Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Wolfram Language and Mathematica on Raspberry Pi, for free | Raspberry Pi

The Wolfram Language and Mathematica on Raspberry Pi, for free | Raspberry Pi:

 "One of the best things about working on Raspberry Pi has been the opportunity to meet groups of people who are trying to bring about the same sort of change in the teaching of other subjects that we’re aiming for in computing. One great example is the computer-based math(s) (CBM) movement, which aims to redefine the teaching of mathematics in schools away from mechanical calculation and towards problem solving. From their website:"

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Raspberry Pi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Raspberry Pi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

"The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools.[7][8][9][10][11]"

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Accord Reached With Iran to Halt Nuclear Program

Denis Balibouse/Reuters
Secretary of State John Kerry with Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, upon conclusion of the deal.
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GENEVA — The United States and five other world powers announced a landmark accord Sunday morning that would temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program and lay the foundation for a more sweeping agreement.
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The negotiators in Geneva on Sunday. President Obama’s administration now must appear accommodating enough to Iran to keep talks moving, and tough enough not to seem naïve to allies.
Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A 2006 photo of the heavy water plant in Arak, south of Tehran. The reactor being built at Arak is an issue in talks.
It was the first time in nearly a decade, American officials said, that an international agreement had been reached to halt much of Iran’s nuclear program and roll some elements of it back.
The aim of the accord, which is to last six months, is to give international negotiators time to pursue a more comprehensive pact that would ratchet back much of Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it could be used only for peaceful purposes.
Shortly after the agreement was signed at 3 a.m. in the Palace of Nations in Geneva, President Obama, speaking from the State Dining Room in the White House, hailed it as the most “significant and tangible” progress of a diplomatic campaign that began when he took office.
“Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure,” he said, “a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.”
In Geneva, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said he hoped the agreement would lead to a “restoration” of trust between Iran and the United States. Smiling and avuncular, he reiterated Iran’s longstanding assertion that its nuclear program was peaceful, adding that the Iranian people deserved respect from the West.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who flew to Geneva early Saturday for the second time in two weeks in an effort to complete the deal, said it would “require Iran to prove the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.”
Iran, which has long resisted international monitoring efforts and built clandestine nuclear facilities, agreed to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent, a level that would be sufficient for energy production but that would require further enrichment for bomb-making. To make good on that pledge, Iran will dismantle links between networks of centrifuges.
Its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a short hop from weapons-grade fuel, would be diluted or converted into oxide so that it could not be readily used for military purposes. Iran agreed that it would not install any new centrifuges, start up any that are not already operating or build new enrichment facilities.
The agreement, however, does not require Iran to stop enriching uranium to a low level of 3.5 percent, or to dismantle any of its existing centrifuges.
The accord was a disappointment for Israel, which had urged the United States to pursue a stronger agreement that would lead to a complete end to Iran’s enrichment program. But Iran made it clear that continuing enrichment was a prerequisite for any agreement.
The United States did not accept Iran’s claim that it had a “right to enrich” under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. But American officials signaled last week that they were open to a compromise in which the two sides would essentially agree to disagree on how the proliferation treaty should be interpreted, while Tehran continued to enrich.
