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Cavemen's rock music makes a comeback

March 17, 2014 - 3:31am
Thousands of years after they resonated in caves, two dozen stone chimes used by our prehistoric forefathers will make music once more in a unique series of concerts in Paris.

Contagious yawning a mystery: May not be linked to empathy after all

March 14, 2014 - 7:18pm
While previous studies have suggested a connection between contagious yawning and empathy, new research finds that contagious yawning may decrease with age and is not strongly related to variables like empathy, tiredness and energy levels. Contagious yawning is a well-documented phenomenon that occurs only in humans and chimpanzees in response to hearing, seeing or thinking about yawning.

The Physics Of Tuning Out

March 14, 2014 - 7:09pm
A digital model demonstrates the inner ear can dampen background noises.

Earth From Space: Amazing Astronaut Photos

March 13, 2014 - 2:07pm
Astronauts adore looking at the Earth. It's something they've talked about in interviews, in books and sometimes, even in song. In recent years, space fans have been lucky enough to have astronauts sharing their amazing views of our planet on Twitter.

Japan's Panasonic to give China expats 'pollution pay'

March 13, 2014 - 4:50am
Japanese electronics giant Panasonic said Thursday it would give employees sent to China a wage premium to compensate for the country's hazardous air pollution, in a possible first for an international company.

This is what you’d get if Wes Anderson rode a fixie and spray-painted walls

March 12, 2014 - 4:30pm
Mart

Love him or hate him, Wes Anderson is the king of twee. We doubt the filmmaker has ever met Mart, an Argentinian street artist, but Mart’s delicate bike murals would definitely be at home gracing the Tenenbaums’ walls:

Mart

Mart made his first foray into graffiti at age 12. In 2007, he shifted from traditional graffiti to the more delicate painting style you see here.

Mart

The 28-year-old artist describes his work with words like “magic,” “dreamlike,” and “playful.” Sounds like someone else who shares his love of pastels and fantasy …

Mart

Aaand now we want to spend a sunny spring day listening to Mark Mothersbaugh and lazily pedaling a candy-colored bike.


Filed under: Cities, Living

Genes bring music to your ears

March 12, 2014 - 6:24am
Multiple regions in the human genome are reported to be linked to musical aptitude, according to a new study. The function of the candidate genes implicated in the study ranges from inner-ear development to auditory neurocognitive processes, suggesting that musical aptitude is affected by a combination of genes involved in the auditory pathway. The perception of music starts with specialized hair cells in the inner ear, which transmit sounds as electronic signals through the auditory pathway to the auditory cortex, where sounds are primarily recognized. In addition to simple sensory perception, the processing of music has been shown to affect multiple other regions of the brain that play a role in emotion, learning and memory.

Peacock sex sounds attract females

March 12, 2014 - 1:48am
Peacocks make fake sex sounds to attract females’ attention, say scientists.

Play it again, Sam: How the brain recognizes familiar music

March 11, 2014 - 10:00pm
(McGill University) Research from McGill University reveals that the brain's motor network helps people remember and recognize music that they have performed in the past better than music they have only heard. A recent study by professor Caroline Palmer of the department of psychology sheds new light on how humans perceive and produce sounds, and may pave the way for investigations into whether motor learning could improve or protect memory or cognitive impairment in aging populations. The research is published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

At tech fest: 3D printers, bitcoin and 'Titanfall'

March 11, 2014 - 6:40pm
Bitcoin, 3-D printed candy and George Takei, the Star Trek-actor-turned-Facebook-phenomenon, are among the attractions this week at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, where the geek set is slowly filing out to make room for hordes of musicians descending on the city.

Apple asks record labels for exclusive iTunes releases

March 11, 2014 - 3:50pm
Apple Inc. has begun pressuring the major record companies to offer new releases exclusively through its iTunes store - a move that would initially block availability on streaming services such as Spotify or Beats Music, according to several people familiar with the matter.

All Ears: Elephants Can Identify Human Languages

March 11, 2014 - 1:56pm
Scientists never understood exactly how finely tuned elephants' hearing is, until researchers tried to see if the pachyderms could distinguish among the sounds made by different groups of humans.

German Culture: Facts, Customs and Traditions

March 10, 2014 - 10:35pm
Germans place a high value on hard work, precision and order, and have made tremendous contributions to engineering, classical music and beer. Here is an overview of German customs, traditions and values.

Neil Young unveils high-definition music player, store

March 10, 2014 - 11:50am
Singer-songwriter Neil Young announced plans Monday to launch a high-definition portable music player and download service, saying it will improve the experience of listening to digital music on the go.

