Google's Bar Code Logo
Google changes its logo periodically to celebrate significant holidays, birthdays of important people, and anniversaries of major events. Wednesday's logo celebrated the anniversary of a pretty important event whose significance is still being felt today: the first patent on the bar code. Norman Woodland and Bernard Silver filed the patent in 1949, and it was granted in 1952. If we still used the system they'd originally intended, we'd have dartboard-shaped codes instead of bar codes. Woodland and Silver figured that would allow the codes to be read in any direction.
Modern bar codes have drastically shortened the amount of time
most of us spend at the checkout counter and made it much easier
to keep track of inventory. Since the bar code format is a global
standard, scanners from anywhere can interpret bar codes from anywhere
else, as long as they conform. TechCrunch notes that "The barcode
is a great example of why uniform protocols and standards serve
a greater good for everybody, and the same lesson certainly applies
to the web."
You can have a little bit of fun with the logo if you have a bar
code reader (such as a declawed Cuecat). Make sure the reader is
hooked up to your computer. Go to the logo and print it out. Now
go to Google's home page, put your cursor in the search box, and
scan the bar code print out. You'll see "GOOGLE" in the
search box and get a list of search results.
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From the Sewer to Your Gas Tank?
What if we could turn raw sewage into fuel? A number of scientists and companies have been working on this problem, and two say they have succeeded. Applied CleanTech, based in Israel, and Qteros, based in the US, have jointly developed a process for turning sewer sludge into ethanol.
The process uses both current sewage treatment techniques and microbes. The microbes can convert biomass into ethanol. Not only does it convert solid waste into a fuel, it reduces the amount of sludge processed by traditional treatment methods, because it starts with the raw sewage. The process extracts the biosolids with a technology already in use, and turns them into a feedstock. The feedstock, in turn, goes to a microorganism that digests the cellulose in it and gives back ethanol. The companies note that this method for making ethanol is a good alternative to the usual enzyme-based method, which calls for multiple steps.
Not only does the process yield fuel from something that would
otherwise be thrown away, but it reduces the operating expenses
of waste water plants. "Our customer is every municipality
that has a waste water treatment plant," noted Jeff Hausthor,
co-founder of Qteros. No doubt they'll soon be flush with contract
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A New Use for a Multi-Touch Surface
If you've ever wanted to see inside the human body, the Norrkoping Visualization Centre and the Center for Medical Image Science and Visualization in Sweden just created something that will get you as close as possible, short of an autopsy. It's called the Virtual Autopsy Table, and it uses high resolution MRIs, rendered and processed into 3D images. These images appear on the table itself, and can be manipulated by the viewer.
Judging from the video of the table in action, users can turn,
move, zoom in, "cut" with a virtual knife to examine certain
parts in more detail, and focus on different layers depending on
their interest, such as the skin, circulatory system, nerves, skeleton,
brain, etc. The creators of the table note that it works well as
a complement to a conventional autopsy, and that it can be used
to see things that such an autopsy would make it difficult to discover.
Furthermore, it could open up new frontiers in medicine, especially
in those places where autopsies are often not culturally accepted.
The virtual autopsy table was designed as a teaching aid, and looks
as if it would serve admirably in that role. As Engaget notes, "we
wouldn't be surprised to see these cropping up in museums all over
the globe any day now." Can't you just see a virtual autopsy
of a dinosaur or an early hominid? Or how about one where you get
to virtually "unwrap" a mummy, a layer at a time? The
possibilities are endless.
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