In return for the initial agreement, the United States agreed to provide $6 billion to $7 billion in sanctions relief. Of this, roughly $4.2 billion would be oil revenue that has been frozen in foreign banks.
This limited sanctions relief can be accomplished by executive order, allowing the Obama administration to make the deal without having to appeal to Congress, where there is strong criticism of any agreement that does not fully dismantle Iran’s nuclear program.
The fact that the accord would only pause the Iranian program was seized on by critics who said it would reward Iran for institutionalizing the status quo.
Mr. Obama addressed those concerns in his speech, insisting that the easing of sanctions could be reversed if Iran failed to reach a final agreement or reneged on the terms of this one.
“Nothing will be agreed to unless everything is agreed to,” he said.
He also noted the qualms of Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf allies of the United States, saying they “had good reason to be skeptical of Iran’s intentions.” But he said he had a “profound responsibility” to test the possibilities of a diplomatic solution.
In Geneva, Mr. Kerry said of the agreement: “It will make our partners in the region safer. It will make our ally Israel safer.”
The deal would also add at least several weeks, and perhaps more than a month, to the time Iran would need to produce weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear device, according to estimates by nuclear experts. American officials argued that it would preclude Iran from shortening the time it would need to produce enough bomb-grade uranium for a nuclear device even further, and would provide additional warning if Iran sought to “break out” of its commitment to pursue only a peaceful nuclear program.
A second and even more contentious debate centered on whether an initial deal would, as the Obama administration said, serve as a “first step” toward a comprehensive solution of the nuclear issue, one that would leave Iran with a peaceful nuclear program that could not easily be used for military purposes.
Two former American national security advisers, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, recently sent a letter to key American lawmakers endorsing the administration’s approach. “The apparent commitment of the new government of Iran to reverse course on its nuclear activities needs to be tested to insure it cannot rapidly build a nuclear weapon,” they wrote.
But some experts, including a former official who has worked on the Iranian issue for the White House, said it was unlikely that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would ever close the door on the option to develop nuclear weapons. Instead, they said, any initial six-month agreement is more likely to be followed by a series of partial agreements that constrain Iran’s nuclear activities but do not definitively solve the nuclear issues.
“At the end of six months, we may see another half step and six more months of negotiations — ad infinitum,” said Gary Samore, a senior aide on nonproliferation issues on the National Security Council in Mr. Obama’s first term. Mr. Samore is now president of United Against Nuclear Iran, a nonprofit group that advocates tough sanctions against Iran unless it does more to curtail its nuclear program.
The agreement also reflected compromises on other issues.
On the contentious issue of the heavy water reactor Iran is building near Arak, which could produce plutonium and therefore another path to a bomb, Iran agreed not to produce fuel for the plant, install additional reactor components there or put the plant into operation.
Iran is not required to dismantle the facility, however, or convert the plant into a light water reactor that would be less useful for military purposes.
Regarding enrichment, Iran’s stockpile of such low-enriched uranium would be allowed to temporarily increase to about eight tons from about seven tons currently. But Tehran would be required to shrink this stockpile by the end of the six-month agreement back to seven tons. This would be done by installing equipment to covert some of that stockpile to oxide.
To guard against cheating, international monitors would be allowed to visit the Natanz enrichment facility and the underground nuclear enrichment plant at Fordo on a daily basis to check the film from cameras installed there.
But Iran did not agree to all of the intrusive inspection regime that the International Atomic Energy Agency had said was needed to ensure that the Iranian program is peaceful.
Mark Landler contributed reporting from Washington.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gamma Ray Burst

