In 1979, Sony introduced the Walkman and changed our relationship to music. The obvious magic of the Walkman — and later MP3 players like the iPod — is that it made it easy to carry your music with you, providing a portable soundtrack for your life. But I think there was another, less obvious, transformation in music-listening spurred by the Walkman and its digital descendants: Suddenly, we all spent a lot more time listening to music through headphones. Sure, most people had a set of those big 70s corded cans sitting by the family stereo. And my dad had an earphone (singular) for his transistor radio to listen to the ballgame. But portable music players — tape, CD, or MP3 — are designed to be used with stereo headphones. And as a result, the listening experience is more immersive, more active, and almost universally delivers newfound appreciation for what you are hearing.
Hey, so, what really went on with those plucky survivors during the months we didn't see them? It's understandable that a few months spent in a zombie apocalypse may cause a shift in priorities. But let's just say it: Rick has gone off the deep end, albeit in a very entertaining fashion. When we last left everyone at the end of the season premiere, one of our zombie-fighting friends suffered a bit of a flesh wound, and we met five more possible friends... or living human obstacles.
Spoilers after the jump, so consider yourself warned!
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America lost a great Maker last week. Stanford R. Ovshinsky was a self-taught engineer and inventor who held more than 400 patents when he died on October 17th at the age of 90. The name may not be familiar to you, but his work is. Ovshinsky is credited with inventing key technologies behind flat-panel liquid crystal displays that we use to watch TV, work on the Internet, or play with our phones.
He was also the inventor of the nickel-metal hydride battery — a rechargeable battery that now powers everything from laptops to the Prius. Ovshinsky (along with his wife, Iris, who held a Ph.D. in biochemistry and was his research partner for much of his life), began working on improved versions of batteries, solar cells, and other energy technologies beginning in the early 1960s. More than a decade before climate change became a well-established fact, Ovshinsky was concerned about the pollution and political instability that went along with fossil fuels. He spent the rest of his life developing better alternatives.
For a good introduction to how truly groundbreaking Ovshinsky's ideas were, check out a 1978 article from Popular Science, all about his invention of amorphous silicon semiconductors — a technology that today forms the basis behind both thin-film solar panels and smart phone displays. At the time though, it made Ovshinky a controversial figure.
• Michigan Public Radio's obituary
• A good explanation of the inner workings of nickel-metal hydride batteries
• Popular Science's obit (with a link to the 1978 story)
Thanks to Art Myatt for the heads up on this!
Italian scientists guilty of manslaughter after failing to predict L'Aquila quake; face 6 years in prison (updated)
A verdict has been reached in the "medieval" trial of six Italian scientists and a former government official: all 7 are convicted of manslaughter for providing "inexact, incomplete and contradictory" information about the dangers signaled by pre-shocks preceding a devastating 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy. The 6.3 quake killed 309 people. Effectively, the defendants are being punished for having failed to predict the earthquake, which scientists argue is impossible to do.
Prosecutors allege the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake after studying hundreds of tremors that had shaken the city. The defence has argued that there is no way to predict major earthquakes even in a seismically active area.
Many in the scientific community believe the controversy places science itself on trial.
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Police officer Edward Krawetz earned a 10-year suspended sentence for beating a woman on the street. But he didn't lose his job, because it's nearly impossible to fire a bad cop.
America Online has developed a web-based email service called Alto (altomail.com), and early reports sure sound promising. Alto is not a new email provider (no @alto.com email addresses, at least not yet), but an inbox-replacement for your current email address(es). Read your Gmail, Yahoo, Mac, or other accounts; import Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter messages. Nicholas Carlson at Business Insider has a review. Mat Honan at Wired gave it a whirl. Daniel Terdiman at CNET liked it. The service is launching as a private beta, with public availability sometime in Q1 2013. Alto is free for now, but expect ads or a paid "premium" option later on. It's browser-based, and there's an HTML5 version optimized for iPad (and, presumably, other tablets).
(Screengrab from Business Insider's review.)
Over at Digitprop, a free PDF to make this delightful papercraft skeleton.