Today in Technology May 9, 2014

  • Celebrities, World Leaders Unite To #BringBackOurGirls
    Nearly a month after Islamists militants staged a mass kidnapping in the Nigerian state of Borno, more than 200 girls who were captured are still missing. The abductions as well as the so far limited efforts to rescue the girls have sparked outrage around the world and caused world leaders, international organizations, celebrities and activist to unify over one demand: #BringBackOurGirls.

    “Access to education is a basic right and an unconscionable reason to target innocent girls. We must stand up to terrorism,” former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted on May 4. “It’s time to #BringBackOurGirls,” said actress Reese Witherspoon on Thursday.

    Who’s next to join the call?

  • Pease Stop With The BuzzFeed Quizzes, Because Enough Is Enough
    Seriously BuzzFeed, we get it. Quizzes are something you can do.

    But now even the puppets from Glove and Boots are saying enough is enough!

    Is it really important to know “What kind of potato you are?” And seriously, no one wants to know “How experienced in pooping you are,” so don’t share that sh** on Facebook.

    Please.

    All jokes aside, how can you resist those perfectly crafted quizzes with the right headline that draw you in? Sometimes it really is necessary to take a break from your busy day to find out which “Game of Thrones” character you are.

    Because, why not?

  • In Praise of Moogfest
    The more I perform at music festivals, the more I’m baffled by what might compel a person to attend one. The blazing heat of the mid-afternoon sun over an open field, the less-than-favorable hygiene conditions — to say nothing of the cavernous stages, which showcase headlining acts and dwarf smaller bands, who try to create a lasting impression on a crowd always one frisbee game away from wandering off.

    The exposure can be terrific, of course, and there is a certain glory in transcending the milieu, but much of the time, playing a music festival can be like having an art show at an airport: thousands of people see it, but nobody is there to see it. And you can’t much control how they see it, either.

    And then there’s Moogfest, in Asheville, North Carolina.

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    Asheville is a college town tucked at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was here that Bob (née Robert) Moog, inventor of the Moog Modular synthesizer, settled in the late 1970s. In the years since his death in 2005, Moog Music has continued to thrive. Even in the age of bootlegged Pro Tools and audio plugins, Moog workers still hand-solder their in-demand analog synths, like the Minimoog Voyager, from a homespun factory on the edge of town.

    Moog synthesizers are a hybrid of technology and art. In the early years, when they were festooned with colorful patch cables, they made strange bedfellows with the usual kit of rock n’ roll, but musicians flocked to them regardless. Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer played a custom modular Moog synthesizer the size of a refrigerator. The Beatles used a Moog on Abbey Road. It’s hardware–an alchemy of analog circuits, electronic modules, and oscillators–but, when operated by the right person, it becomes something greater than the sum of its parts.

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    It makes sense, then, that Moogfest would become what it has: a place where technology and art interact, in wonky but undeniable synthesis. For me, Moogfest was the first occasion I’ve ever had to experience such synthesis. Besides playing music, I’ve been a science writer and science-fiction editor for many years. At Moogfest, I had the opportunity to present a panel, called “Science Fiction & The Synthesized Sound,” which brought together an artist, two musicians, and a SETI researcher to discuss the music of the future, and the future of music. The same audience that thoughtfully took notes and asked probing questions of the panelists had been, only a day earlier, dancing like maniacs at my band’s show. I can’t imagine that this could happen anywhere else.

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    DJ Awesome Tapes From Africa

    Moogfest was once a more traditional festival, but it metamorphosed this year into a celebration of art, science, music and technology — TED filtered through a distortion pedal, if you will. For five days, the festival proposed a cocktail of daytime talks to be chased by music late into the night. The day panels featured many old-school synth pioneers — Dave Smith, designer of the first programmable polyphonic synthesizer, and Herbert Deutsch, Bob Moog’s closest collaborator — and a thoughtful variety of future-learning artists and thinkers: the cyborg activist Neil Harbisson, Oxford futurist Nick Bostrom, the pop android Janelle Monáe, and dozens more.

