Saturday, December 31, 2011

Robot wars - Fault Lines - Al Jazeera English

Robot wars - Fault Lines - Al Jazeera English:
Robot wars
What is the role of drones and robots in wars and how will they shape the future of the US military?
Last Modified: 27 Dec 2011 14:31

Over the past decade, the US military has shifted the way it fights its wars, deploying more unmanned systems in the battlefield than ever before.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The American Scholar: Solitude and Leadership - William Deresiewicz

The American Scholar: Solitude and Leadership - William Deresiewicz:

Solitude and Leadership


If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts

By William Deresiewicz

The lecture below was delivered to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October 2009.

My title must seem like a contradiction. What can solitude have to do with leadership? Solitude means being alone, and leadership necessitates the presence of others—the people you’re leading. When we think about leadership in American history we are likely to think of Washington, at the head of an army, or Lincoln, at the head of a nation, or King, at the head of a movement—people with multitudes behind them, looking to them for direction. And when we think of solitude, we are apt to think of Thoreau, a man alone in the woods, keeping a journal and communing with nature in silence.

Leadership is what you are here to learn—the qualities of character and mind that will make you fit to command a platoon, and beyond that, perhaps, a company, a battalion, or, if you leave the military, a corporation, a foundation, a department of government. Solitude is what you have the least of here, especially as plebes. You don’t even have privacy, the opportunity simply to be physically alone, never mind solitude, the ability to be alone with your thoughts. And yet I submit to you that solitude is one of the most important necessities of true leadership. This lecture will be an attempt to explain why.

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Google Ideas Associate, Business Operations and Strategy - New York - US jobs - Google

Google Ideas Associate, Business Operations and Strategy - New York - US jobs - Google:

Google Ideas Associate, Business Operations and Strategy - New York

Apply now

This position is based in New York, NY.

The area: Business Operations and Strategy, Google Ideas

Google Ideas is a “think/do tank” focused on connecting across different sectors, disciplines and experiences to understand and act upon global challenges in new and innovative ways. The establishment of this team is based on the fact that there are many complex global challenges – social, economic, political, security – that remain unresolved despite lots of experts thinking about them and vast resources being allocated to them. The advent of connection technologies is helping to resolve some of these challenges, but these tools remain significantly under-utilized and are also increasing the complexity of challenges as hostile actors are leveraging their capabilities. Google Ideas is situated within the Business Operations & Strategy Group, a broader team that thinks strategically and globally about entire industries and helps Google define business and operational initiatives that contribute to the company’s growth.

The role: Google Ideas Associate, Business Operations and Strategy

As a Google Ideas Associate in Business Operations and Strategy, you will project manage and support a range of major initiatives by leveraging sound business judgment with your strong technical, problem-solving, communication and analytical skills. You will bring creative and highly technical project management skills and will be highly effective at bringing together non-traditional stakeholders and forging partnerships across sectors, disciplines, and experiences. The major initiatives you will support will be centered around particular global challenges related to democracy, governance and human rights. You will be expected to break through different silos of expertise, methodological approaches, and resources to ensure we take the most comprehensive and inclusive approach to how we think about and act on some of the world’s most complex challenges. You will be able to demonstrate effective leadership, entrepreneurial, and research skills in very different settings and geographic locations around the world. Professionally, you bring demonstrated experience in technology, project management, and startups.


  • Manage projects and act as a liaison between technical and non-technical teams, both internally and externally
  • Structure complex, ambiguous, and potentially charged business issues for Google's executive team
  • Gather and analyze massive amounts of information expeditiously
  • Develop compelling, insightful recommendations and ideas and be able to convey them through high-caliber written products
  • Lead execution against recommendations and ideas quickly and with flawless accuracy

Minimum Qualifications:

  • BA/BS degree (In lieu of degree, 4 years of relevant work experience).
  • 4 years of post-graduate level experience in technology.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Advanced degree and/or technology-related degrees (e.g. Computer Science, Electrical Engineering). Extensive experience functioning in highly technical environments, technical project management experience a must (hands-on experience preferred).
  • Extensive experience functioning in highly technical environments, technical project management experience a must (hands-on experience preferred).
  • Successful track record of bringing together non-traditional stakeholders and building partnerships across sectors, disciplines and experiences, strong preference for candidates with vast international networks of technology professionals and startups.
  • Background in international relations a plus; travel experience and fieldwork (Asia preferred); language skills a plus.
  • Candidate must be able to exhibit a strong understanding of engineering to the coding level.
  • Must be adaptable, flexible, capable of working both independently and in teams, and demonstrate a strong ability to quickly build expertise in new areas and projects.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Samsung, Sharp and others to pay $553 million fine for LCD price-fixing scheme

Samsung, Sharp and others to pay $553 million fine for LCD price-fixing scheme:

Samsung, Sharp, Innolux Corp, Hitachi, HannStar Display Corp, Chungwha Picture Tubes and Epson Imaging Devices Corp will pay a total of $553 million to settle accusations that the firms participated in an LCD price-fixing scheme. The price fixing resulted in inflation of display prices at the benefit of all companies involved, but at the cost of consumers. “This price-fixing scheme manipulated the playing field for businesses that abide by the rules, and left consumers to pay artificially higher costs for televisions, computers and other electronics,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. The United States, European Union, South Korea and Japan began investigating the seven companies in December 2006, Reuters said, and executives and other firms have already paid as much as $890 million in fines. Settlement papers filed with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ask Samsung to pay $240 million, the largest fine levied against any of the firms involved. Nokia also filed a lawsuit against several, but not all, of the aforementioned firms in 2009 alleging that the companies were purposely driving up display prices for screens used in Nokia smartphones.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Future MacBooks Could Be Powered by Fuel Cells [Apple]

Future MacBooks Could Be Powered by Fuel Cells [Apple]:
The latest patent application to come out of Cupertino could allow for new Macbooks that are slimmer, lighter, greener and could provide power for days without a charge. What's the magic ingredient? Fuel cells! More »

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How hackers gave Subway a $3 million lesson in point-of-sale security

How hackers gave Subway a $3 million lesson in point-of-sale security:
How hackers gave Subway a $3 million lesson in point-of-sale security
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How hackers gave Subway a $3 million lesson in point-of-sale security

How hackers gave Subway a $3 million lesson in point-of-sale security:
How hackers gave Subway a $3 million lesson in point-of-sale security
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Bottom Line - Buyer found for nation's priciest bank-owned home

Bottom Line - Buyer found for nation's priciest bank-owned home:

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The Complete, No-Nonsense, Slightly Neurotic Guide to Making Great Latkes

The Complete, No-Nonsense, Slightly Neurotic Guide to Making Great Latkes:


[Photographs: Max Falkowitz and Sam Soboliewski]

We're nearing Chanukah again, which means it's time to start arguing about whether it's early or late this year, moaning "I can't believe you threw away the pupik!," and defending your choice to not go to grad school so you can sit and blab about food on the internet.

Okay, so maybe I'm projecting a bit. Forgive me. It's a stressful time of year.

But amidst the nudging, nagging, and nebbishing of the Chanukah season lies something that mends all wounds and brings us all together. I'm talking about latkes, the perfect party food. And when you get the hang of them, they're a cinch to make.

That said, there's a lot of ways latkes can go wrong. If you're looking to step up your latke game, this guide has everything you need to know, from ingredients to equipment to technique.

What Makes a Perfect Latke?

A lot of the problems in latkecraft stem from a misunderstanding of what a latke is. To start, it's not a potato pancake. Potato pancakes have a creamy, almost mashed potato-like center with a thin, golden, crisp exterior. Latkes, on the other hand, should have a deeply browned crust with whispy, lacy edges.


Latkes also aren't hash browns. Hash browns are all about deeply burnished crust, with just enough potatoey center to gain a third dimension and a little give. A latke's interior should be plump and slightly cakey but yielding, with recognizably rustic stands of potato intertwined with onion.

To put it in burger terms,* a latke should combine a pub burger's heft with a fast food-style burger's crust, the best of all possible potato worlds.

*And if we can put something into burger terms at Serious Eats, we do.