GRB 130427A - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

GRB 130427A - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

 "GRB 130427A was a record-setting Gamma-ray burst, discovered starting on April 27, 2013.[1][2][3] The Fermi space observatory detected a gamma-ray with an energy of at least 94 billion electron volts.[1] It was simultaneously detected by the Burst Alert Telescope aboard the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission and was one of the brightest bursts Swift had ever detected.[1] It was one of the five closest GRBs, at about 3.6 billion light-years away, and was comparatively long-lasting.[1]"

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Are We Alone in the Universe?

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TEMPE, Ariz. — THE recent announcement by a team of astronomers that there could be as many as 40 billion habitable planets in our galaxy has further fueled the speculation, popular even among many distinguished scientists, that the universe is teeming with life.
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The astronomer Geoffrey W. Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley, an experienced planet hunter and co-author of the study that generated the finding, said that it “represents one great leap toward the possibility of life, including intelligent life, in the universe.”
But “possibility” is not the same as likelihood. If a planet is to be inhabited rather than merely habitable, two basic requirements must be met: the planet must first be suitable and then life must emerge on it at some stage.
What can be said about the chances of life starting up on a habitable planet? Darwin gave us a powerful explanation of how life on Earth evolved over billions of years, but he would not be drawn out on the question of how life got going in the first place. “One might as well speculate about the origin of matter,” he quipped. In spite of intensive research, scientists are still very much in the dark about the mechanism that transformed a nonliving chemical soup into a living cell. But without knowing the process that produced life, the odds of its happening can’t be estimated.
When I was a student in the 1960s, the prevailing view among scientists was that life on Earth was a freak phenomenon, the result of a sequence of chemical accidents so rare that they would be unlikely to have happened twice in the observable universe. “Man at last knows he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he has emerged only by chance,” wrote the biologist Jacques Monod. Today the pendulum has swung dramatically, and many distinguished scientists claim that life will almost inevitably arise in Earthlike conditions. Yet this decisive shift in view is based on little more than a hunch, rather than an improved understanding of life’s origin.
The underlying problem is complexity. Even the simplest bacterium is, at the molecular level, staggeringly complex. Although we have no idea of the minimal complexity of a living organism, it is likely to be very high. It could be that some sort of complexifying principle operates in nature, serving to drive a chaotic mix of chemicals on a fast track to a primitive microbe. If so, no hint of such a principle has been found in laboratory experiments to re-create the basic building blocks of life.
On the other hand, if life arose simply by the accumulation of many specific chemical accidents in one place, it is easy to imagine that only one in, say, a trillion trillion habitable planets would ever host such a dream run. Set against a number that big — and once you decide a series of unlikely accidents is behind the creation of life, you get enormous odds very easily — it is irrelevant whether the Milky Way contains 40 billion habitable planets or just a handful. Forty billion makes hardly a dent in a trillion trillion.
So we are stuck. Life may indeed pop up readily in Earthlike conditions, or it may be a fluke, unique in the observable universe. Because we are a product of this cosmic accident, we cannot conclude that Earth is typical. No statistical evidence can be drawn from a sample of one.
The easiest way to settle the matter is to find a second sample of life, one that arose from scratch independent of known life. The inventory of extrasolar planets being discovered is an extremely useful first step. In the future, our telescopes should be able to analyze the atmospheres of some of these planets for telltale signs of biological activity.
But evidence favoring life’s high probability could exist closer to home. No planet is more Earthlike than Earth itself. If life does pop up readily in Earthlike conditions, then it should have started many times, right here on our own planet. It could be that intermingled among the seething microbes all around us are some that are so biochemically different they could be descended only from a separate origin. You couldn’t tell by looking, only by delving into their molecular innards and finding something weird enough to rule out a common precursor. The discovery of just a single “alien” microbe under our very noses would be enough to conclude that the universe was indeed teeming with life.
It would also address a deep philosophical question. Although the pathway from microbes to complex thinking beings like humans may still be a very difficult one, at least we know the mechanism whereby it happens — Darwinian evolution. If microbial life is widespread in the cosmos, we can expect that, at least here and there, sentient beings will evolve. We would then be much closer to answering that age-old puzzle of existence: Are we alone in the universe?

Paul Davies is the director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University and the author of “The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence.”

Monday, November 11, 2013

Struggle for Survival in Philippine City Shattered by Typhoon


NYT


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TACLOBAN, Philippines — Decomposing bodies still lie along the roads, like a corpse in a pink, short-sleeved shirt and blue shorts facedown in a black, muddy puddle 100 yards from the airport. Just down the road is a church that was supposed to be an evacuation center but is littered with the bodies of those who drowned inside.
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Uprooted coconut trees near Guiuan in the Philippines, which was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan’s winds and storm surge.

