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Science/Technology

  • Tech for Tots: How Young Is Too Young?
  • Advance in scanning bottles could bolster airport security

    LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Nov. 25, 2013—Los Alamos scientists have advanced a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology that may provide a breakthrough for screening liquids at airport security.  They’ve added low-power X-ray data to the mix, and as a result have unlocked a new detection technology.  Funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, the new system is named MagRay.

    The goal is to quickly and accurately distinguish between liquids that visually appear identical. For example, what appears to be a bottle of white wine could potentially be nitromethane, a liquid that could be used to make an explosive.  Both are clear liquids, One would be perfectly safe on a commercial aircraft, the other would be strictly prohibited.  How to tell them apart quickly without error at an airport security area is the focus of Michelle Espy, Larry Schultz and their team.

  • Hydrogen Cars Make Big Noise at L.A. Auto Show
  • Hyundai to market hydrogen vehicle next year

    DETROIT (AP) — For years, the joke in the auto industry was that a mass-produced car that runs on hydrogen was always a decade away.

    That will change next year when Hyundai starts selling a Tucson SUV powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. It will be the first mass-market vehicle of its type to be sold or leased in the U.S.

    "These things are now ready for prime time," John Krafcik, Hyundai's North American CEO, said last week. His company plans to announce details of the new Tucson on Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

    Even as the industry focused on battery-powered and hybrid cars, automakers such as Hyundai, Honda and Toyota kept up research on fuel cells. Now they appear to have conquered obstacles such as high costs, safety concerns and a lack of filling stations. These vehicles could help the companies meet stricter future fuel-economy standards.

    Automakers have been dabbling in hydrogen-powered cars since the 1960s. General Motors announced a test fleet of hydrogen-powered Chevy Equinoxes in the mid-2000s, and Honda leased about two-dozen FCX Clarity models for $600 per month starting in 2005.

  • Limo firm hacked; politician, celeb data breached

    An Internet security firm says a limousine software company has been hacked, exposing credit card numbers and potentially embarrassing details about close to 1 million customers, including politicians, star athletes and corporate executives.

    Alex Holden, chief information security officer of Milwaukee-based Hold Security, says he discovered the breach at Corporatecaronline more than a month ago. He said he informed the owner of the Kirkwood, Mo.-based software company that customers' credit card numbers, pickup and drop-off information, and other personal details had been stolen.

    "The privacy implications of this are very disturbing," Holden said Monday.

    Car services buy software from Corporatecaronline and use it to streamline reservations, dispatching and payments. Owner Dan Leonard did not return a call to his company for comment Monday from The Associated Press.

    Cybersecurity blogger Brian Krebs, working with Hold Security, first reported the hack on his website krebsonsecurity.com, including details dispatchers gave to drivers heading out to pick up celebrity passengers. For example, Krebs reported a chauffeur driving Tom Hanks to a Chicago restaurant for dinner was advised the client was a "VVIP" who required "No cell/radio use" by the driver.

  • Karplus, Levitt, Warshel win Nobel chemistry prize

    STOCKHOLM (AP) — Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel have won this year's Nobel Prize in chemistry for laying the foundation for computer models used to understand and predict chemical processes.

    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Wednesday said their research in the 1970s has helped scientists develop programs that unveil chemical processes such as the purification of exhaust fumes or the photosynthesis in green leaves.

    "The work of Karplus, Levitt and Warshel is ground-breaking in that they managed to make Newton's classical physics work side-by-side with the fundamentally different quantum physics," the academy said. "Previously, chemists had to choose to use either/or."

    Karplus, a U.S. and Austrian citizen is affiliated with the University of Strasbourg, France, and Harvard University. Levitt is a British and Israeli citizen and a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Warshel is a U.S. and Israeli citizen affiliated with the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

    Earlier this week, three Americans won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discoveries about how key substances are moved around within cells and the physics award went to British and Belgian scientists whose theories help explain how matter formed after the Big Bang.

  • Englert and Higgs win Nobel physics prize

    STOCKHOLM (AP) — Physicists Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Britain won the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their theoretical discoveries on how subatomic particles acquire mass.

    Their theories were confirmed last year by the discovery of the so-called Higgs particle, also known as the Higgs boson, at a laboratory in Geneva, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

    The announcement, which was widely expected, was delayed by one hour, which is highly unusual. The academy gave no immediate reason, other than saying on Twitter that it was "still in session" at the original announcement time.

    The academy decides the winners in a majority vote on the day of the announcement.

    "I am overwhelmed to receive this award and thank the Royal Swedish Academy," Higgs said in a statement released by the University of Edinburgh.

    "I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research."

    Englert and Higgs theorized about the existence of the particle in the 1960s to provide an answer to a riddle: why matter has mass. The tiny particle, they believed, acts like molasses on snow — causing other basic building blocks of nature to stick together, slow down and form atoms.

  • Apple Introduces 2 New iPhone Models--Video Extra

    CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — For the first time since introducing the device that changed cellphones forever, Apple will offer two distinct versions of the latest iPhones — a cheaper one made of plastic and another that aims to be "the gold standard of smartphones" and reads your fingerprint.

    Apple unveiled the latest iPhone models, available on Sept. 20, during an event at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. The move comes as the company tries to fend off Samsung and other competitors that want to challenge Apple in the competitive smartphone market. The lower-cost iPhone 5C is expected to help boost sales in China and other areas where people don't have as much money to spend on new gadgets as they do in the U.S. and Europe.

    Research firm Gartner Inc. estimates that Apple had a 14.4 percent share of the world's smartphone market in the second quarter of this year, No. 2 behind Samsung's 31.7 percent.

    The lower-cost iPhone 5C will be available in five colors — green, blue, yellow, pink and white. CEO Tim Cook calls it "more fun and colorful" than any other iPhone. The 5C has a 4-inch Retina display and is powered by Apple's A6 chip. It also has an 8 megapixel camera, live photo filters and a rear cover that lights up.

  • Teams 'go Green' at Robocon 2013

    A team from Japan captured the grand prize at an environmentally-themed 'Robocon' competition in Vietnam. Eighteen teams from across Asia and the Pacific region participated in the annual event featuring robots designed by technology students.

  • Nevada petroglyphs the oldest in North America

    PYRAMID LAKE, Nev. (AP) — Ancient rock etchings along a dried-up lake bed in Nevada have been confirmed to be the oldest recorded petroglyphs in North America, dating back at least 10,000 years.

    The petroglyphs found on limestone boulders near Pyramid Lake in northern Nevada's high desert are similar in design to etchings found at a lake in Oregon that are believed to be at least 7,600 years old. Unlike later drawings that sometimes depict a spear or antelope, the carvings are abstract with tightly clustered geometric designs — some are diamond patterns, others have short parallel lines on top of a longer line.

    Scientists can't tell for sure who carved them, but they were found on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe's reservation land.

    "We initially thought people 12,000 or 10,000 years ago were primitive, but their artistic expressions and technological expertise associated with these paints a much different picture," said Eugene Hattori, the curator of anthropology at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City who co-authored a paper on the findings earlier this month in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

    The petroglyphs could be as much as 14,800 years old, said Larry Benson, a geochemist who used radiocarbon testing to date the etchings and co-wrote the paper.