I'm going to ask that you bear with me on this definition. If you prefer your latkes extra thin and crispy or with creamy centers, try these and see if they change your mind. If they don't, I'm not going to say what you lovingly made for your family isn't a latke, but we're going to have to agree to disagree.



A latke has three main elements: potato, onion, and a binder. The potato part is easy. Don't get anything fancy—Russet potatoes are all you need. Russets, often called Idaho, brown the best and produce tender interiors, thanks to their high starch content. Some people peel their potatoes for latkes, but for the life of me I can't figure out why. Potato peels add pleasant texture and honest potatoey flavor. Plus peeling is a lot of work. Just give your potatoes a good scrubbing under warm water and they're ready to go.

As for the onion, I find yellow globe-shaped Spanish varieties are the best. They have some seriously funky allium flavor to jazz up mild potatoes.

The binder merits more contemplation. I use a combination of three binders: eggs, matzo meal, and potato starch. Eggs add wholesome flavor, fat, and act as spackle, sucking together ingredients of different shapes and sizes into a single mass. But eggs aren't enough to keep latkes bound together. Before and during frying, the potatoes and onions will give up a fair amount of moisture, and if you only use eggs as a binder, your neatly-packed latkes will become a mess of eggy, oily has browns. They'll fall apart before you're able to flip them.


Starch sucks up moisture like nothing else, and my favorite for latkes is matzo meal, which is nothing more than ground-up matzo (often, beguilingly, not kosher for Passover, the holiday matzo is made for). Matzo doesn't win any contests for flavor, but to me, a latke just isn't a latke without that slight crackery flavor that matzo meal provides. And it's far less likely to turn your latkes' insides into a gluey mess than, say, flour. Of course potatoes have plenty of starch themselves, and we can liberate that starch to help bind the latkes. More on that below.

Oh, and a note on oil. While not really an ingredient in latkes, oil matters. First and foremost, don't be afraid to use a lot of it. The latkes will cook faster and more evenly. And no, they won't be too greasy. Plus if you use too little oil, your exteriors will burn before the insides are cooked through. Second, as lovely as olive oil is, leave it out—it can't handle the heat for latke frying. Stick to canola or peanut oil, which both have high enough smoke points to fry up a mess of latkes.


While our grandmothers probably fried up latkes with whatever tools they had on hand, we have the luxury of options. When it comes to tools to shred and fry your latkes, luxury is good.


Pictured here are my grandmother's cast iron skillets. They're between 70 and 80 years old, and they make the perfect latke (as well as the perfect hash or any other fried thing). Now I'm not saying you need AARP-member pans to make great latkes, but cast iron is a huge help. It retains heat extremely well, which means you won't need to fuss with the stove much to keep oil temperature stable.

I've fried latkes side by side in cast iron and stainless steel pans. Cast iron produces a perfectly even, deeply browned crust every time. Stainless steel requires, in my experience, continual adjustment to both the stove and the latkes, and the results are never as pretty.

I also consider a food processor essential, and not just because it's so much easier than grating by hand. A hand grater produces thin, flimsy strands of potato that clump together. The food processor's grating disk—and if you only use it once a year for latkes that's okay—yields larger, firmer, shoestring-like threads that give the latke toothsome heft and gorgeously lacy edges. That Acme grater may be more traditional, but a food processor makes a latke you can really sink your teeth into.

Setting Up (and Introducing the Greatest Latke Trick of All Time)

Now your ingredients are assembled and your gear is ready to go. When it comes to frying, organization and technique are your best friends, so set up as much as you can beforehand. Once you start mixing up latkes, your hands will become spackled with starch, and dried-up matzo meal is murder to get off cabinet handles.

Pre-chop your onions and set them aside. (Yes, chop, not grate—grating releases too much moisture into the latke mix, and moisture is the enemy of a crisp latke.) Put together a draining rig next to a serving platter; mine is a sheet pan layered with paper towels. Get those eggs out of the fridge so your fingers don't freeze come mixing time. And pre-measure your matzo meal, keeping in mind that it's easier to return extra to the container when your hands are clean than to pour out more with your elbows.


