Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Artistic image from camera obscura

Abelardo Morell creates works of art from camera obscura images. Here is one that I came across on the Daily Irrelevant. Note the long exposure times - 8 hours! Why? Because the camera obscura images are faint and it takes a long exposure time to correctly expose the film/imager for his purposes.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bomber detection and tracking using gait recognition and radar

MIT's Technology Review has an article on CounterBomber and the gait recognition technology by Rama Chellappa (University of Maryland, USA) which underlies it.

(Hat tip: GeekPress)

A blogger moves on

Christian Beckner, founder of the excellent blog Homeland Security Watch, is moving on to a new job with the Democratic staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC). Mr. Beckner has done a remarkable job on his blog and his contributions there will be missed. He has been recruiting a team of people to take over his blog, so if you are interested in joining, you might want to surf on over there. I wish him the best of luck in his new position.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Another cell phone study

No strong associations between low levels of cell (mobile) phone use and cancer have been discovered thus far. However, from what I understand, the past studies have not shown this conclusively for all cases. This is not surprising - remember that there are many, many variables involved and they all have to be investigated properly before being able to authoritatively claim that there is no association at all.

This Times (UK) article gives a brief summary of some past findings and tells of a new study that will focus on long term users. The interest from an audio perspective is some evidence that prolonged use holding the cell phone to the ear (instead of using an wired ear bud or handsfree) may be associated with acoustic neuroma brain tumors.

From my own personal experience, I believe that I can objectively claim to perceive a significant difference, after approximately ten minutes of use, between having my mobile phone with the phone pressed against my ear and using it in handsfree mode away from my ear. This does not say that I am going to get cancer, but it does contradict, at least in my isolated case, the written claims that mobile phone use could not possibly affect human tissue in any perceivable manner.

This is a controversial area of research and, in my opinion, requires careful study and careful reporting to balance convenience, health, and other issues properly.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Brain study show rapid link formation between sound and action

Science Daily reports on an article published in the journal Society for Neuroscience on an fMRI study into how the brain reacts to sounds that are produced by specific actions. The researchers taught subjects with no musical training how to play a song and then used the fMRI imager to see how their brains reacted to the sounds played back. Interestingly enough, the subjects' brains activated the same regions involved in actually playing the notes.

Although not addressed in the report, it makes one wonder if this plays a role in learning speech...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Beyond Nielsen ratings - now with audio

Imagine getting a free cell phone, but instead of being forced to listen to advertising in exchange for your free-ride, it listens to you instead. That's right. Every so often, it records the activity going on around you and then uses a computer algorithm to create a "signature" from those sounds passes that signature back to a processing center, where another algorithm compares that signature to its master database to recognize what media type and "program" you are listening to - be it a music CD, TV/radio program, Muzak, rock concert, or whatever. Your data is then compiled with many others' to create media ratings. By only passing a signature and not the raw audio itself, no actual conversations get eavesdropped on - which would be illegal in many places.

In this age of TiVO, iPod, and other time- and/or location-shifting devices to allow viewers and listeners to consume media when and where it is convenient, traditional ways of measuring and estimating ratings are not as effective - hence the market's experimentation with this type of technology.

If you are interested in reading more, one company that is selling such a service is IMMI (Integrated Media Measurement Inc). There is a link on their home page to a Wall Street Journal review of several companies doing similar things.

(Hat Tip: Bruce Schneier's CRYPTO-GRAM email newsletter, January 17, 2007 edition)

Murder captured by surveillance camera

ABC News has the details.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

January's surprise - Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1)

Sky and Telescope has a guide to observing this bright, but only recently discovered, comet. Unfortunately, it is staying very low in the night sky. Stargazers in the northern temperate latitudes will have the best luck, as long as seeing is good.

(Author's note: See the comments for another link with more information.)

National Security musical chairs in USA

Larry Johnson over at the No Quarter blog has an interesting take on the musical chairs going on in Washington, D.C. (WDC) in the upper levels of the national security community. Mr. Johnson (formerly with CIA as well as Department of State's Office of Counter Terrorism, according to his bio) writes a fairly "hardball" styled blog, which in my opinion suits this type of subject (i.e. bureaucratic/political gossip).

With the creation of the Director of National Intelligence and the shifts in power (i.e. budgets and authority) toward the military during the last ten years or so, there have been very real and significant changes in the US national security community. When you add the issues caused by the Iraq War, the War on Terrorism, and the merger of multiple organizations to form the Department of Homeland Security, it will be many years before things involving security, intelligence, and defense run smoothly again in WDC.

Noise cancelling earbuds for operational environments

Taking out the ambient drone of an aircraft is one thing (a fairly simple thing, processing-wise) but taking out impulsive noises is another. Strategy Page has an article on a company that is trying to do this for the military guys with a (not quite shipping yet) product called QuietOps (by Silynx).

Lawyers and scientific evidence

For a very unflattering take on how little many lawyers currently know about forensic science and scientific evidence, check out this news article from Perth (Australia). I don't know how accurate this is but it is an interesting read.

(Hat tip: Forensic News Blog)

Duke University Lacrosse Team Case

As I lived in the Raleigh-Durham (NC, USA) area for some years during my time with DAC (Digital Audio Corporation) and while founding Signalscape, I have an interest in the happenings around that charming and dynamic part of the USA. For these personal reasons, in addition to the obvious professional ones, I have been following the case brought by DA Nifong against members of the Duke Lacrosse Team and its spiral downward into near farce. There have been significant questions about the evidence, as well as the timing and conduct of the DA, from the beginning and things have only gotten worse as time has passed.

That is a long introduction to get around to saying that thanks to a reader of this blog, I can tell you about a well-written blog devoted to the above case.

Bad guys blog

US News and World Report (a center-right weekly news magazine) has a very informative blog that I am checking regularly. It should be interesting for anyone following terrorism or crime.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Latest implementation of micro-stress detector for voice - Skype

Geekpress has an amusing article on the "Kiskkish lie detector", a third-party add-on to Skype 3.0. Regular readers of this blog will know of my opinion on voice stress analysis masquerading as lie detection.

13 photographs that changed the world

Most people of my age will recognize these famous photographs, but not know the stories behind them. This article gives both.

(Note: I came across site during my holiday surfing, but can't remember how I got there now so I can't give proper credit.)

Stupid Crime Tricks of 2006

Sorry for the lapse in my posting during the Christmas holidays. To make up for it, I offer this post to start your New Year off with a smile: The Fresno (California) Bee's humorous round-up of real stupid crime tricks from this year past.

Happy New Year!
Keith McElveen