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    Escort at Asheville Music Hall

    Geekery thrived everywhere. The festival’s Modular Marketplace was a veritable science fair of home-brew analog and digital synthesizers from all over the country. Some festivalgoers could be seen sporting headset brainwave sensors, creating auditory maps of the streets of Asheville as they ogled a virtual-reality iPhone rendition of their locations. Others just rocked Google Glass at panels on cybernetics, alternative interfaces, and hardware hacking. Even Monáe, with whom I was fortunate enough to moderate a panel discussion, name-dropped Ray Kurzweil and the science fiction author Octavia Butler.

    The programming was precisely engineered, it seemed, to create a far more inclusive Venn diagram between music and technology. Musicians were lured out into the daylight to twiddle knobs and soak up talks by electronic music pioneers, while scientists, artists, and philosophers found themselves, in the late hours of the night, at the temple of sounds both synthesized and not. In an age where increased access to tools and information allows us all to be Renaissance people, and specialization feels more and more isolating, such an open–to say nothing of fun–venue for cross-disciplinary engagement feels long overdue.

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    The Modular Marketplace, Moogfest’s electronics pop-up shop

    I commend Moogfest for its courage in creating this unorthodox, cheerfully intellectual festival. They have spotted a node in culture, where musicians teach themselves electronics to rewire keyboards and technologists create symphonies of data, that feels extremely relevant to our shared future. It’s not an art show at the airport–if anything, it’s an art show that is an airport. Or a spaceport. It takes you places. At Moogfest, every event is transportive, and behind every gate is something marvelous.

    Photos courtesy of Nick Zinner

  • FAA: U.S. Airliner Nearly Collided With Drone in March
    A U.S. airliner nearly collided with a drone over Florida earlier this year, a federal official said, a near miss that highlights risks posed by the proliferation of unmanned aircraft in U.S. skies.
  • 17 Mothers' Day Cards That Are Sure To Make Your Mom Laugh
    Mothers’ Day really snuck up on us, didn’t it?

    Just in case you forgot to get that card out in the mail, here are some funny e-cards you can send right away.

    We went ahead and picked out the funniest Mothers’ Day Someecards for you, so you can thank us later.

  • Anchor Describes Apple's Beats Acquisition As Interest In 'Hip-Hop African American Cool' (VIDEO)
    As reports continue to circulate regarding Apple’s plan to purchase Beats Electronics for a reported $3.2 billion, many are skeptical about what would become the tech giant’s biggest acquisition to date.

    Today during an segment on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” tech correspondent Jon Fortt shared his thoughts on why the deal could potentially result as a bust for Apple.

    “Some would say Beats is cooler than Apple, but in what universe really. Especially outside of the U.S., it’s not,” Fortt declared. “Jimmy Iovine would be a nice addition to Apple maybe in theory, but culturally, no…Apple doesn’t buy brands, generally, especially not hardware brands because it dilutes their own brand. There’s actually potentially negative value here. Apple should buy either the biggest or the smartest in the space. Beats is neither.”

    “Squawk on the Street” co-anchor, Simon Hobbs refuted Fortt’s commentary by describing Apple’s interest in the Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre-founded company as interest to buy into “hip-hop African American cool.”

    “The company exists because Apple’s headphones were so bad,” Hobbs added. “That’s the gap in the market…I find myself in a very odd situation. Don’t you think there’s a Hip-Hop, African-American cool about this that Apple may have not achieved in other ways. I mean, come on.”

    Check out more of CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Beats segment in the clip above.

  • Mark Ronson's TED Talk Challenges Everything You Thought You Knew About Music
    Mark Ronson gave this TED Talk, “The Exhilarating Creativity of Remixing,” back in March, but the full video is just available online now. Described as an “audio-visual omelette,” the famed DJ’s presentation follows the evolution of “La Di Da Di,” Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s 1984 hit that made its way into dozens of songs from Biggie’s “Hypnotize” to Miley Cyrus’ “We Like To Party.” The track is the fifth-most sampled track of all time and has appeared in 547 known samples, according to TED.

