The first e-reader built in 1949

The first e-reader was neither kindle, nor kobo, nor a sony. Moreover, it was build more than 50 years before the current tablets.
In 1949, Angela Ruiz Robles, a language teacher from Spain built what she called "La Enciclopedia Mecanica" ("The Mechanical Encyclopedia"). The major motivations for such invetion were to stop children carrying heavy books and to make reading more accessible. Unfortunatly, she could not get the funding fr the project; besides, the implementation was quite mpractical for those years.
The device worked based onpressurised air, allowing readers to add different spools containing the pre loaded documents. It also had a zoom option, allowing to focus on a specific area.
The working prototype is at the "Museo Nacional de Ciencia y Technologia de La Coruña - España" ("National Museum of Science and Technology in La Coruña - Spain")

Suggested reading:
Spanish teacher invented Kindle style tablet in 1949
Angela Ruiz Robles

Google Science Fair 2013

The Google Science Fair is an online science competition sponsored by Google, Lego, CERN, National Geographic and Scientific American. It began in 2011 with the purpose to promote interest in science among teens.  
The competition is open to 13-18 year old students around the globe, who formulate a hypothesis, perform an experiment, and present their results. In order to register, the participant only need to log in via a google account, and submit their project either in English, German, Spanish, Italian or French.
The finalists will get prizes from Google itself, Lego, National Geographic and Scientific American, along with a $50,000 scholarship, Galapagos Islands trip and other individual gifts, the winner's school will get both $10,000 and a Hangout session with CERN. 
The deadline for project submission is April 30th, 2013.

Suggested links:

New Microsoft Office 2013 turn towards The Cloud

January 29th 2013, Microsoft (MS) released its new office version "Microsoft Office 2013". The most innovative aspect of this new version, is that Microsoft turns towards the new information technology (IT) trend, "the cloud". For instance, the applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and others) can save files directly to SkyDrive, Microsoft’s online storage service. Why changing towards the cloud? Maybe MS realized that some cloud services for storing and sharing files, such as Dropbox already have more than 100 million users.

Other major innovation is that it includes the possibility to add functions via an app store, following the trend introduced by tablets. For instance, some promising  plug-ins allow to include the ability to add Twitter functionality to the Outlook email tool and to consult Encyclopaedia Britannica articles from within Word. There are also 3rd party application that charge a fee, like the "task analyser" (from the firm sensei project solutions) designed to identify problems or missing information in users' documents.

Other new features include:
  • Flatter look of the Ribbon interface and subtle animations when typing or selecting (Word and Excel)
  • A new visualization for scheduled tasks in Microsoft Outlook.
  • Remodeled start screen.
  • New graphical options in Word.
  • Objects such as images can be freely moved; they snap to boundaries such as paragraph edges, document margin and or column boundaries.
  • Online picture support with content from, and Flickr.
  • Ability to return to the last viewed or edited location in Word and PowerPoint.
  • New slide designs, animations and transitions in PowerPoint 2013.
  • Support for and in Outlook.
  • Support for Skype and Yammer.
  • Excel 2013 supports new limit models.

Some experts stated that this is a unexpected move that somehow introcues MS office into a marked dominated by other IT giant like Google or Apple

Suggested links:
MS Office preview
MS launches 2013 Office suite
Microsoft's Office 2013 is software for the cloud

6 Easy Security Tips for your Computer

Most people think that installing anti-virus software is the only step they need to protect their computer and the data stored on it. Unfortunately it is not, anti virus software is just the first step.

In this post we will share some easy and simple tips for protecting your computer.
Easy steps to protect your computer

1. Update the antivirus every day. Yes, I said every day. Information technology (IT) is a science that grows every day. Hence, every day there are new improvements, virus, new threatens. You must consider that an antivirus that an obsolete antivirus database will soon become useless, like having no antivirus.

2. Strong passwords. I will not suggest to have single password for each account, as I'm aware that we easily have many web accounts (email, facebook, youtube, different banks or cards). However, some 3 passwords is a good number. We can easily repeat 2 or 3 password for all our accounts. Besides, it is important that the passwords should have some length and combination of alfa-numeric characters. The best option is to use a passphrase.

