An anonymous reader sends in this thoughtful article about the format of Doctor Who: "The New Series has given itself two basic tasks. One, to put back and keep on our screens a program by the name of Doctor Who that maintains substantial visible continuity with the classic series in many ways. Two, and this is where conflicting elements start to come in, to seek to define this resurrected program against many aspects of the classic series, even fundamental aspects, in pursuit of task one. In itself this is neither good nor bad. If anything it is on balance probably a good thing to seek to redress the shortcomings of the classic series, but what matters, ultimately, is the choices involved and their execution."
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ananyo writes "Rappers making up rhymes on the fly while in a brain scanner have provided an insight into the creative process. Freestyle rapping — in which a performer improvises a song by stringing together unrehearsed lyrics — is a highly prized skill in hip hop. But instead of watching a performance in a club, Siyuan Liu and Allen Braun, neuroscientists at the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Maryland, and their colleagues had 12 rappers freestyle in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. The artists also recited a set of memorized lyrics chosen by the researchers. By comparing the brain scans from rappers taken during freestyling to those taken during the rote recitation, they were able to see which areas of the brain are used during improvisation. The rappers showed lower activity in part of their frontal lobes called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during improvisation, and increased activity in another area, called the medial prefrontal cortex. The areas that were found to be 'deactivated' are associated with regulating other brain functions. The results echo an earlier study of jazz musicians. The findings also suggest an explanation for why new music might seem to the artist to be created of its own accord. With less involvement by the lateral prefrontal regions of the brain, the performance could seem to its creator to have 'occurred outside of conscious awareness,' the authors write in the paper." Bonus points for science rhymes; for anyone who has the time.
MrSeb writes "The dream of faster-than-light travel has been on the mind of humanity for generations. Until recently, though, it was restricted to the realm of pure science fiction. Theoretical mechanisms for warp drives have been posited by science, some of which actually jive quite nicely with what we know of physics. Of course, that doesn't mean they're actually going to work, though. NASA researchers recently revisited the Alcubierre warp drive and concluded that its power requirements were not as impossible as once thought. However, a new analysis from the University of Sydney claims that using a warp drive of this design comes with a drawback. Specifically, it could cause cataclysmic explosions at your destination."
ndogg writes "Netflix now works on Linux... sort of. The folks at iheartubuntu have figured out a way to get Netflix to run on the Windows version of Firefox using Wine (with a number of custom patches) and Silverlight. They plan on releasing packages for it all soon. Currently, it seems they have only had success with 32-bit, while compiling for 64-bit is tricky."
jfruh writes "Google TV, despite bold predictions from the company's execs, has singularly failed to take over the TV world. Nevertheless, the company is still plugging away, and one development that might have far-reaching implications is its new context-aware voice search. 'Context aware' is the key to revolutionizing the TV-watching experience: you can say the name of a TV show, the name of a channel, the description of a show, or the description of a kind of video you'd like to find on YouTube, and the TV will show it to you."
Velcroman1 writes "Every second in your body, thousands of tiny isotopes are bursting with radioactive decay. And, all around you, imperceptible gamma rays explode in a brilliant but invisible lightshow. And they've just formed a live band. Yes, you read that correctly. But it's all for science: The Radioactive Orchestra 2.0 is part of a Swedish project to help us understand how low-energy radiation works, by showing the energy patterns of nuclear isotopes. Swedish musician Kristofer Hagbard conceived of the orchestra about a year ago and released an album last spring, but the new 2.0 version of 'the band' allows him to perform live in front of an audience. 'This can be looked at as a piano for high energy photons, so every detection gives us a note,' Hagbard said. 'The musical instrument is as good as the gamma spectrometer we are using.'"
ananyo writes "Many people dislike the clashing dissonances of modernist composers such as Arnold Schoenberg. But what's our problem with dissonance? There has long been thought to be a physiological reason why at least some kinds of dissonance sound jarring. Two tones close in frequency interfere to produce 'beating': what we hear is just a single tone rising and falling in loudness. If the difference in frequency is within a certain range, rapid beats create a rattling sound called roughness. An aversion to roughness has seemed consistent with the common dislike of intervals such as minor seconds. Yet when cognitive neuroscientist Marion Cousineau of the University of Montreal in Quebec and her colleagues asked amusic subjects (who cannot distinguish between different musical tones) to rate the pleasantness of a whole series of intervals, they showed no distinctions between any of the intervals but disliked beating as much as people with normal hearing. Instead the researchers propose that harmonicity is the key (abstract). Notes contain many overtones — frequencies that are whole-number multiples of the basic frequency in the note. For consonant 'pleasant sounding' intervals the overtones of the two notes tend to coincide as whole-number multiples, whereas for dissonant intervals this is no longer the case. The work suggests that harmonicity is more important than beating for dissonance aversion in normal hearers."
The screenwriter of Toy Story 3, and Little Miss Sunshine, Michael Arndt is writing the script for Star Wars: Episode VII according to Lucasfilm. From the article: "...The new movie has just entered pre-production and is slated to be released in 2015. It was announced just last month as Disney acquired Lucasfilm, but there’s still no word on what the major plot points of the new chapter will entail. However, Vulture reports that 'the studio’s brass want to bring back the three central characters of the original Star Wars: a much older Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. No deals are in place with any of the original actors, though our source did say it had high ambition to sign up Mark Hamill, and EW recently reported that Harrison Ford was open to the idea of returning.'"
