And this was something a little different.”
The Bordens and other farmers say a major force is cutting labor costs — health insurance, room and board, overtime, and workers’ compensation insurance — particularly when immigration reform is stalled in Washington and dependable help is hard to procure.
The machines also never complain about getting up early, working late or being kicked.
“It’s tough to find people to do it well and show up on time,” said Tim Kurtz, who installed four robotic milkers last year at his farm in Berks County, Pa. “And you don’t have to worry about that with a robot.”
The Bordens say the machines allow them to do more of what they love: caring for animals.
“I’d rather be a cow manager,” Tom Borden said, “than a people manager.”
The machines are not inexpensive, costing up to $250,000 (not including barn improvements) for a unit that includes a mechanical arm, teat-cleaning equipment, computerized displays, a milking apparatus and sensors to detect the position of the teats. Pioneered in Europe in the 1990s, they have only recently taken hold in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New York, which is a leader in the production of Greek yogurt and the third-largest milk producer in the country.
Kathy Barrett, a senior extension associate at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, credited a recent surge in milk prices with motivating dairy owners to seek new ways to improve their farms — and farm life.
“It’s really the flexibility of not stopping doing hay because at 3 o’clock you have to go milk,” Ms. Barrett said.
Ms. Barrett said about 30 farms in New York had installed more than 100 robotic milkers. Two European manufacturers, Lely and DeLaval, said they had installed hundreds more across the country. California, the nation’s leading dairy producer, has been a curious holdout, in part because there were problems at some farms that adopted the technology in its early years.
The president of Western United Dairymen, Tom Barcellos, who milks some 1,300 cattle at his operation in Tulare County, Calif., said he was intrigued by the robots but worried that they would be too slow to keep up with the needs of a large herd.
“They just don’t milk enough cows to be economical,” Mr. Barcellos said. “You might milk 40 cows an hour. We can do 80.”
But farmers said output generally increased with robots because most cows like being milked more often. (To allow lactation, cows are kept in a near-constant state of impregnation.)
Animal welfare advocates give the new machines a guarded thumbs-up. “Not being milked hurts,” said Paul Shapiro, a vice president of the Humane Society of the United States. He said letting cows move more freely was also an improvement on older methods that involved tying cows to stanchions.
The machines have mellowed both the cows and much of the routine on the Bordens’ farm — though the humans have received the occasional distress call from their mechanized milkers.
“It’s a machine, so it breaks down,” Mike Borden said. “But people get sick, too.”
All of which has the Bordens considering more robots, and dreaming of the perquisites that enhanced automation could bring.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to sleep in real late,” Tom Borden said. “But if we could roll it back another hour, that would be great.”


Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

  • 檢視大圖
    Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
  • 檢視大圖 博登說:「比起當人的經理,我更願意當奶牛的經理。」
    Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
今年29歲的麥克·博登(Mike Borden)是第七代奶場主。「我們熟悉電腦之類的東西,擠奶機械人跟那些更像是一脈相承的。」當迪斯科年代的擠奶間開始顯露出過時的跡象時,他家的奶 場也和別家一樣,升級採用了擠奶機械人。擠奶間是大型的機械化旋轉平台,能讓奶農同時給許多奶牛擠奶。
來自紐約州塞勒姆的奶場主傑伊·斯凱利(Jay Skellie)看完示範後表示,「只需要讓牛走一圈就行了。我覺得我們得好好研究一下機械人。」
蒂姆·庫爾茨(Tim Kurtz)去年在賓夕法尼亞州伯克縣的自家農場里,安裝了四台擠奶機械人。他說,「很難找到活幹得好又準時開工的人。機械人的話,就不必擔心這些了。」
擠奶機械人花費不菲,一台的價格高達25萬美元(約合 160萬元人民幣),還不包含牛欄改造的費用。每台機械人包含一條機械臂、乳頭清潔設備、幾塊電子顯示屏、一套擠奶器具,以及數個探測乳頭位置的感應器。 這種機器首先於上世紀90年代在歐洲試水,最近才在賓夕法尼亞、威斯康星和紐約三州流行開來。紐約州的希臘酸奶產量高居全美榜首,牛奶產量則位居第三
康奈爾大學(Cornell University)農業與生命科學院的高級推廣教育助理凱茜·巴雷特(Kathy Barrett)認為,近期的奶製品價格飆升激勵奶場主尋求新的途徑來改進自己的農場——並改善務農的生活。
西部乳業聯合會(Western United Dairymen)會長湯姆·巴塞洛斯(Tom Barcellos)在加州圖萊里縣的自家農場養了1300頭牛。他表示對機械人很好奇,但擔心它們動作太慢,不能適應大群奶牛的需求。
動物維權人士謹慎地對這種新機器表示歡迎。美國人道協會 (Humane Society of the United States)副會長保羅·夏皮羅(Paul Shapiro)說,「奶不擠出來會很疼。」他還表示,讓奶牛更加自由地走動也是一種進步,因為舊方法需要將奶牛綁到柱子上。