    Ronson, who created dozens of hits and won three Grammy’s for his work on Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” begins the presentation by mashing up 15 different TED Talks to create his TED-inspired track. “We live in a post-sampling era,” he says. “When we add something really original then we have a chance to be a part of the evolution of the music we love.” Take a look below.

  • Stonehenge Discovery 'Blows Lid Off' Old Theories About Builders Of Ancient Monument (VIDEO)
    From who built it to what it was used for, Stonehenge is surrounded by many enduring mysteries — and researchers from the University of Buckingham in England now say they’ve solved one of them.

    “For years people have been asking why is Stonehenge where it is, now at last, we have found the answers,” David Jacques, an archaeology research fellow at the university, said in a written statement.

    Last October, Jacques led an archaeological dig at a site 1.5 miles from Stonehenge. His team unearthed flint tools and the bones of aurochs, extinct cow-like animals that were a food source for ancient people. Carbon dating of the bones showed that modern-day Amesbury, an area that includes the dig site and Stonehenge itself, has been continuously occupied since 8820 B.C. Amesbury has now been declared the oldest continually occupied area in Britain.

    The finding suggests that Stonehenge was built by indigenous Britons who had lived in the area for thousands of years. Previous theories held that the monument was built in an empty landscape by migrants from continental Europe.

    “The site blows the lid off the Neolithic Revolution in a number of ways,” Jacques said in the statement, referring to the assumption that those migrants drove Britain’s transition from a hunter-gatherer to a farming society in the 6th Century B.C. “It provides evidence for people staying put, clearing land, building, and presumably worshipping, monuments.”

    The researchers say evidence suggests that before erecting Stonehenge, people living in the area set up gigantic timbers between 8820 and 6590 B.C. — a sort of wooden precursor to the stone monument. Jacques likened the area to a “Stonehenge Visitor’s Center,” where visitors from far and wide came to feast and tour the site with local guides.

    “The area was clearly a hub point for people to come to from many miles away, and in many ways was a forerunner for what later went on at Stonehenge itself,” he said.

  • WARNING: Letting Your Doctor Define You Could Be Hazardous to Your Health
    Click here to watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

    I was twenty-two when I finally stopped letting other people define me. But when I began saying out loud what I’d been thinking for years-that I was male, not female like my body falsely indicated-I received major resistance. Not from my parents or sisters or friends. From my doctors.

    Too scared to tell my family, I decided reaching out to a medical professional would be a good first step. But when it came to finding the right person, I had no idea where to begin. It was 1992. There was no Internet. I couldn’t just type in “Doctors specializing in gender issues + MA” and get a list of names, numbers and addresses. I didn’t even have a computer. So out of desperation I made an appointment with the only doctor I knew: my pediatrician.

    It didn’t occur to me until I was sitting in the waiting room surrounded by children ranging from toddlers to teens that, at 22, I would stick out like a sore thumb. Too old to be a patient and too young to be a parent (by white upper-class suburbia standards anyway), I clearly did not belong in this room. I felt all eyes were on me and was fairly certain the 8 year-old boy whispering to his mother was telling her I was really a man.

    After what seemed like a lifetime, I was escorted to an exam room. A few minutes later my pediatrician appeared and abruptly closed the door behind her. She looked pretty much as I remembered: tall yet stocky with short dark hair, olive skin, and an accent I could never really place. She was visibly in a rush. I could tell this was not going to be a nurturing visit.

    “So Kristin, what’s going on?”

    “I, um…I…”

    And then the breakdown. Through sobs I managed to tell her I had always felt like I was a guy-ever since I was four. That I was only attracted to women and that I couldn’t live this lie or this life anymore.

    Even though I half-expected it, her lack of empathy surprised me. She curtly brushed off my concerns, telling me I was not a man, just a “masculine woman.” I told her I had seen a guest on a talk show who was a male to female transsexual due to a chromosomal defect and asked if she would run a test on my chromosomes. I was certain that I was a man and the test would prove it. She said even if I was, the surgery for female to males was not medically possible yet so there was nothing I could do about it. I just had to face the fact that I was a masculine woman and probably a lesbian.

