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Who are the music pirates and what do they want?

August 5, 2014 - 6:10am
Music piracy is a huge problem, if the music industry is to believed. But so far, very little has been done to stop it. We are, however, starting to get an idea of what motivates people to do it. If record labels want to survive, they should start looking at the growing body of evidence about why music lovers continue to refuse to pay.

Tainted Ohio water coming under increased scrutiny

August 4, 2014 - 11:35pm
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio's governor is promising an extensive review of how the water supply for 400,000 people in Ohio and Michigan became tainted with a toxin over the weekend while a high-ranking state lawmaker is planning hearings on the blooms of algae fouling Lake Erie....

President Obama is beginning to make climate-hawk noises

August 4, 2014 - 1:27pm

At times, I become really, really curious about the Barack Obama we’re going to see once he’s done being president. He has a gift for talking about complex and unpleasant issues — one that has, for the most part, been submerged by political expediency, but that still pokes through occasionally. This interview with The Economist, conducted on Air Force One by John Micklethwait and Edward Carr, is one such occasion — and offers some encouraging signals about his administration’s approach to climate change.

For instance, during a discussion about the relationship between the White House and the business community, Obama, unprompted, segues into a discussion of denialism and carbon pricing.

Mr Obama: Well, I think—here’s what’s interesting. There’s a huge gap between the professed values and visions of corporate CEOs and how their lobbyists operate in Washington. And I’ve said this to various CEOs. When they come and they have lunch with me—which they do more often than they probably care to admit (laughter)—and they’ll say, you know what, we really care about the environment, and we really care about education, and we really care about getting immigration reform done—then my challenge to them consistently is, is your lobbyist working as hard on those issues as he or she is on preserving that tax break that you’ve got? And if the answer is no, then you don’t care about it as much as you say.

Now, to their credit, I think on an issue like immigration reform, for example, companies did step up. And what they’re discovering is the problem is not the regulatory zealotry of the Obama administration; what they’re discovering is the dysfunction of a Republican Party that knows we need immigration reform, knows that it would actually be good for its long-term prospects, but is captive to the nativist elements in its party.

And the same I think goes for a whole range of other issues like climate change, for example. There aren’t any corporate CEOs that you talk to at least outside of maybe—no, I will include CEOs of the fossil-fuel industries—who are still denying that climate change is a factor. What they want is some certainty around the regulations so that they can start planning. Given the capital investments that they have to make, they’re looking at 20-, 30-year investments. They’ve got to know now are we pricing carbon? Are we serious about this? But none of them are engaging in some of the nonsense that you’re hearing out of the climate-change denialists. Denialists?

Eric Schultz (deputy press secretary): Deniers.

The Economist: Deniers.

Mr Obama: Deniers—thank you.

The Economist: Denialists sounds better. (laughter.)

Mr Obama: It does have more of a ring to it.

So the point, though, is that I would take the complaints of the corporate community with a grain of salt. If you look at what our policies have been, they have generally been friendly towards business, while at the same time recognising there are certain core interests—fiscal interests, environmental interests, interests in maintaining stability of the financial system—where, yes, we’re placing constraints on them. It probably cuts into certain profit centres in their businesses. I understand why they would be frustrated by it, but the flip side of it is that they’d be even more unhappy if the global financial system unravels. Nobody has more of a stake in it than them.

Yup. The president is saying it — but it reads like something straight out of the Unburnable Carbon report, or this summer’s Risky Business project. Coming from a president whose approach to tackling climate change has been slower and more behind-the-scenes than activists would like, this is interesting, and might even bode well for the UN Climate Summit this September.

Not all of the Economist interview is this encouraging. For example, Obama says, as he’s said before, that he thinks the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP) will be a great idea.

This is not a view widely held by people who are concerned about the way that trade agreements like the TPP can be used to override local environmental laws. Specifically, alarms have been raised over the way that the agreement would allow any foreign-based company with investments here to sue America for damages via secret tribunal if they think our environmental or labor laws are affecting their ability to make money.

The agreement has also been criticized for failing to do anything to discourage trade partners from buying illegally logged or mined or fished or captured goods from one another — at a point in history where pretty much everyone is on the same page about there not being enough fish or trees to go around.

So the president isn’t going to please every green voter. But he’s definitely causing ears to perk up.


Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy, Politics

Bottling up sound waves: Acoustic bottle beams hold promise for imaging, cloaking, levitation and more

August 4, 2014 - 1:15pm
Researchers have developed a technique for generating acoustic bottles in open air that can bend the paths of sound waves along prescribed convex trajectories. These self-bending bottle beams hold promise for ultrasonic imaging and therapy, and acoustic cloaking, levitation and particle manipulation.