2014年4月27日 星期日

IBM新型太陽能發電裝置 效率提升2000倍

2013-04-23 | 編輯:Eyrejane 22503 瀏覽人次

IBM新型太陽能發電裝置 效率提升2000倍

IBM 設想用數百個光伏晶片組成一個傘狀陣列,通過改變光伏晶片的朝向來把太陽能集中起來。為了防止溫度過高燒毀晶片,其內部充斥著密集的水管降溫,冷卻後的水作為副產品可為居民提供廉價的熱水,可謂一舉兩得。
每個光伏晶片在白天可提供 200~250W的電能,一個完整的陣列包含有數百個光伏晶片,就能提供穩定的 25KW電能。這種新型的發電設備每平方米造價約為250美元,只有傳統太陽能電池的三分之一,而電力成本僅為每千瓦時(每度)0.1美元,與火力發電成 本不相上下,相信這種太陽能發電技術很快便可實用化。

2014年4月25日 星期五


Rose Lei · Hong Kong




鼻咽癌在醫學上有個俗稱叫做「廣東瘤」(Canton tumor)。鼻咽癌高發地區確實是粵語地區,但是,作者把這兩個「相關性」的事物當做「因果性」,從而收集病例從統計學的角度證明「說粵語容易得鼻咽癌」,不管「樣本」如何多,統計數據如何有力,但始終是十足的「無基之塔,無根之木」了。

2014年4月19日 星期六


地理新聞 » 月亮上的人影
我們的大腦總會自動把任意的線條和形狀看成有意義的影像,就連看月亮時也一樣。 撰文:Nadia Drake, N…

你可能會看到月亮上有個人、有隻兔子,或者有一雙手,端看你是在哪裡觀察的。 PHOTOGRAPH BY VALERY HACHE, AFP/GETTY
撰文:Nadia Drake, National Geographic
「看月亮的時候,首先看到的大概都是亮部與暗部,而有些區域比其他地方來得灰暗,」美國南卡羅來納州查爾斯頓學院的行星地質學家Cassandra Runyon說。「比較亮的地方是山區,通常稱為高地。比較暗的區域是火山地形,稱為mare(月海),即拉丁文中的『海』。」
「大腦是一個具有預言性的器官,」哈佛大學神經科學家Nouchine Hadjikhani說。「我們一直都會嘗試從眾說紛紜的內容中找出道理,也會用想像來填補未知。」

西北大學認知神經科學家Joel voss正在研究大腦如何幫助我們為其實毫無規則的各種形狀與線條歸納出意義。在研究中,他讓受試者看電腦上的彎曲線條,它們都是取自三角形或圓圈的無意義形狀。然後他問受試者那些形狀是否像哪個有意義的東西。

我們的大腦為何會這樣?在《魔鬼盤據的世界》(The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark)一書中,天文學家卡爾.薩根(Carl Sagan)做出了一項可能的解釋。也許辨識出人臉,即便形狀很模糊,都是有益於演化的。「100萬年前,嬰兒若無法分辨那些較少對他們笑的臉孔,就比較不易贏得父母的喜愛,也比較不容易成功,」他寫道。