    She gave me the name of a psychologist and sent me down the hall to schedule an appointment. On my way there I glanced at the referral form and noticed she’d written a diagnosis: hirsutism, which in case you didn’t know, is defined as “the excessive growth of hair of normal or abnormal distribution.” Really? That’s your diagnosis? I may be hairy but I’m not stupid. Hair can be removed. My gender issue was not going away.

    I had high hopes for the meeting with the psychologist. Surely she would listen and get where I was coming from. But instead of validating my feelings, she too tried to talk me out of them and discouraged me from even considering reassignment. “Have you done your research?” She asked. “You’re better off the way you are.”

    I told her I found three gender clinics in the U.S. and planned to ask them all to send me information, but I was living with my parents and for obvious reasons didn’t want giant envelopes to arrive for me marked “Center for Gender Reassignment.” She graciously suggested I have them sent care of her office and that she’d call me when they arrived. Ok, maybe she wasn’t so bad.

    But when I came back to pick up the information, I discovered the envelopes had all been opened. Huh, last I heard mail tampering was a federal offense. Wait it gets better: she also read the material with a fine-tooth comb. How did I know this? Well, in order to scare me out of having surgery, she took the liberty of highlighting all the risks. Hellooooooo?

    Clearly I needed a new therapist – someone who could be objective and had experience treating patients with gender identity issues. Someone who’d help me work through my feelings, not flat out reject them. And walk me through my options, not tell me I didn’t have any. It took a lot of time and effort but eventually I found one. And it made all the difference in the world. Today I define myself as a happy, successful, devilishly handsome 44 year-old guy with a wonderful family and a bunch of great friends. Had I given up and let those first two doctors define me, I never would’ve made it past 23.

    We want to know what you think. Join the discussion by posting a comment below or tweeting #TEDWeekends. Interested in blogging for a future edition of TED Weekends? Email us at tedweekends@huffingtonpost.com.

  • Startups: Surviving the Journey to Market
    Yesterday marked a special day for the Euddle Media Group as we launched our first subsidiary company to the public — Active22. This milestone, for all that it was worth, was a very (and by that I mean very) long time coming.

    Over the course of a year and half, our team laughed, cried, learned, listened, celebrated, built and shared some truly remarkable experiences. Most importantly, however, we survived. We survived a journey that could — and many a time perhaps even should — have broken us. The fact that we have gotten to where we are now is a marvel. And while our story has barely begun, we do hope that it can be one of inspiration for young companies around the world.

    Startups Are Difficult

    There is no getting around it: startups are difficult. It is though, as most of us know, meant to be that way. As a startup, your goal is — or at least should be — to try to do things that no one has ever done before. You are working to disrupt markets with the goal of making life better in some capacity for your target audience. Inevitably, mistakes will be made and — forgive me, but — you will fail. This may sound disheartening, however, failing is not only part of being a startup, but also an integral part of learning. What is important, therefore, is to make sure that your entire company understands and internalizes that startups are indeed meant to be difficult. Very early on, we made the blunder of promoting and marketing a product that had not yet been tested nor validated. Although what we had built was impressive, we naively overlooked the process of seeking feedback from our potential members. When we eventually decided to do so, we discovered very quickly that the platform was all too overwhelming and, in many respects, lacked focus. The result: we pivoted — and in doing so failed to deliver and fulfill a promise that we had made to so many. While we could easily have allowed this experience to set us back, we chose instead to learn from it. Testing is now a very large part of our working process — so much so, that it takes us unusually long to bring any of our products to market.

