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Marvin Minsky, computing pioneer, cognitive scientist, and a founding father of artificial intelligence known for his relentless ambition and forward thinking, died in late January of this year at age 88, leaving a legacy.

Minsky lived his life on the cutting edge of computer technology, trailblazing the path to discovery and embracing humor in his quest to elucidate the mysteries of the human brain in order to make better machines.

He worked alongside collaborators who were also revolutionizing their fields…

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Augmenting NASA’s Mars Simulation for the Health of Astronauts

Eight-thousand, two-hundred feet above sea level on the northern slope of Mauna Loa in a place surrounded by the barren, lava-rock landscape of an abandoned quarry, six scientists are living in isolation for 365 days in a roughly 1,000 sq. ft. dome.

That’s tight quarters. That’s a year stuck in a space not much larger than a racquetball court.

The domed habitat is called HI-SEAS, the Hawai’I Space Exploration Analog and Simulation…

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A Delicate Dance between East and West

This BBC report live from Kirkenes in the High North of Norway talks about Russia-NATO relations, hundreds of refugees on bicycle entering Norway, the firing of an editor reporting on cross-border relations, and points to an uncertain but hopeful future for Arctic border life in a place called a test of east-west relations.

BBC Assignment on Kirkenes

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UNT library opens creative “Factory” with 3-D printing, scanning, robotics, Google Glass

“The Factory has eight printers for standard printing needs and a large format printer; a Raspberry Pi, a computer no larger than a credit card that plugs into a television and keyboard and can be used for spreadsheets, word processing, gaming and playing high-definition video; Arduino, a tool used to create computers that take input from a variety of switches or sensors and control lights, motors and other physical outputs; cameras and photographic equipment; and Google Glass, an optical device that can be used to record videos and photographs from a first person perspective…”

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Masters of the Universe and other characters from the heart of Texas in July

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In blistering Texas summer heat, the Mayborn Tribe gathers each summer in north Texas to talk about the craft, learn from each other and soak up the spirit of nonfiction writing.

This year’s event was centered around Narratives on the Cutting Edge, Writing about Science, Technology, Medicine and Innovation. Last year’s event dealt with digging into the past to bring historical narratives to life.
Both were rich themes with space to explore, share insight and dig into the down-and-dirty of nonfiction. In the middle of three days of mayhem, there’s a suit-and-tie (or boots and jeans, depending on how Texan you are) Literary Lights Dinner and Mayborn awards program, just a few ticks from rivaling the Pulitzers.

The Mayborn contest has categories in newspaper, essay, manuscript, and
reported narrative, hand-crafted trophies, $12,000 in cash prizes, competitors from nearly every major American newspaper and winners from as far away as New Zealand. This year’s Literary Lights included a live auction of signed first-editions of Larry McMurtry’s books and an online auction of tens of other signed first-editions of Mayborn speakers-past as a celebration of the tenth anniversary 2014 Mayborn Litearary Nonfiction Conference. Continue reading

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“You can’t breathe in air with 7,000 micrograms of sulfur dioxide.”

[Image: The nickel smelting plant in Nikel, Russia located just over the Norwegian border produces pollution that has been a problem for northern Norwegians for decades and is nearly six times the amount of pollution produced in all of Norway. Photo by Amelia Jaycen.]

Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology on Tuesday told representatives of “MMC” Norilsk Nickel of the planned decommissioning some of Nikel plant rundown facilities by 2016 and reorganization of metallurgical production at the Monchegorsk plant, which must be upgraded and modernized, the ministry said in a press release yesterday. Monchegorsk is owned by the same company and located some two-hour drive south of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula.

The program involves modernization and renovation of all stages of processing and consolidation of smelting and refining capacity to a more modern venue including technological upgrading and expansion of refinery at Monchegorsk during 2016-2017. Capital investments in the program total more than 50 billion rubles, the release says.

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Barents Summer School brings researchers face-to-face with local leaders

[Image: Students and local leaders in the Barents Summer School in Kirkenes, Norway. Credit: Amelia Jaycen]

Twenty-four Ph.D. students including Norwegian, Russian, Finnish and Swedish students, some of them representing the Sami population, and one student from Hong Kong gathered to establish international collaborative relationships and learn about conducting epidemiological research: Studies of disease patterns, causes and effects over time.

The one-week course centered around human health issues in the cross-border Barents region. Students who attended are researchers in a variety of subjects ranging from suicides among indigenous populations to the effects of pollution on infants born to exposed mothers.

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Minister of fisheries goes king crab fishing on Fish Nation tour

[Images & slideshow by Amelia Jaycen]

Minister of Fisheries Elisabeth Aspaker went on her first king crab fishing trip in Bugøynes Saturday for the conclusion of Fish Nation, a five-week seafood tour up the Norwegian coast to celebrate the rich variety of fish products available in Norway. At each stop along the way from Oslo to Kirkenes, Bergen-based chef and owner of Lysverket restaurant Christopher Haatuft studied and prepared local seafood while the Fish Nation team interviewed local fishermen and documented the towns, people, food and recipes.

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Thin Line Film Fest expands with 100 films, music, photo contest coming soon

[Image: Josh Butler outside the Campu Theater marquee. Photo by Amelia Jaycen]

When Josh Butler took an energetic leap of faith toward his dream, he didn’t exactly land on his feet. It was more like a really bummed film junkie who landed in bankruptcy court. Staring at the floor he shook his head, “Why! Why did we just have to have limos for all the filmmakers?”

Making the great Texas film festival was going to take more than spastic enthusiasm, but Butler learned his lesson: Don’t spend money you don’t have. The festival and the nonprofit he created to run it, Texas Filmmakers Association, survived intact while he swallowed a $40,000 debt. But since that 2007 Thin Line Film Fest left him broke, the festival has nearly doubled its revenue each year.

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