Voss則提出另一個解釋。把人類大腦想成一台有彈性、全功能的機器,無論在什麼環境都必須順利運轉。Voss說,為了在陌生的地方成功運作,大腦 必須能迅速處理陌生的視覺刺激,例如新的形狀與線條,然後歸納出什麼東西值得關注。看到人臉和圖像只是大腦將已儲存的資訊與新刺激連結起來所產生的後果。
「夜空是最能說故事的全景圖之一,」史丹福大學科學歷史學家Adrienne Mayor說;她專門研究古代文化如何去詮釋觀察結果,以及從自然現象中推衍出意義。

2014年4月18日 星期五

Users’ Stark Reminder: As Web Grows, It Grows Less Secure

Users’ Stark Reminder: As Web Grows, It Grows Less Secure

April 11, 2014
 "Heartbleed is further evidence that we don’t have our house in order when it comes to Internet security,” said Edward Felten of Princeton.
Eva Russo/Momenta Creative
It was the computer programming equivalent of misspelling Mississippi — an error at once careless, inevitable and hard for most human eyes to spot.
The bug known as Heartbleed, a flaw widely replicated in the main system for encrypting consumers’ online data, is a stark reminder that the Internet is still in its youth, and vulnerable to all sorts of unseen dangers, including simple human error. Today’s digital systems are complex and penetrate every corner of our lives. It is impossible to lock them down.
“Heartbleed is further evidence that we don’t have our house in order when it comes to Internet security,” said Edward Felten, a computer security expert at Princeton University.
In some ways, the tech world today resembles the chaotic, unruly days of other essential industries, including the meatpacking industry depicted in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and the automobile business portrayed in Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed.” While those industries were made safe by a combination of regulation and industrywide cooperation, progress took time, and it came through trial and error.
But it’s not clear that the same solutions will work with technology. We have decided, as a society, to rush headlong into a world ruled by digital devices, continually weighing convenience versus safety. We’re constantly storing more of our important information on more new kinds of hardware run by more complicated software. All of it is increasingly interdependent, which makes the whole ecosystem more vulnerable.
Even though security is an increasing area of concern for large technology companies, it is often considered an afterthought rather than an essential part of building all the goodies we use. Experts say that while instituting a more secure tech culture is possible, it will require a long-term investment in educating software engineers and improving core technologies.
“There’s a level of care in designing systems and sweating the details of their operations that’s missing in the culture of software development,” Mr. Felten said. “We don’t have the kind of safety culture that is common in fields such as aviation.”
That’s because enhanced safety will surely cost consumers in speed, novelty and convenience.
Matthew Green, a professor at Johns Hopkins, said strict standards would require programmers to spend significantly more time testing their work.
Matthew Green, a professor at Johns Hopkins, said strict standards would require programmers to spend significantly more time testing their work.
Cara Walen
“We have standards for coding in mission-critical systems like the airline industry, but I’m not sure we would want those standards applied everywhere,” said Matthew Green, a cryptographer and research professor at Johns Hopkins University. Such strict standards require programmers to spend significantly more time testing their work — and neither technology companies nor consumers can stomach such delays. “I don’t think we want to wait 20 years for the next Google and Facebook,” Mr. Green said.
Like other similar bugs found recently — including one in Apple’s mobile and desktopdevices — the Heartbleed flaw had gone unnoticed for years. As far as researchers can tell, the problem was introduced by a programmer making a routine coding change onNew Year’s Eve in 2011. OpenSSL, the system in which the error was found, is an open-source program, which means that its code resides online and can be amended by anyone. In theory, such code is supposed to be more secure from bugs than a closed system; with enough programmers checking the code, the flaw should have been quickly detected.
But apparently that did not happen. “There just weren’t enough eyeballs on this — and that’s very bad,” Mr. Green said.
One problem might be basic economics. Many huge Internet companies depend on free technologies like OpenSSL to run their systems, but they don’t always return resources to the small teams that create the code. “If we could get $500,000 kicked back to OpenSSL and teams like it, maybe this kind of thing won’t happen again,” Mr. Green said.
Unlike other potentially dangerous corners of modern life, like aviation or health care, the tech industry is unusually volatile. The companies that run the show today will inevitably be usurped by newer ones that offer supposedly better ways of doing things. Such constant upheaval makes industrywide coordination on security more difficult.
“I’m not sure there’s any other industry that handles as much change and as much usage in such a short amount of time,” said Kurt Baumgartner, a researcher at Kaspersky Lab, a digital security firm. Still, Mr. Baumgartner contends that the field is getting better. Compared with the slow, haphazard way that companies once responded to security threats, the industry’s response to Heartbleed was “pretty responsibly coordinated,” he said. Many large companies fixed their services before the problem was disclosed. “On the whole, things have been improving.”
Stuart Goldenberg
But is it improving enough to keep up with an increasingly determined set of attackers? According to a recent study by Risk Based Security, a threat research firm, there were more than 2,000 data security breaches in 2013. The good news is that the number of intrusions was down from 2012, when more than 3,000 episodes were reported. The bad news is that the smaller number of attacks in 2013 resulted in more damage — about 814 million data records were exposed during the year (including the credit card you used at Target), about twice as many as in any other previous year on record.
The numbers point to another factor that adds to the difficulty in addressing digital threats: Attackers are intelligent, so, frequently, advances in security are matched by advances in attacks. This makes online security a more complicated problem than, say, improving the safety of automobiles.
If you fix one Internet security bug, you can be sure that attackers will just find another, potentially more dangerous one. “Over all, attackers have the competitive advantage,” said Jen Weedon, who works on the threat intelligence team at the security company Mandiant. “Defenders need to defend everything. All attackers need to find is one vulnerability.”
If you aren’t worried enough yet, there’s one more reason to expect digital technology to remain prone to errors. “There’s an underlying process here, which says that as devices get more memory or power, people add more complexity to a product — until it becomes so complicated that it’s too difficult to understand,” Mr. Felten said. That “smart” watch you’re wearing today might not be very complex, but in a few years’ time, smartwatches might run processors that are as powerful as those in today’s laptops.
Companies will create hundreds of apps to take advantage of that power, and you’ll probably install them, because they’ll make your life more convenient or more fun. You’ll pour all your most precious data into your watch. Suddenly, without your noticing it, your watch will have become a target. And among one of those apps will be some threat that no one had anticipated. “As our engineering methods get better, our products get more complicated, so we’re always out at the edge of complexity that our engineering processes can handle,” Mr. Felten said.
Does this mean we’re doomed? Not necessarily; researchers are gratified that large hacks and vulnerabilities are receiving more attention, which might push the industry and consumers to take security more seriously. “Within the past year or so, it’s interesting to see how high-profile these threats have become,” Ms. Weedon said. “Now average people are talking about how to patch their systems. And that’s the best we can hope for, for now.”