Shredded potatoes brown fast, so make that your last step. After you run two or three potatoes through the food processor, open it up and dump the shreds into a bowl lined with a couple thicknesses of cheesecloth. Why cheesecloth? Remember when we talked about liberating starch from potatoes, and how excess moisture is the enemy of a crisp latke? Well here's the solution, the Greatest Latke Trick of All Time.


When I first was learning how to make latkes, I was taught to press the potato shreds against a colander to draw out excess moisture into a bowl below. The starch collects at the bottom of the bowl, and after the water is drained off, it can be added to the latke mix. It's a neat trick.*

Except pressing water out of potatoes by hand is reminiscent of Moses being asked to summon forth water from a stone. But where Moses had a staff and God on his side, I just have two pasty arms and weak biceps. Draining by hand takes forever, and when you're done it feels like you lost an arm wrestling match to a potato.

Cheesecloth and a little physics hold the answer. Bundle the potato shreds in the cheesecloth and wrap the corners around the handle of a wooden spoon. Then, holding the corners around the spoon, twist the bundle tightly. As you twist, pressure will force water out of the potatoes with ease. Collect this water in a bowl, then transfer your dry, ready-to-crisp potato shreds into another mixing bowl with enough chopped onion to get something that looks like this:

*Okay, so the Greatest Latke Trick of All Time is more of a corollary. But who's keeping score?


After a couple minutes, the drained water will separate into a brown murky pool over a bed of pale, already-hydrated potato starch, which you can use for all sorts of fun science experiments. Or, once you drain off the water, add to your potatoes and onions along with eggs, a hefty dose of salt, and just enough matzo meal to give the mix body. It should be firm enough to form patties that you can pass from hand to hand.


I set up two skillets at a time with enough oil to come halfway up the latke. You want to fry them fairly hot; there's little risk of them overcooking. I don't bother taking the oil's temperature, but I heat it on medium high for several minutes before I begin frying. Put a stray shred of potato in the oil. If it bubbles vigorously within a second, your oil is ready to go.


But before you begin frying, make a tiny test latke to check for seasoning. There's nothing more disappointing than an underseasoned latke, and while you can make your latke mix by sight and feel, proper salting can only come from a taste. You probably need more salt than you think, and this test latke will help keep hungry mouths at bay.

Size is a matter of debate in the latke community. I like mine the size of a good pub burger, about four inches in diameter and one-inch thick. Two or three of those takes care of any famished diner as a main course. If you're serving latkes as sides or appetizers, smaller and thinner may be the way to go. If you like yours extra-crispy, smash them down with a spatula once you slide them into the oil.


Latkes almost ready. These will get flipped one more time to finish browning.

Give your latkes space so they don't form a giant pancake, and fry them undisturbed until they develop a golden crust on the bottom. Flipping is best done with a slotted spatula and a fork. Your latkes are ready when both sides are a deep brown and the crust is thick. But keep in mind that they will darken as they cool, and there is such a thing as too crispy (i.e., burnt).


For reasons that escape me, many latke purveyors and eaters feel the addition of applesauce or sour cream is an either/or decision. My best guess is a lacuna between people of German descent and those of Slavic heritage, the former preferring sweet fruit sauces with their savory dishes and the latter considering sour cream to be a main course in and of itself. I say we breach the Teutono-Slavic divide and use both, and plenty of them. When used together, a latke needs nothing else to be a meal all its own.

I'll also beg you to make your own applesauce. It takes all of 20 minutes, is stupidly easy, and will taste better than anything from a jar. Good apples need nothing more than a pinch of salt and some time to soften to make great applesauce. Incidentally, applesauce is a fantastic next-day cure of greasy-stomach-from-too-many-latkes-itis.

Latke Variations

Now that you've mastered your latkes, you may start wondering about variations. How about potato-apple-turnip latkes? Sweet potato latkes? Ginger garlic taro latkes? The internet is full of suggestions for ways to jazz up and "modernize" the humble latke.

I'll tell you exactly what your grandmother would say. It's all mishegas. Some perfect things need no improvement. Go forth and fry with the courage of your convictions, and have a happy, latke-stuffed Chanukah.