"Archival Disc" standard for professional-use next-generation optical discs

March 10, 2014 - 7:20am
Sony and Panasonic today announced that they have formulated "Archival Disc", a new standard for professional-use, next-generation optical discs, with the objective of expanding the market for long-term digital data storage*.

A new sensor uses sound to diagnose faults in industrial machinery

March 10, 2014 - 6:40am
Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) have developed wireless sensors able to detect minute fissures in industrial machinery by the ultrasonic sounds they emit, with which the fault can be located early before a serious breakdown occurs. The team is studying potential applications in biomedicine to prevent bone fractures.

Can the blind 'hear' colors, shapes? Yes, show researchers

March 9, 2014 - 1:04pm
What if you could “hear” colors? Or shapes? These features are normally perceived visually, but using sensory substitution devices (SSDs) they can now be conveyed to the brain noninvasively through other senses. SSDs are non-invasive sensory aids that provide visual information to the blind via their existing senses. For example, using a visual-to-auditory SSD in a clinical or everyday setting, users wear a miniature camera connected to a small computer (or smart phone) and stereo headphones. The images are converted into "soundscapes," using a predictable algorithm, allowing the user to listen to and then interpret the visual information coming from the camera.

New report warns of “cascading system failure” caused by climate change

March 8, 2014 - 7:06am

From roads and bridges to power plants and gas pipelines, American infrastructure is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to a pair of government reports released Thursday.

The reports are technical documents supporting the National Climate Assessment, a major review compiled by 13 government agencies that the U.S. Global Change Research Program is expected to release in April. Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory put together the reports, which warn that climate-fueled storms, flooding and droughts could cause “cascading system failures” unless there are changes made to minimize those effects. Island Press has published the full-length version of the reports, which focus on energy and infrastructure more broadly.

Thomas Wilbanks, a research fellow at Oak Ridge and the lead author and editor of the reports, said this is the first attempt to look at the climate implications across all sectors and regions. Rather than isolating specific types of infrastructure, Wilbanks said, the report looks at how “one impact can have impacts on the others.”

Previous extreme weather events, which scientists warn may be exacerbated by climate change, offer insight to the types of failures they’re talking about. For example, during Hurricane Katrina, the loss of electricity in the region meant that several major oil pipelines could not ship oil and gas for several days, and some refineries could not operate. Gas prices rose around the country.

Other scenarios include a major storm wiping out communications lines, a blackout that cuts power to sewage treatment or wastewater systems, and a weather event that damages a bridge or major highway. In the latter case, the damage would not only cost money to repair, but could cause traffic backups or delays in the shipment of goods, which could in turn have wider economic implications. As the report describes it:

A central theme of the report is that vulnerabilities and impacts are issues beyond physical infrastructures themselves. The concern is with the value of services provided by infrastructures, where the true consequences of impacts and disruptions involve not only the costs associated with the cleanup, repair, and/or replacement of affected infrastructures but also economic, social, and environmental effects as supply chains are disrupted, economic activities are suspended, and/or social well-being is threatened.

While many reports on climate change focus on the long-term impacts, looking ahead 50 or 100 years, the effects described in Thursday’s reports are the kind that cities, states, and the federal government can expect to see in the next few decades, Wilbanks said.

“There’s this crunch between vulnerability of infrastructure because it’s aging or stressed because they are so heavily used, and they’re being exposed to new threats like more frequent, extreme weather events,” says Wilbanks. All this comes at a time, Wilbanks said, where governments at every level are facing “great difficulty in coming up with public sector financing to replace or revitalize them.”

The energy report also exposes vulnerabilities in the system. It points to recent cases where heat waves caused massive spikes in energy use for cooling buildings, putting strain on the power grid. It also highlights instances where power plants were at risk of flooding, or had to shut down or scale back operations due to high temperatures and droughts.

“One quarter of existing power generation facilities are in counties associated with some type of water sustainability concern,” said David Schmalzer, coauthor of the energy-focused report. “Warmer air and water are expected to reduce the efficiency of thermal power, while hydropower and biofuels will also face increased uncertainty. Even electricity sources not dependent on water supplies, such as wind and solar power, also face increased variability, as a changing climate will potentially impact the variability of their resources.”

“Fixing infrastructure resilience problems [requires] a partnership between different levels of government, industry, nongovernmental organizations, and community groups. No one party is the best to do it all,” said Wilbanks. “What we really need is some innovative thinking about financing.”

This story was produced by The Huffington Post as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.


Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy

The sounds of the universe

March 7, 2014 - 6:05pm
What are the strangest sounds in the universe?

Samsung introduces free streaming radio service

March 7, 2014 - 12:23pm
Samsung on Friday unveiled a new free music service for its phones that it touts as a significant improvement from the apps already on the market.