科技 2014年04月11日
Eva Russo/Momenta Creative
“'心臟出血'進一步證明,我們在網絡安全方面做得很糟糕,”普林斯頓大學(Princeton University)計算機安全專家愛德華·費爾滕(Edward Felten)說。
從某些方面來說,眼下的高科技世界跟其他一些關鍵產業昔日混亂、無序的局面不無相似,比如厄普頓·辛克萊(Upton Sinclair)在《屠場》(The Jungle)中描述的肉類加工業,以及拉爾夫·納德(Ralph Nader)在《任何車速都不安全》(Unsafe at Any Speed​​)中描繪的汽車業。雖然監管和整個行業的協作已經讓這些行業變得安全,但改善不僅需要時間,而且也需要不斷嘗試。
Cara Walen
“對於航空等行業中的關鍵任務系統,我們對編程是有標準的,但我不知道把這些標準套用到所有地方是否合適,”密碼學家馬修·格林(Matthew Green)說,他也是約翰·霍普金斯大學(Johns Hopkins University)的研究教授。那種嚴格的標準要求程序員花費遠遠更多的時間來測試自己的程序,無論是科技企業還是消費者都無法忍受這樣的等待。格林說,“我覺得,我們不會希望等到20年後才出現下一個谷歌和Facebook。”
“我想沒有哪個產業會在這麼短的時間裡,應對這麼多的變化,這麼大的使用量,”數字安全公司卡巴斯基實驗室(Kaspersky Lab)的研究員庫爾特·鮑姆加特納(Kurt Baumgartner)說。不過,鮑姆加特納也表示,這個領域正在日益改善。科技企業回應安全威脅的方式曾經相當緩慢、沒有章法,但他說,相比之下,整個行業應對“心臟出血”時“相當負責任地進行了協調”。很多大公司在該問題曝光之前就已經對自己的服務採取了措施。“總體來說,事情已經在好轉。”
Stuart Goldenberg
但改進的速度足夠快,能抵禦越來越頑固的攻擊者嗎?網絡威脅研究機構Risk Based Security近期的一項研究顯示,2013年發生了2000多起數據安全受到破壞的攻擊事件。好消息是這一數字與2012年的3000多起相比有所下降。但壞消息是,雖然2013年攻擊次數有所減少,但攻擊結果卻更具破壞性——大約8.14億條數據記錄在這一年裡被暴露(包括你在Target超市使用的信用卡信息),大約是有記錄以來過去任何一年的兩倍。
如果你修復了一個網絡安全漏洞,可以肯定的是攻擊者一定會找到另一個漏洞,而且有可能更危險。“總的來說,攻擊者擁有競爭優勢,”網絡安全公司Mandiant威脅信息情報小組的珍·威登(Jen Weedon)說。“防守方需要防守所有可能的威脅,而攻擊者只需要找到一個弱點。”