Get the Recipes

Old Fashioned Latkes >>

Really Simple Applesauce >>

About the author: Max Falkowitz fulfills most of your neurotic Jewish stereotypes, and writes about spices and ice cream for Serious Eats. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz. Or let him post alone in the dark.


Visualizing video at the speed of light — one trillion frames per second - YouTube

Visualizing video at the speed of light — one trillion frames per second - YouTube:

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Spread the word: Math is the new sexiness in IT

Spread the word: Math is the new sexiness in IT: If big data does indeed write the screenplay for the movie about the next generation of business, the climax will be that mathematicians take the prom queen home. If students want high-paying jobs with the coolest companies around, they'd better heed that prediction.

Dilbert comic strip for 12/21/2011 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive.

Dilbert comic strip for 12/21/2011 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive.:
The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more
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IBM: Mind-Reading Machines Will Change Our Lives

IBM: Mind-Reading Machines Will Change Our Lives:

ibm thinking machines

In five years, we’ll simply be able to think something, and a computer will respond. That’s the vision from IBM, which just published its “5 in 5″ forecast, which attempts to predict five technologies that have the potential to significantly change our lives in the next five years. One of the more surprising candidates: machines that will read our thoughts.

Well, not exactly, IBM Senior Inventor Kevin Brown told Mashable. The idea is a little more down-to-earth — and less scary — than the science-fiction scenarios of mind-reading robots that the description evokes. IBM’s vision is this: a person wears a headset (shown above, worn by Brown) that can detect general electrical signals from the brain, and sends them to a computer. Sophisticated software interprets those signals and, in turn, tells a machine what to do.

“One of the common misconceptions is that this headset is reading your thoughts,” says Brown. “It’s not. It’s just reading a level of excitement. It’s not understanding.”

The technology behind the idea has existed for a while. The headset, which costs just $299 and is made by a company called Emotiv, is able to detect electrical signals in the brain (via electroencephalography, or EEG) as well as muscular movements (electromyography, or EMG), both well known in the medical community.

Once you have those signals, Brown says the real magic begins, which is the ability to map signals to different actions. By doing so, the user is effectively teaching the machine how to read a specific mind. In much the same way speech-recognition software gets tailored to an individual’s accent, inflections, and pronunciation, the mind-reading software can adapt to a person’s unique “thoughts.”

The next step is mapping specific thoughts to specific actions, analogous to programming a universal remote control. The key here is that the thought and action don’t necessarily have to be the same. For example, if you want to use the headset to, say, turn on a TV, you might program the headset to perform that action when you think about kittens.

“Any device can take that [headset] data and do something with it,” says Brown, “So you might have a fan come on or you might have a room light change color based on certain excitement level.”

The idea of walking around your house wearing an elaborate headset (you can see it here) has unfortunate echoes of another technology that was supposed to change our lives but flopped: 3D. However, the tech has already come a long way from the hospital-level EEG devices, which needed gels applied to the skin and hard-wire connections. An Emotiv competitor, NeuroSky, has a sleeker (though less capable) headset. Brown is confident progress could make it even more compact.

“At the moment there’s a little bit of trade-off between technology looks,” Brown admits. “But one of the key things is finding a really use that actually makes people want to wear it.”

Brown’s alluding to the mind-reading tech finding a “killer app.” As far as what that could be, he says it’s only limited by what you could connect the headset to, and — if the tech is cultivated into a full-fledged platform with developers, apps and iterative updates — that could be a lot. Thinking big, Brown suggests large-scale data about how people are feeling could become a tool for marketers and sociologists.

“If you also think about smarter cities,” Brown writes in a blog post. “If everyone is wearing the device and open to sharing their thoughts, city heat maps could be created to see how people are feeling to create a picture of the mental health of a city. Or musicians could create elaborate pieces based on what they are thinking about.”

What are your thoughts on reading thoughts? Would you wear a headset to control things with your mind? And what about sharing your real-time feelings in some kind of public network? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Emotiv, IBM, mind-reading

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