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When a wind-whipped ocean rose Friday night, the ground floors of homes hundreds of yards inland were submerged within minutes, trapping residents like Virginia Basinang, a 54-year-old retired teacher, who suddenly found herself struggling in waist-deep water on the second floor of her home. Screaming people bobbed in the water that surged through the streets, many grabbing for floating debris.
“Some of them were able to hold on, some were lucky and lived, but most did not,” she said, adding that 14 bodies were left on a wall across the street when the seawater receded a half-hour later. The bodies are still there, and the odor of their decay makes it impossible for Ms. Basinang and her family to eat meals at home.
Typhoon Haiyan, among the most powerful in history, slammed into the eastern Philippine city of Tacloban four days ago and cut a path of devastation barreling west across the archipelago nation. In its wake, corpses lay along roads lined with splintered homes and toppled power lines, as the living struggled to survive, increasingly desperate for fresh drinking water, food and shelter. The damage to everything was so great that it was hard even to tally. Mass graves began to fill as relief efforts struggled to get underway.
The roads of this once-thriving city of 220,000 were so clogged with debris from nearby buildings that they were barely discernible. The civilian airport terminal has shattered walls and gaping holes in the roof where steel beams protrude, twisted and torn by winds far more powerful than those of Hurricane Katrina when it made landfall near New Orleans in 2005.
One of the saddest and deadliest moments came when hundreds of people flocked to Tacloban’s domed sports arena at the urging of municipal officials, who believed its sturdy roof would withstand the wind. The roof did, but the arena flooded, and many inside drowned or were trampled in a frenzied rush to higher seats.
The top civil defense official of the Philippines said in an interview after inspecting the damage that the storm surge had been the highest in the country’s modern history, perhaps explaining why so few thought they needed to flee inland and instead went to evacuation centers near the coast. Nothing like this had ever happened. The sea level rose 10 to 13 feet and filled streets and homes deep in the city, propelled by sustained winds of at least 140 miles an hour and gusts that were far stronger.
“It was a tsunami-like storm surge; it is the first time,” said Eduardo del Rosario, the executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Tacloban has been hit by typhoons for decades, but never had the sea risen high enough to pour over the swath of low salt marshes and inundate the city’s shady streets, he said.
As a violet sunset melted on Monday evening into the nearly total darkness of a city without electricity, lighted only by a waxing half-moon, dispirited residents walked home or lay down in the ruins of the airport terminal after another day of waiting at the airport in hope of fresh water, food or a flight out. Grocery stores and pharmacies across the city had been sacked over the weekend, leaving bare shelves for a city quickly growing hungry and thirsty.
A coast guardsman said that he had helped fill a mass grave in the nearby village of Hernani. “I personally threw in one body earlier, and it was a relative of my friend in Manila — I haven’t told her yet because I can’t get a signal” for cellphone usage, said the coast guardsman, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The same friend in Manila has lost her grandfather, whom the coast guardsman threw in the mass grave, as well as her aunt and two cousins, the guardsman added, saying that other relatives who survived the typhoon had confirmed the identities of the dead.
This regional capital, the hometown of Imelda Marcos, was among the hardest hit in a nation accustomed to misery blown in from the sea. But this storm was like nothing before it, and its devastation was not yet fully understood. Villages along the coasts may have been wiped out, and the toll — at least 10,000 in Tacloban alone are feared dead — was just an estimate. Relief efforts were complicated by a persistent and heavy rain.
Miriam Refugio, 60, waited in the crowd of Filipinos at the airport seeking a scarce place on a flight to Manila. “Our home was destroyed, there is no food in this town, so we have to flee,” she said, standing with her teenage granddaughter who held their only drinking water, a nearly empty plastic bottle that could hold perhaps two cups.
They were trying to decide whether to drink water from a nearby pump even though the granddaughter, tugging at her stomach for emphasis, said that they were certain to become sick if they did.
Mr. del Rosario said the government was still sending out helicopters on Monday to look for communities that had not been heard from since the typhoon. The government had confirmed 1,563 deaths through Sunday evening in the hardest-hit region of the east-central Philippines, and the death toll would “most likely” rise, he said.
But one of the biggest questions here involves the many people who seem to have disappeared, possibly sucked out to sea when the ocean returned to its usual level.
Rosemary Balais, 39, said that a very large proportion, possibly more than half, of the 5,000 people in her hometown Tanauan, near Tacloban, seemed to be missing. “My sister and their children were there, and we have not heard from them since last Thursday,” she said, adding that they had lived only around 300 yards inland.
“There was a neighbor who had won a lottery and had a big house, and even that house was flattened,” she said.
Compounding the damage was the extraordinary force of the wind. Palm trees are naturally resilient, flexing and bending in high winds. But entire groves were flattened and their trunks left in tangles on the ground as though giant boxes of toothpicks had been tipped over.
In a country cursed by a succession of natural disasters, from earthquakes to violent storms to volcanic eruptions, the typhoon was especially deadly and destructive. “It’s going to be classified as one of the worst, if not the worst, in decades,” among disasters that have struck the Philippines, said Ricky Carandang, a presidential spokesman.
The local government has declared a state of emergency and a curfew in Tacloban, and the national government was considering an emergency declaration in the city as well to speed the release of government money, Mr. Carandang said. The government was trying to fly in military and civilian police to restore law and order, but progress was slow. Hundreds of soldiers and dozens of relief workers milled around the Cebu airport throughout the morning, waiting for a plane to carry them to Tacloban.
Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippines Red Cross, said in a telephone interview on Monday morning that more flights would be needed to bring in relief supplies. A Red Cross convoy headed here on Sunday had to turn back when it stopped at a collapsed bridge and was nearly hijacked by a hungry crowd, he said, calling for a more visible police and military presence.
Some of the people searching here for lost relatives were sobbing softly. One was April Escoto, 28, from Tacloban who went on vacation to Cebu with her 24-year-old sister two days before the typhoon hit. Ms. Escoto left her sister in Cebu after they concluded that the lawless streets of Tacloban were too dangerous for them to risk what might be the two last members of their family.
“Since the storm hit,” she said, “we have not heard anything from our family.”

