Scientists from the European Bioinformatics Institute are squeezing unparalleled amounts of data in to synthetic DNA, and now they’ve achieved something absolutely amazing: they can store 2.2 petabytes of information in a single gram of DNA, and recover it with 100 percent accuracy.
The researchers have encoded an MP3 of Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I have a dream” speech, along with all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, into a string of DNA. Scaled up, that represents a storage density of 2.2 petabytes per gram. What’s amazing, though, is that they’ve managed to achieve that whilst also implementing error correction in the complex chains of molecules, allowing them to retrieve content with 100 per cent accuracy.
The technique uses the four bases of DNA—A, T, C and G—to achieve the high information density. It is, understandably, still incredibly expensive: creating synthetic DNA and then sequencing it to read off the data is getting far easier, but it’s still a time- and cash-consuming business. Keep hold of your hard drives for now, but DNA could represent a viable storage solution in the future. [Nature via New Scientist]
Image by Tacu Alexei/Shutterstock
What if a virus were a shapeshifter, able to change its appearance each time it infects a machine? What if a virus used your own files against you, able to ransack the programs on your computer for the bits of code it needs? Judging from the progress made on the Frankenstein virus, a venture sponsored by the U.S. Air Force, that may soon be a reality.
Developed by two professors at the University of Texas at Dallas, New Scientist says the Frankenstein virus is essentially a program compliler with directions about the algorithms it needs to assemble. Once unpacked and functional, it begins searching the software on your computer for the code it needs—generally taking little snippets called gadgets. These gadgets are written to perform specific actions and thus can be transposed over to another program more easily. The researchers only had the Frankenstein virus create two simple algorithms as a proof of concept, but they believe it can assemble any program, including full-scale malware.
And though there have been other viruses that can change their code, Frankenstein is believed to be more dangerous because it can also change its every aspect of itself to hide on your computer.
Frankenstein is different because all of its code, including the blueprints and gadget-finder, can adapt to look like parts of regular software, making it harder to detect. Just three pieces of such software are enough to provide over 100,000 gadgets, so there are a huge number of ways for Frankenstein to build its monster, but it needs blueprints that find the right balance. If the blueprint is too specific, it leaves Frankenstein little choice in which gadgets to use, leading to less variation and making it easier to detect. Looser blueprints, which only specify the end effects of the malware, are too vague for Frankenstein to follow, for now.
Image by gualtiero boffi/Shutterstock
Study: free apps drain 75 percent more power, badly built advertising to blame originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 20 Mar 2012 12:59:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
You intuitively know that all of those applications running in the background on your phone are latently eating away at your battery’s charge, but a new study reveals that the main culprit isn’t any useful function. It’s location-pinging ads.
The study, conducted by a team lead by Abhinav Pathak from Purdue University, analyzed the energy used by several popular free Android apps (PDF) like Angry Birds, Facebook, the New York Times, and Chess. The team developed an “energy profiler” they call “Eprof” that determines what processes within an app are using energy. The results are shocking: 65 to 75 percent of energy consumed by the free apps studied are used by third-party advertising modules within the programs. These apps continue to run in the background even when you’re not actually using the app. Only 10 to 30 percent of that energy is used to power the applications’ “core functions.”
Apps shouldn’t continue to serve you ads when you’re not locking at the apps. It’s a bug, or something more nefarious. According to the researchers, developers don’t notice energy consumption problems—bugs or otherwise—because most apps are “energy oblivious,” meaning that the developers don’t pay attention to how much energy apps use. [Eurosys 2012 via New Scientist]
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the largest natural coral formation on Earth and you’ll soon be able to see it in all its glory—from your desk.
The Catlin Seaview Survey, a collaboration between Google, the University of Queensland, and the Caitlin Group, will perform a diagnostic on the reef system’s health via a panoramic underwater photographic and video survey. The program has already taken some preliminary surveys, though the group plans to undertake the projects main component—three surveys begin at 20 points around the reef—in September.
Images will be captured by a 360-degree camera (actually four conveniently positioned fish-eye lens SLR’s) affixed to the front end of an Diver Propulsion Vehicle (DPV) for shallow surveys, and robotic subs for surveys between 30 and 100 meters. The group hopes to also study how and if the migratory behavior of tiger sharks, green turtles and manta rays has been affected by global warming.
Starting today Internet users should be able to access these images via Google Street View and will also be able to watch video of each study section on YouTube. [University of Queensland via New Scientist]
Image: Caitlin Seaview Survey
Another day, another story about some cheap, plastic Wii motion control accessory finding an application outside of gaming. In this case, it’s the balance board, and not only is this device helping stroke victims recover, it’s saving them money, too.
In fact, doctors at the University of Melbourne found that the balance board, normally used for pseudo Yoga or navigating Mii’s down a virtual ski slope, was so sensitive it could very well replace traditional laboratory-grade “force platforms” doctors use to assess a patient’s balance.
When doctors disassembled the board, they found the accelerometers and strain gauges to be of “excellent” quality. “I was shocked given the price: it was an extremely impressive strain gauge set-up,” said lead researcher Ross Clark, in an interview with New Scientist.
Even better, Clark’s team has already published a paper that verifies the Wii balance board is “clinically comparable” to the nearly $18,000 lab force platform. That’s great news for many smaller physio clinics that would otherwise be unable to afford the traditional rig. [New Scientist]
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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