2014年4月9日 星期三

Cortana挑戰Siri和Google Now

2014年 04月 08日 15:09



微軟技術和研究負責人Harry Shum稱,他的團隊正在研發的一些大趨勢涉及人與電腦如何互動。他在微軟于特拉維夫舉行的Think Next 2014會議上表示,目前微軟正從個人電腦向個人運算轉變。

微 軟以色列研發中心負責人Yoram Yaakobi稱,微軟對“無形用戶界面”技術進行了巨大投資。Yaakobi表示,未來人們將無需通過觸碰、打字或是說話的方式運行自己的設備,設備在 用戶發出請求之前就“知道”用戶想讓它們干什么。他把這種技術稱為“UI.Next”。

Yaakobi稱,用戶界面一開始是命令提示符, 后來變成圖形界面,然后是觸摸界面,在接下來是手勢界面,現在開始向無形用戶界面轉變了,在這種界面下用戶將沒有什么可以操作。周圍的技術會了解用戶以及 用戶想要做什麼,這也正是人們所期待的。他表示,微軟正把這種技術的開發當作其首要任務。

Yaakobi和Shum表示,微軟上周發布的虛擬個人助理Cortana是該公司大力發展機器學習舉措的一部分。微軟對Cortana的定位是,這是一款挑戰蘋果(Apple)的Siri和Google Now的產品。

微軟對Cortana的期望非常高。Jeannette Wing是主管研發的副總裁,也是微軟在“計算思維”(也就是機器學習)方面的專家之一,她表示,與Cortana互動更像是一次談話,而不是對某一個問題做出回答。

Wing 在Think Next 2014會議上表示,她跟Cortana說話,Cortana做出回答,她再跟它說話,Cortana就知道雙方仍然在進行同一次談話。Wing 稱,Cortana從她說的第一個句子就知道她指的是什么。她還表示,對人類而言,這似乎是很小的一件事,但它的意義非常重大。


Amir Mizroch

2014年4月7日 星期一

中村友輝NAKAMURA, YUKI 、脂質分子で開花調節できる新技術開発-農業向け応用期待

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掲載日 2014年04月07日
 台湾・アカデミアシニカ植物及微生物学研究所の中村友輝助研究員らは、開花のタイミングを調節できる新たな技 術を開発した。花を咲かせるホルモンとして知られる「フロリゲン」が、脂質分子の一種と結合することで開花を促すことを発見。同分子の量を増やすと花は早 く咲き、逆に減らすと開花が遅くなることをシロイヌナズナでの実験で示した。花き類の安定供給や果実の収穫量を増やす技術に応用できると期待される。
中村助研究員は今回、フロリゲンの分子構造に脂質と結合する部位があることに着目し、リン脂質の一種である 「ホスファチジルコリン」(PC)と結合することを発見した。植物の花芽の部位でのみPCの量を増減させる技術により、開花のタイミングを変化させること に成功。さらに、野生の植物ではPCの量が昼夜によって変動していることを見つけた。