    Stay True To Your Ideals, Even If Your Vision Changes

    Startups often find themselves having to alter their approach, products and, in some cases, vision. This can be complicated, especially when time, effort and money have been spent to establish a particular presence. It is important, therefore, for the sake of preventing confusion — both internally and externally — to establish a set of founding ideals under which you will always operate. Our mantra at the Euddle Media Group has always been to be bold and different as we aim to help our members live better. Quite recently, our team spent a great deal of time quietly building and testing a location-based marketplace through which members could discover and buy healthy living services (i.e. fitness, dance, spa, beauty) at over 6,000 locations throughout the United States. As we gathered feedback and data, we eventually felt the need to offer a more compelling value proposition, and, at the same time, one that would continue to be meaningful and altogether unique. Active22 was born as we made the decision to re-imagine our approach and build a creative and authentic brand — with real personality — that uses a potent combination of commerce and content as a means of incentivizing young women to lead healthy lifestyles. While the scope of the original product certainly changed, our values remained constant. Our company, like yours, will continue to grow. As we do so, it is important never to lose sight of the core ideals established at the very beginning.

    The Little Things Are The Big Things

    I watch and at one point in my life played a great deal of soccer — oh, the glory days. During the past few years, a young man named Pep Guardiola has established himself as one of the great (if not greatest) coaches currently in the game. Almost anytime I read or hear about his methods, I am made aware of the same thing: he has an obsessive, almost sickening capacity to pay attention to every detail that concerns the way his teams play. The same concept should apply to any startup that is building a product. Fact: there is no such thing as a perfect product. But that certainly does not mean that a perfect product should not be that towards which you are striving. As we finished building our latest platform, we found ourselves fixated on every part of it’s design and functionality. In all honestly, I have lost track of the number of times, particularly over the past month, we worked from and to the early hours of the morning making what may seem to be very small changes and improvements to the look and feel of our site. As we ran several demo sessions leading up to our launch, we were incredibly humbled to receive the same compliment over and over: flow and design. Indeed, building is a time-consuming, exhausting process. But do pay attention to the minute details, for it will all be worth it in the end.

    Do Ever Not Give Up

    This is a given, but I will state it regardless: IGNORE THE NAYSAYERS. Believe. Focus. With resources, time, and smart, motivated people you can do amazing things. As a startup, time is your most precious asset. With time you can learn, adjust, and figure things out so long you have the courage to do so.

    Startups, change the world, it is what you are here for.

  • The Latest (Hilarious) Thing Teens Are Doing To Get Out Of Taking Exams
    Well, this is one way to get out of a final.

    Texas high school senior Andrew Muennink has been gaining attention around the Internet this week, after he told ABC News that he struck a deal with his art teacher that would allow his class to get out of a final exam. He told the outlet his teacher said she would throw out the test if he got 15,000 retweets on Twitter.

    The Round Rock High School senior said he has until May 23 at 12 p.m. to complete his challenge, per ABC. The tweet in question had more than 7,200 retweets as of Friday morning.

    However, representatives from the high school deny that the deal is actually in play.

    “We are very disappointed in the fact that abcnews.com did not do any fact checking regarding the Round Rock High School exam story,” district spokesperson JoyLynn Occhiuzzi said in a statement to local outlet KVUE-TV. “The art students at Round Rock High School will be taking their final exams at the end of the month.”

    On Twitter, the teen is still imploring followers to support his cause.

    Regardless of whether or not Muennink actually gets out of his final exam, he seems to have started a trend. Around social media, similar challenges have been popping up in recent days.

    Muennink’s art teacher was not immediately available to comment on the status of their deal.

  • Michael Sam, Gay NFL Hopeful, Stars In New Visa Commercial (VIDEO)
    College football star Michael Sam has signed his first endorsement deal with Visa as he volleys to become the first openly gay member of the NFL.

    During the course of the advertisement, Sam is shown lifting weights and telling the viewer to judge him based on his performance on the field — not off of it.

    “We felt that Michael’s story was a perfect fit for our ‘everywhere’ campaign, which is meant to inspire people to reach their own personal goals and aspirations,” Visa’s Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Burke said in a statement. “We wish Michael the best on and off the field as he embarks on the next chapter of his life.”

    Sam came out as gay in February, poising him to become the first openly gay player in NFL History. It is projected that he will be drafted this upcoming Saturday.

    (h/t Towleroad)

  • Sun's 'Long-Lost Sibling' Star Identified By Texas Astronomers
    The sun may no longer be considered an only child.

