Nerval's Lobster writes "Two investors are Tweeting that Instagram, had it stayed an independent company, could be worth between $5 billion and $15 billion today. That's led to talk of whether Snapchat was right to (reportedly) shoot down Facebook's bid of $3 billion for its business, considering its growth and sizable user base. Snapchat's founders evidently think they can score a better deal within the next few quarters. If they manage to sell their startup a year from now for twice as much, they'll be lauded as extraordinarily smart businessmen—perhaps smarter than the folks at Instagram who sold for a 'measly' $1 billion (and all this despite Snapchat making no revenue). But for other startups in the space, the Snapchat and Instragram stories won't do them much good. Propelled by dreams of ever-increasing millions (perhaps billions!) startup founders could end up turning down perfectly good acquisition offers in favor of continuing to bootstrap — and find their businesses eroding and imploding, as the market for their particular app or service either fades away or (more likely) ends up crowded out by competing software. The startup market is a shark-tank, and most of those who don't get out of the water as soon as possible are eaten, dreams of grandeur or no."
rtoz writes "Researchers at MIT have succeeded in producing and measuring a coupling of photons and electrons on the surface of an unusual type of material called a topological insulator. This type of coupling had been predicted by theorists, but never observed. The researchers suggest that this finding could lead to the creation of materials whose electronic properties could be 'tuned' in real time simply by shining precise laser beams at them. This work opens up a new avenue for optical manipulation of quantum states of matter. Their findings suggest that it's possible to alter the electronic properties of a material — for example, changing it from a conductor to a semiconductor — just by changing the laser beam's polarization. For example, a property called a bandgap — a crucial characteristic for materials used in computer chips and solar cells — can be altered by shining a polarized laser beam at the material."
sighted writes "NASA reports that it has used a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 384,633 kilometers (239,000 miles) between the Moon and the Earth at a transfer rate of 622 megabits per second. The transmissions took place between a ground station in New Mexico and the LADEE robotic spacecraft now orbiting the moon. 'LLCD is NASA's first system for two-way communication using a laser instead of radio waves. It also has demonstrated an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the primary ground station in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon. ... LLCD is a short-duration experiment and the precursor to NASA's long-duration demonstration, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). LCRD is a part of the agency's Technology Demonstration Missions Program, which is working to develop crosscutting technology capable of operating in the rigors of space. It is scheduled to launch in 2017.'"
dryriver writes "We've seen real laser guns before pulling off tricks like starting small fires, or popping black balloons. That's cool, sure, but it's got nothing—on this handheld laser rifle. Developed by TWI this laser-cutter was initially designed for use by robots, but a few recent tweaks including a pistol-grip and a trigger made it into a human-sized rifle. It is designed specifically with nuclear decommission in mind, specifically chopping up huge pieces of metal infrastructure into bite-sized bits that are easily disposed of. And while it's definitely suited for that, it has some short-comings compared typical rifles. That range is pretty low, for instance, and it's not exactly mobile."
An anonymous reader writes "The Washington Post reports, 'In a case that ruffled feathers in Egypt, authorities have detained a migratory bird that a citizen suspected of being a spy. A man in Egypt's Qena governorate, some 450 kilometers (280 miles) southeast of Cairo, found the suspicious bird among four others near his home and brought them to a police station Friday, said Mohammed Kamal, the head of the security in the region. With turmoil gripping Egypt following the July 3 popularly backed military coup that overthrew the country's president, authorities and citizens remain highly suspicious of anything foreign. Conspiracy theories easily find their ways into cafe discussion — as well as some media in the country. Earlier this year, a security guard filed a police report after capturing a pigeon he said carried microfilm. A previous rumor in 2010 blamed a series of shark attacks along Egypt's Mediterranean coast on an Israeli plot. It wasn't. In the bird's case, even military officials ultimately had to deny the bird carried any spying devices. They spoke Saturday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.'"