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Survivors 'Walk like Zombies' after Philippine Typhoon Kills Estimated 10,000: Scientific American

Survivors 'Walk like Zombies' after Philippine Typhoon Kills Estimated 10,000: Scientific American:

"TACLOBAN, Philippines (Reuters) - One of the most powerful storms ever recorded killed at least 10,000 people in the central Philippines, a senior police official said on Sunday, with huge waves sweeping away coastal villages and devastating one of the main cities in the region."

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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Taste aversion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Taste aversion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

"Conditioned taste aversion,[1] also known as Garcia effect (after Dr. John Garcia), and as "Sauce-Bearnaise Syndrome", a term coined by Seligman and Hager,[2] is an example of classical conditioning or Pavlovian conditioning. Conditioned taste aversion occurs when a subject associates the taste of a certain food with symptoms caused by a toxic, spoiled, or poisonous substance. Generally, taste aversion is caused after ingestion of the food causes nausea, sickness, or vomiting. The ability to develop a taste aversion is considered an adaptive trait or survival mechanism that trains the body to avoid poisonous substances (e.g., poisonous berries) before they can cause harm. This association is meant to prevent the consumption of the same substance (or something that tastes similar) in the future, thus avoiding further poisoning. However, conditioned taste aversion sometimes occurs in subjects when sickness was merely coincidental and not related to the food (for example, a subject who gets a cold or the flu shortly after eating bananas might develop an aversion to the taste of bananas)."

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2nd Big Data Business Forum | Big Data Conference 2013

2nd Big Data Business Forum | Big Data Conference 2013:

 "Welcome to the 2nd Annual Big Data Business Forum, the industry preferred platform that arms you with the tools to cut through the hype and uncover the real business value of your big data investments. We understand that central to the success of a Big Data strategy is the collaboration and coordination between key stakeholders in an organization. This year's event offers a unique three day program that brings together top technologists, analysts and business executives under one roof to share best practices through practical and proven Fortune 500 case studies. Leave with the skills and insights needed to accelerate the path from analytics and insights to action."

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Mutilated Economy - NYTimes.com

The Mutilated Economy - NYTimes.com:

 "Five years and eleven months have now passed since the U.S. economy entered recession. Officially, that recession ended in the middle of 2009, but nobody would argue that we’ve had anything like a full recovery. Official unemployment remains high, and it would be much higher if so many people hadn’t dropped out of the labor force. Long-term unemployment — the number of people who have been out of work for six months or more — is four times what it was before the recession."

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

Online Education as an Agent of Transformation - NYTimes.com

Online Education as an Agent of Transformation - NYTimes.com:

 "Even the venerable Harvard Business School has ceded ground to online instruction. Before starting school, students are directed to learning modules on the web that cover entry-level accounting concepts. With the basic competencies covered, classes spend more time on higher-order discussion, and more deeply explore real-world applications. Harvard Business School is also developing a series of “pre-M.B.A. and post-M.B.A.” online courses that it plans to have ready by summer. It calls the initiative HBX."

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Harvard Business School Launching Online Learning Initiative - Businessweek

Harvard Business School Launching Online Learning Initiative - Businessweek:

 "Harvard Business School is quietly developing its first online learning initiative, which it hopes will make HBS the world’s top provider of high quality online business education."

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