    A University of Texas astronomer has identified a star 110 light-years from Earth as a probable “solar sibling.” The star likely originated in the same star cluster as the sun, and that could yield fresh insights not only into how our home star was born about 4.5 billion years ago but also into how life on Earth got started.

    We want to know where we were born,” the astronomer, Ivan Ramirez, said in a written statement. “If we can figure out in what part of the galaxy the sun formed, we can constrain conditions on the early solar system. That could help us understand why we are here.”

    Star HD 162826 is located in the lower leg of the constellation Hercules. Though not visible to the naked eye, the star — which is 15 percent more massive than the sun — can be seen with binoculars. Skywatchers can look toward the star Vega to spot the sun’s sibling star.

    (Story continues below.)
    sun
    University of Texas at Austin astronomer Ivan Ramirez identified star HD 162826 as a probable “solar sibling.” (Ivan Ramirez/Tim Jones/McDonald Observatory)

    To find HD 162826, Ramirez and his team studied 30 stars that other astronomers had identified as potential solar siblings. Using the Harlan J. Smith Telescope at the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas, and coordinating with researchers at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, Ramirez narrowed the list by analyzing the orbit and chemical makeup of each star. Under the research, HD 162826 was the only star in the group that satisfied the team’s “dynamical and chemical criteria for being a true sibling of the Sun.”

    Evidence suggests sibling stars may host Earth-like exoplanets that might be capable of supporting life — so by investigating the origins of the sun, researchers may also be advancing the search for extraterrestrial life.

    “The idea is if a planet has life, like Earth, and if you hit it with an asteroid, it will create debris, some of which will escape into space,” astronomer Mauri Valtonen of the University of Turku in Finland told Space.com in 2012. “And if the debris is big enough, like 1 meter across, it can shield life inside from radiation, and that life can survive inside for millions of years until that debris lands somewhere. If it happens to land on a planet with suitable conditions, life can start there.”

    Ramirez’s findings are slated for publication in the June 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

  • Dr. Dre Just Declared Himself 'The First Billionaire In Hip Hop'
    Dr. Dre is having a better week than you.

    Almost immediately after news broke Thursday that Apple was closing in on a deal to buy headphone maker Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion, people started whispering about the possibility that Dr. Dre would become the first billionaire in hip hop as a result. Dre has close to a 25 percent stake in the company.

    In a video posted on Instagram late Thursday night, the rapper appeared to confirm the deal and definitely, um, hinted at the billionaire thing. As his friend Tyrese Gibson exclaims: “They need to update the Forbes list!”

    “The first billionaire in hip hop from the motherfucking West Coast,” Dr. Dre, whose real name is Andre Young, says in the video, “Believe it.” We sort of do!

    The video has since been deleted from Instagram, but not before it was posted elsewhere. It’s really fun, but there’s a little NSFW language in there:

    Dre co-founded Beats in 2008 with music mogul Jimmy Iovine. The company revolutionized the headphone industry and now accounts for a huge share of the market. It also recently launched a music streaming service.

    Rappers touting themselves as billionaires is nothing new –- there are 293 results when you search the word on RapGenius –- but Dre may very likely be the real deal.

    Still, it’s unclear how much Young would earn from the deal, which would be Apple’s largest-ever acquisition. Forbes, which published its 2014 list of billionaires in March, cast some doubt over whether this would propel Dre to a 10-figure net worth.

    “A sale for $3.2 billion would nearly double the value of Dre’s holdings, though capital gains taxes could take a bite out of his big payday, likely leaving him in the neighborhood of $800 million,” Forbes staffer Zack O’Malley Greenburg wrote in a post early Friday morning. “It’s not quite enough to land on the Forbes 400, but it would easily make him hip-hop’s richest man.”

    At the very least, he has conquered his hip hop rivals: Sean Combs, known as Diddy, is worth $700 million and now-third place millionaire Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z) is valued at $520 million, according to Forbes.

    That said, money isn’t everything, and Jay-Z is married to Beyoncé, so don’t worry about him too much.

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