Lucas123 writes "Marine biologists from OCEARCH, a non-profit shark research project, have been tagging scores of great whites and other shark species with an array of wireless technologies, gathering granular data on the sharks over the past year or more. For example, Mary Lee, a great white shark that's the same weight and nearly the same length as a Buick, was tagged off of Cape Cod and has made beach visits up and down the U.S. East Coast and Bermuda. She came so close to beaches that the research team alerted local authorities. The team attaches an array of acoustic and satellite tags as well as accelerometers to the sharks, which collect more than 100 data points every second — 8.5 million data points per day. The data has provided a detailed, three-dimensional view of the shark's behavior, which the team has been sharing in real time on its website. OCEARCH plans to expand that data sharing over the next few weeks to social networks and classrooms."
Zothecula writes "Despite recent demonstrations by the US Navy, we still think of laser weapons as being things of the future. However, previously-classified British documents prove that not only were the major powers working on laser weapons in the 1970s and 80s, but that they were already being deployed with combat units in war zones. A letter from the Ministry of Defence released under the 30-year rule reveals that laser weapons were deployed on Royal Navy ships during the Falklands War in 1982, and that the British government was concerned about similar weapons being developed behind the Iron Curtain."
cylonlover writes with this news bite about a cool new ground to space laser communication system from NASA and ESA: "Space communications have relied on radio since the first Sputnik in 1957. It's a mature, reliable technology, but it's reaching its limits. The amount of data sent has increased exponentially for decades and NASA expects the trend to continue. The current communications systems are reaching their limits, so NASA and ESA are going beyond radio as a solution. As part of this effort, ESA has finished tests of part of a new communications system, in preparations for a demonstration in October in which it will receive a laser data download from a NASA lunar orbiter."
symbolset writes "Apparently Australians have come up with the brilliant idea: if you don't want to be eaten by a shark, it's best to not go swimming in shark-infested waters in a seal costume. 'Scientists from the University of Western Australia, with designers Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS), have unveiled two new wetsuits that they say could save lives in the water. Based on a breakthrough discovery that sharks are colour-blind, one wetsuit, labelled the "Elude," is designed to camouflage a swimmer or diver in the sea. At the other extreme, the "Diverter" sports bold white and dark-blue stripes, and is intended to mirror nature's warning signs to ward off any potential shark attack.'"
Mark.JUK writes "Alcatel-Lucent's research and development division, Bell Labs, has successfully broken yet another record after it used 155 lasers (each operating at different frequencies and carrying 200Gbps of data over a 50GHz frequency grid) and an enhanced version of Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) to send information at a staggering speed of 31 Terabits per second over a single 7200km long optical fibre cable. Previous experiments have been faster but only over shorter distances or by using a different type of fibre optic cable entirely."
New submitter Ahmed Shaban writes "Why do protesters in Cairo use laser pointers? At the beginning, they were used to light up snipers on rooftops. Later, it just became fashionable to use them, and such things spread very fast among the youth of Cairo, who can find the high power laser pointers for sale on the sidewalks. The article contains amazing photos of a chopper lit up by green laser pointers."
sciencehabit writes "Combining lasers with a principle discovered by Alexander Graham Bell over 100 years ago, researchers have developed a new way to collect high-resolution information about the shape of red blood cells. The lasers pulse every 760 nanoseconds to induce red blood cells to emit sound waves with frequencies of more than 100MHz, one of the highest frequencies ever achieved. Testing the laser on blood samples collected from a group of human volunteers, researchers showed that the high-frequency sound waves emitted by red blood cells in the blood samples revealed the tiniest details about the cells' shapes. Because diseases like malaria can alter the shape of the body's cells, the device may provide a way to accurately diagnose various blood disorders before it's too late." Abstract (actual paper is paywalled).
ananyo writes with this excerpt from Nature News: "Experiments suggest that [graphene] can be used to create ultrashort laser pulses of any colour, owing to an ability to absorb light over a broad range of wavelengths. So far, the researchers have coaxed the material to produce pulses of radiation from a broad spectrum of infrared wavelengths, which are useful in applications such as fibre optic communications. Their results, together with the known properties of graphene, suggest that the material should be able to yield similar ultrashort pulses over the entire spectrum of visible light as well. The discovery could help researchers to build small, cheap and highly versatile ultrashort-pulse lasers, with potential applications ranging from micro-machinery to medicine."
