Technology


Image: the conversation

By David Glance, University of Western Australia

In 2012, the UK’s Sunday Times reported that actor Bruce Willis was going to sue Apple because he was not legally allowed to bequeath his iTunes collection of music to his children.

The story turned out to be false (and shockingly bad journalism) but it did start a conversation about what we can, and can’t, do with our digital possessions.

Though lots of people used the expensive government health insurance portal healthcare.gov to get information on the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, far fewer could successfully use it to sign up.

As the stories of its flaws mounted, larger percentages instead talked to call centers or a navigator without using the website at all. That's a win for the government, which needed to show some success after expending a great deal of political capital and taxpayer money, but not without cost. How much cost is unclear, the government has not yet disclosed how many people signed up and actually paid anything, or how many stopped when they discovered that on top of payments they now had $4,000 a year deductibles.


Reading glasses have served us for centuries. Why fix a good thing? Because science and technology can. 

Presbyopia, blurriness in near vision experienced by many people over the age of 40, could one day be relegated to olden days if a thin ring inserted into the eye gains popularity.



Image credit:  Ph0neutria via shutterstock

By: Benjamin Plackett, Inside Science

(Inside Science) — Until last year, website designers had a choice of just 22 Internet domains to use as suffixes at the end of URLs, excluding country-specific ones. The familiar “dot-com” and “dot-org” hail from the Reagan era, and the trickle of new domains since has usually been met with much discussion and occasionally debate or even discontent.

DNA analysis has become increasingly cost-effective since the human genome was first fully sequenced in the year 2001.

Sequencing a complete genome, however, still costs around $1,000 each so sequencing the genetic code of 100s of individuals would be expensive. For non-human studies, researchers very quickly hit the limit of financial feasibility.  


A paper in the International Journal of Web-Based Communities suggests that the familiar interfaces of online social networking sites might be adapted to allow us to interact more efficiently with our networked devices such as cars, domestic appliances and gadgets.

The concept would also extend to the idea of those devices connecting with each other as necessary to improve efficiency of heating and lighting, make our home entertainment systems smarter and much more.



We are only beginning to see what augmented reality can do. Credit: Flickr/Karlis Dambra, CC BY

By Nick Kelly, University of Southern Queensland


By Marsha Lewis, Inside Science

(Inside Science TV) –   You've seen toys and prosthetics made on a 3-D printer but now, scientists are using 3-D printers to build implants that help babies breathe.

Natalie Peterson, a parent of a child who was having trouble breathing shortly after birth said of her son Garrett, “When he was born, he was so sensitive to everything…when the nurses would move his head, he would just turn blue instantly.”

Almost every day 18 month old Garrett Peterson stopped breathing due to a collapsed trachea.

For most of humanity's existence, our kind have worried about getting enough to eat. So we may see it as a good sign that now some of our species are worried about not getting organic milk in their lattes and frappes. "Where oh where shall I ever find a frappe made with organic milk?" one supposes they say. "If only Starbucks made their lattes and frappes with organic milk; it would be so healthy!"

A little known secret in data mining is that simply feeding raw data into a data analysis algorithm is unlikely to produce meaningful results.

From recognizing speech to identifying unusual stars, new discoveries often begin with comparison of data streams to find connections and spot outliers. But most data comparison algorithms today have one major weakness – somewhere, they rely on a human expert to specify what aspects of the data are relevant for comparison, and what aspects aren't. But experts aren't keeping pace with the growing amounts and complexities of big data.