Bottling up sound waves

August 4, 2014 - 12:36pm
There's a new wave of sound on the horizon carrying with it a broad scope of tantalizing potential applications, including advanced ultrasonic imaging and therapy, acoustic cloaking, and levitation and particle manipulation. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a technique for generating acoustic bottles in open air that can bend the paths of sound waves along prescribed convex trajectories.

New idea for hearing improvement in patients with hearing aids under background noise

August 3, 2014 - 10:00pm
(Neural Regeneration Research) Patients with implanted artificial cochlea often complain that they cannot recognize speech well in natural environments, especially if background of noise is present. Researchers think that a poor ability to localize sound in a complex auditory environment is responsible for the weak speech perception observed under these conditions.

Concerts on Yahoo make best of industry struggles

August 1, 2014 - 1:31pm
Sometimes the struggles of an industry can bring music to your ears. And your screens.

Apple closes acquisition of Beats music

August 1, 2014 - 9:28am
Apple said Friday it closed its $3 billion deal for Beats, the high-end audio equipment and streaming music service, a tie-up that could allow the iPhone maker to reach new audiences.

For bats and dolphins, hearing gene prestin adapted for echolocation

August 1, 2014 - 7:12am
A little over a decade ago, prestin was found to be a key gene responsible for hearing in mammals. A new study has shown that prestin has also independently evolved to play a critical role in the ultrasonic hearing range of animal sonar, or echolocation, to help dolphins navigate through murky waters or bats find food in the dark.

For bats and dolphins, hearing gene prestin adapted for echolocation

August 1, 2014 - 12:28am
A little over a decade ago, prestin was found to be a key gene responsible for hearing in mammals. Prestin makes a protein found in the hair cells of the inner ear that contracts and expands rapidly to transmit signals that help the cochlea, like an antique phonograph horn, amplify sound waves to make hearing more sensitivity.

For bats and dolphins, hearing gene prestin adapted for echolocation

July 31, 2014 - 10:00pm
(Molecular Biology and Evolution (Oxford University Press)) In a new study published in the advanced online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, Peng Shi, et al., have shown that prestin has also independently evolved to play a critical role in the ultrasonic hearing range of animal sonar, or echolocation, to help dolphins navigate through murky waters or bats find food in the dark.

Tapping Into Musical Memory

July 31, 2014 - 12:00pm
A new documentary, Alive Inside, exposes the connections between music and memory.

Effect of loud noises on brain revealed in study

July 31, 2014 - 8:25am
Prolonged exposure to loud noise alters how the brain processes speech, potentially increasing the difficulty in distinguishing speech sounds, according to neuroscientists. Exposure to intensely loud sounds leads to permanent damage of the hair cells, which act as sound receivers in the ear. Once damaged, the hair cells do not grow back, leading to noise-induced hearing loss.

Singing the same tune: Scientists develop novel ways of separating birdsong sources

July 31, 2014 - 8:10am
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have pioneered a new study that could greatly improve current methods of localising birdsong data. Their findings, which ascertain the validity of using statistical algorithms to detect multiple-source signals in real time and in three-dimensional space, are of especial significance to modern warfare.

Research finds numerous unknown jets from young stars and planetary nebulae

July 31, 2014 - 7:56am
For many years astronomers have known that young 'protostars' drive supersonic jets of gas from their north and south poles. However, this is the first time that so many of them have been detected at once.

Singing the same tune: Scientists develop novel ways of separating birdsong sources

July 31, 2014 - 7:51am
A new study could greatly improve current methods of localizing birdsong data. The study demonstrates the validity of using approximate maximum likelihood (AML) algorithms to determine the direction of arrival (DOA) of birdsong sources.

Boat noise impacts development, survival of sea hares

July 31, 2014 - 7:50am
The development and survival of an important group of marine invertebrates known as sea hares is under threat from increasing boat noise in the world's oceans, according to a new study. Sea hares usually hatch from their eggs to swim away and later feed on toxic alga but this study found that when exposed to playback of boat noise, more eggs failed to develop and those that hatched were more likely to die.

Panasonic, Tesla to build big US battery plant

July 31, 2014 - 6:50am
(AP)—American electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. is teaming up with Japanese electronics company Panasonic Corp. to build a battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. expected to create 6,500 jobs.

Nokia in wireless network deal with Panasonic

July 31, 2014 - 6:40am
(AP)—Finnish wireless equipment maker Nokia says it has a preliminary agreement to acquire part of the wireless network business of Japan's Panasonic Corp.

Boat noise impacts development and survival of sea hares

July 31, 2014 - 6:30am
While previous studies have shown that marine noise can affect animal movement and communication, with unknown ecological consequences, scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) CRIOBE in France have demonstrated that boat noise stops embryonic development and increases larval mortality in sea hares.