MrSeb writes "Scientists at Duke University have created the first invisibility cloak that perfectly hides centimeter-scale objects. While invisibility cloaks have been created before, they have all reflected some of the incident light, ruining the illusion. In this case, the incident light is perfectly channeled around the object, creating perfect invisibility. There are some caveats, of course. For now, the Duke invisibility cloak only works with microwave radiation — and perhaps more importantly, the cloak is unidirectional (it only provides invisibility from one very specific direction). The big news here, though, is that it is even possible to create an invisibility cloak of any description. It is now just a matter of time before visible-light, omnidirectional invisibility cloaks are created."
New submitter speedlaw writes "Rovi has just announced that they are stopping the TV Guide OnScreen service as of April 13th, 2013. This was announced via the service itself. This is an on-air listing service that provides listings over the air, as part of an OTA TV signal. Many devices, notably the Sony HDD 250 and 500 Digital Video Recorders, will no longer function without the clock-set data this stream provides. When other companies decide to stop supporting something, they don't make older systems useless. Worse, Sony never came out with another DVR in the U.S. market. Why do we have to rent them? How do we get Sony or Rovi to provide at least a software patch to set the clock so the DVR can at least retain 1980s VCR functionality? Sony admits there is no fix. A thread on AVS forums has a bunch of information on TV Guide OnScreen. The TV stations who broadcast the data have been ordered by Rovi to disconnect the data inserters and ship them back. I have a TiVo, and yes, I know all about HTPC, but this data stream was 'lifetime listings' like TiVo has 'lifetime listings' — now that Rovi is looking to cut service, my two DVR units are about to become useless."
sciencehabit writes "It's a good 130 years too late to answer that question empirically, but at least symbolically Charles Darwin has won support from more than 4000 voters in the 10th congressional district of Georgia, thanks to an initiative headed by James Leebens-Mack, a plant biologist at the University of Georgia in Athens. Like many others, Leebens-Mack was deeply troubled by a speech his Congressman, Paul Broun (R-GA), gave at an Athens church in October deriding teachings on evolution, embryology, and the big bang theory as 'lies straight from the pit of Hell.' Broun, a medical doctor, is a member of the U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and chair of its Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. Leebens-Mack says the 'protest vote should make it clear to future opponents that there are a lot of people in the district who are not happy with antiscience statements.'"
"Reverberation is the persistence of sound in a particular space after the original sound is produced," says Wikipedia. More often than not, in studio recordings reverb is added digitally; virtually every FOSS or proprietary sound-editing program has a built-in reverb utility. But what if you're the sort of purist who prefers the analog sound of vinyl records to the digital sound of MP3s or CDs? What if you're the kind of musician who records at the original Sun Studio in Memphis to get that original rock and roll sound? That may be overly picky for most musicians, but there are some who would rather sound like Johnny Cash than Flavor Flav, and they're the ones who are going to insist on real analog reverb instead of twiddling a setting in Audacity. There are many types of analog reverbs, of course. One of the purest types, preferred by many audio purists, is the adjustable plate reverb, and Jim Cunnigham's Ecoplate is considered by many to be the best plate reverb ever -- which brings us to Mike Storey, who wanted an Ecoplate-type plate reverb so badly that he spent eight months building one. He'll run your audio files through it for a (highly negotiable) fee, and maybe give you a bit of advice if you want to build your own, although his biggest piece of advice for you (at the end of the video) to think long and hard before you become a home-brew reverberator, with or without advice and components from Jim Cunningham.
another random user writes that Fox's preliminary attempt to stop Dish Network's Autohop feature has failed in court. "A bid to block a TV service that allows viewers to automatically skip adverts on recorded shows has been rejected. Fox had called for a preliminary injunction on Dish Network's Autohop ahead of a copyright ruling. Broadcasters Fox, Comcast, NBC and CBS have each sued Dish Networks, saying the show recordings are unauthorized. Fox said it would appeal against the ruling. It says Autohop is 'destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem.' But Dish called the decision not to grant a preliminary injunction a 'victory for common sense.' Its Hopper digital video recorder can record and store prime-time content from the four major networks for up to eight days. And the Autohop feature lets viewers skip advertisements completely — rather than fast-forwarding through them — at the press of a button."
RenderSeven writes "As previously reported the immensely popular Buckyballs office toys have been targeted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Last week Maxfield and Oberton, the maker of Buckyballs gave up the battle and announced they would discontinue sales and close. However, being driven out of business is not enough for R Buckminster Fuller's estate, who has filed yet another lawsuit that they own all rights to the name "buckyballs" despite widespread use of the term. If you still haven't bought your own yet, a few thousand sets in stock are still available."
SchrodingerZ writes "95 million years ago, the dinosaur Sauroniops pachytholus roamed northern Africa. Fossils, originally found in southern Morocco, only consisted of the upper skull, which included the eerie looking eye socket which resembles the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings movies. Using skull comparison, it is theorized the two-legged meat-eater would have been 40 feet tall, challenging the Tyrannosaurus Rex in height. More fossils are needed for a full analysis, but so far it is very clear this dinosaur towered over many."