judgecorp writes "Government institutions are among the targets of an attack on Pakistani bodies, which originates in India, according to reports. The campaign is using vulnerabilities in Microsoft software to install the HangOver malware, according to Norwegian security firm Norman Shark (PDF). From the article: 'In the attacks on Pakistani organizations, spear phishing emails were sent out purporting to contain information on "ongoing conflicts in the region, regional culture and religious matters," according to Norman. Norman could not provide direct attribution to the attacks, but its report did note the following: "The continued targeting of Pakistani interests and origins suggested that the attacker was of Indian origin." Snorre Fagerland, principal security researcher in the Malware Detection Team at Norman, told TechWeekEurope it appeared Pakistani government bodies had been attacked.'"
benrothke writes "One of the challenges in reading The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success is figuring how to classify it. Amazon has it ranked mainly in applied psychology, but also time management and inexplicable personal finance. In some ways it is all of the above and more. In fewer than 300 pages, the authors reference myriad different areas of science, mathematics, psychology and more; in the effort to show the reader how they can elevate themselves from the stuff in life that glues them to the status quo." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Ukrainian Navy has a small problem on their hands. The Atlantic reports that, after rebooting the Soviet Union's marine mammal program last year with the goal of teaching dolphins to find underwater mines and kill enemy divers, three of the Ukrainian military's new recruits have gone AWOL. Apparently they swam away from their trainers ostensibly in search of a 'mate' out in open waters. It might not be such a big deal except that these dolphins have been trained to 'attack enemy combat swimmers using special knives or pistols fixed to their heads.' Dolphins were trained at Sevastopol for the Soviet Navy as far back as 1973 to find military equipment such as sea mines on the seabed as well as attacking divers and even carrying explosives on their heads to plant on enemy ships. The U.S. has its own dolphin program in San Diego with 40 trained dolphins and sea lions and another 50 in training. U.S. Navy dolphins were deployed in Bahrain in 1987 during a period when Iran was laying down mines in the Persian Gulf to disrupt oil shipments. No word yet on whether 'sharks with frickin' laser beams attached' have been added to the U.S. arsenal." Update: 03/14 14:55 GMT by T : Note that (as the Atlantic has updated their story reached via above link) while there really are militarized dolphins in use around the world, this particular story turns out to be an elaborate prank.
A laser tool funded by the European Space Agency to measure carbon on Mars is now being used to help detect fake honey. By burning a few milligrams of honey the laser isotope ratio-meter can help determine its composition and origin. From the article: "According to a Food Safety News investigation, more than a third of honey consumed in the U.S. has been smuggled from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. To make matters worse, some honey brokers create counterfeit honey using a small amount of real honey, bulked up with sugar, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery (a type of unrefined sugar) and other additives—known as honey laundering. This honey is often mislabeled and sold on as legitimate, unadulterated honey in places such as Europe and the U.S."
Freshly Exhumed writes "You can't begrudge Nat Brown for claiming some pride in the birth of Microsoft's game console: 'I was a founder of the original xBox project at Microsoft and gave it its name. Almost 14 years after the painful, pointless, and idiotic internal cage-match to get it started and funded, the hard selling of a compelling and lucrative living-room product to Bill (and then Steve as he began to take over), a product that consumers would want and love and demand, I am actually still thrilled to see how far it has come...' But in his recent ILIKE.CODE blog post he is driven to lament that '...as usual, Microsoft has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken.' Nat goes on to detail a list of Microsoft's past and present strategic Xbox blunders, while tossing some barbs towards Nintendo's and Sony's game console strategies."
MatthewVD writes "Infrared cameras on satellites and night vision goggles could soon use lasers to cool their components. According to the study published in Nature, researchers in Singapore were able to cool the semiconductor cadmium sulfide from 62 degrees fahrenheit to -9 degrees by focusing a green laser on it and making it fluoresce and lose energy as light. Since they require neither gas nor moving parts, they can be more compact, free from vibration and not prone to mechanical failure."