3. Careful with your wifi. Home Wi-Fi networks can easily be found by scanners on laptops, smartphones and stand-alone devices. Most people have learned to secure them with password-based encryption, but there are still a lot of holdouts. So, be sure to make it always private or even invisible

4. Be sure that it is a secure website. Nowadays, for a hacker is very easy to create a fake security website asking for passwords. I suggest to use of the 'https' protocol, which means that the site is encrypted, and a green bar indicating that the owner of the site has gone through extended validation by a Certificate Authority like DigiCert to prove the organization's identity

5. Turn on your firewall. A good firewall helps to prevent others from getting connected to your machine, whether you're in a coffee shop, home or office, and will notify you if someone is trying to connect

6. Don't open pop-ups or unexpected attachments. Things that arrive unexpectedly on your browser screen or in your email inbox are often malicious and may download malware onto your computer. Just by clicking the pop-up or opening the email attachment, and you might be executing the virus.

Virtual Water

Virtual water... seems science fiction. However, it is a very important concept that must be considered carefully.
Usually when we use something or eat something we don't realize that we are consuming water, since water is used in the production process to build something or to grow food. Virtual Water refers to the hidden flow of water if food or other commodities are traded from one place to another. For instance, it takes 1,600 cubic meters of water on average to produce one metric tonne of wheat.
This virtual water term led to the idea of virtual water trade, refers to the idea that when goods and services are exchanged, so is virtual water. When a country imports one tonne of wheat instead of producing it domestically, it is saving about 1,300 cubic meters of real indigenous water. If this country is water-scarce, the water that is 'saved' can be used towards other ends. If the exporting country is water-scarce, however, it has exported 1,300 cubic meters of virtual water since the real water used to grow the wheat will no longer be available for other purposes. This has obvious strategic implications for countries that are water-constrained. For instance, Israel discourage the export of oranges (relatively heavy water guzzlers) precisely to prevent large quantities of water being exported to different parts of the world.
Other new concept related to the use of water is the water footprint. Water footprint shows the link between consumer goods or a consumption pattern and water use and pollution. Virtual water trade and water footprint can be seen as part of a bigger story: the globalization of water.

Additional links:
How much virtual water we use every day?
What is your water footprint?

Remote Sensing fires in Tasmania

On January 6, 2013, the Moderate Resolution Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument capture an image of smokws and fires over Tasmania. The multiple red pixels are heat signatures detected by MODIS, while the smoke is represented by the brown pixels.
Source: MODIS image of the day

DNA for storing data

A team of scientists from the European Bioinformatics Institute have recorded data including Shakespearean sonnets and an MP3 file on strands of DNA, in a breakthrough which could see millions of records stored on a handful of molecules rather than computer drives.
To see if it would work, the researchers converted the 0s and 1s of a computer file into letters that make up genetic code. From there, they took bits of the "I have a dream" speech and Shakespeare's sonnets and encoded them into DNA letters. They even added a picture of their institution, and the end result was a nearly invisible piece of dust in a test tube.
The scientists think that this new approach may be easily capable of swallowing the roughly 3 zettabytes (a zettabyte is one billion trillion or 10²¹ bytes) of digital data thought presently to exist in the world and still have room for plenty more. It would do so with a density of around 2.2 petabytes (10¹⁵) per gram; enough, in other words, to fit all the world’s digital information into the back of a lorry. Moreover, their method dramatically reduces the copying errors to which many previous DNA storage attempts have been prone.
Further reading:
Computer files accuratly stored on DNA
DNA files used to store 
Storing information on DNA

Coal made from grass

Coal made from grass in just 3 hours.

Source: Der Spiegel

In order to convert biomass into charcoal, nature needs millions of years. However, scientists from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a new technique that in three hours converts plant remains into a new type of coal called BioChar. This BioChar has the same properties as brown coal, plus the advantage that it is CO2 neutral.

First, the water from the plants is removed by heating at 200 degrees under a pressure of 20 bar, which is 20 times higher than atmospheric pressure at sea level. As a result remains a black slurry with almost all the carbon of the prime material. Next, it comes to further dewatering in a press and is then dried even with heat.

The pilot plant located in Ludwigsfelder can convert 200 Kg of grass and green waste into about 70 Kg of BioChar.

Complete article (In german)

Are glaciers retreating faster or slower than predicted?

Galciers are the most important reservoirs of fresh water storing about 2/3 of total freshwater. If they dissapear, that would lead to serious social and economic tensions around the world. Some studies states that they are retreating faster than expected. For instance, Mernil et al., (2011) states that Greenland is melting faster than expected. On the other side, other studies state that we are not yet in the worst case scenario, and glaciers are melting slower than predicted (Sidney Morning Herald 2012Sidney morning Herald 2012) Besides the controvery that may arouse from those 2 point of views, the fact is that glaciers are retreating and we must take action to achieve better water management actions.