In a preview video posted by Rovio (and embedded below), astronaut and engineer Don Pettit delivers a brief tutorial on the science behind the Angry Birds series, which debuted in early 2010, and went on to rack up hundreds of millions of downloads on iPhones, Androids, and Facebook.
"If you understand physics, it will allow you to go and get a neat job. Sort of like mine," Petit says, from his perch at the International Space Station, more than 240 miles above earth.
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Angry Birds has long attracted the interest of professional geeks. In Atlanta, for instance, a ninth-grade teacher used Angry Birds to explain the laws of physics to his students. Meanwhile, the team at Wired's physics blog has spent a good deal of time analyzing the accuracy of the science used in the Rovio title (it's pretty accurate, it turns out).
And now, the video from Pettit. In an interview with the AFP, Rovio rep Tiina Mikkonen said the company had been "working with NASA for quite a while already and they're very keen in cooperating with us... They've been helping us with all the physics-related questions around space and gravity." Hard to think of a better endorsement than that: A real astronaut, shilling a game about an army of spacebound fictional birds and their porcine foes.
Speaking of which, Angry Birds Space will be available on Apple and Android devices and on the PC. The game ships with 60 levels, Rovio said, all of which take place in orbit. We'll get you a review as soon as we've had some hands-on time.
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Incidents of "hacktivism" – hacking undertaken for political purposes – accounted for an unprecedented 58 percent of all data theft in 2011, according to the new Data Breach Investigations report from Verizon. The report surveyed 855 data breaches, where a combined 174 million digital records were purloined.
Those breaches were reported both by government websites and corporate entities; hacker collectives LulzSec and Anonymous led the charge.
"Hacktivism has been around for some time but it's mainly been website defacements. In 2011 it was more about going to steal a bunch of information from a company," Wade Baker, director of research and intelligence at Verizon, told the BBC. "Data theft became a mechanism for political protest," Baker added.
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In the report, Verizon, pointing to the "Arab Spring" protests, called 2011 "a year of civil and cultural uprising."
Certainly, hacktivists such as LulzSec did hog a good deal of the spotlight last year, mostly by cultivating charismatic online personas – and popular Twitter feeds, where hackers could interact with their fans. "This is the first time we've had hackers who want you to know who they are," Chester Wisniewski, a senior adviser at Sophos, told the Monitor in 2011. "These guys are awesome at PR. It's very impressive."
In related news, Verizon has been tracking an increase in automated attacks, which appear to target mostly small businesses, and not major conglomerates.
"There's some franchise chains, but many times it's mom-and-pop cafés," Verizon analyst Chris Porter of Verizon has said, according to ReadWriteWeb. "These restaurants, retail stores, are really focused on building their business. They want to make sure when a customer comes in, they can charge him. And they're probably less concerned about data protection."
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Overheating, reception blackouts, persistent 4G LTE issues.
Such are the problems reported by owners of the new iPad, which was released by Apple last week – and which was quickly snapped up 3 million times over, in just 36 hours. According to reports in PC Mag and Apple Insider, some consumers have reported that the Wi-Fi antennas on the iPad have trouble locating a signal; others have apparently chewed past their allotted 4G data caps in a matter of hours.
Meanwhile, Consumer Reports have found that the new iPad runs "significantly hotter" than the iPad 2. Engineers for the magazine "recorded temperatures as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit on the front and rear of the new iPad while playing Infinity Blade II," the Consumer Reports team wrote this week. By comparison, that's 12 degrees hotter than the iPad 2 ran during that same test.
Speaking to Computerworld, Apple downplayed the issue, and encouraged any users experiencing problems to contact Apple customer service. It's worth noting here that the problem does not seem to be extremely widespread. It's also worth noting we've seen this kind of thing before. In 2010, for instance, Apple was pelted with complaints about "death-grip," which allegedly affected reception on the iPhone 4.
Apple responded by issuing free – and reception-improving – cases to consumers.
Mobile game giant Zynga Wednesday snapped up OMGPOP, the New York-based developer of a popular title called Draw Something. The price: Approximately $200 million, according to one source. In a blog post today, David Ko of Zynga praised the OMGPOP team and Draw Something, which he said would fit nicely alongside existing Zynga titles such as FarmVille and Zynga Bingo.
"Draw Something is an amazing game; I think it’s one of the most social and expressive mobile games ever built," Ko wrote. "It’s intuitive and fun. It brings out creativity, a sense of nostalgia and child-like wonder. And most importantly, it’s inherently social. You learn about your friends and family as you play, and I love that the most requested feature to date has been people asking for the ability to save not just their own drawings, but those of their friends."
Fair enough. But $200 million is a steep price. Surely Zynga could have just built its own version of Draw Something? (For the uninitiated, Draw Something works as advertised: Users draw something, and other users guess what it is. Think: Digital Pictionary.)
Well, over at TechCrunch, Josh Constine argues that if Zynga had built a Draw Something clone, it would have split the market – no good for Zynga.
Moreover, Constine continues, "Zynga is in the midst of a major shift from being a web game company to a mobile game company. The company already has 240 million mobile users. Other than the talent from its acquisition of Words With Friends developer Newtoy, though, it doesn’t have enough mobile experts to make this shift. Acquiring OMGPOP fills Zynga’s ranks with proven mobile hitmakers."
And as Ryan Lawler of Giga Om notes, Zynga isn't just getting Draw Something (although Draw Something is by far the most successful of its creations). It's also getting a team of programmers and 35 addition games, including Puppy World.
According to Schiller, within three days of the release of the new iPad, three million iPad units had been sold. In other words, Apple unloaded approximately a million iPad tablets every 24 hours – enough to earn the iPad what Schiller termed "blockbuster" status. (By comparison, TechCrunch notes, Apple sold just 300,000 units of the original 2010 iPad in the first day of sales.)
And things are just looking up for Apple, UBS analyst Maynard Um said today. In an investor note obtained John Paczkowski of All Things D, Um predicted that Apple, which is in the process of rolling out the new iPad to 24 additional countries, could sell an astonishing 12 million units of the latest tablet before the end of the current quarter.
The new iPad has received high marks from critics, who reserved special praise for the tablet's high-resolution "retina display."
"This display is outrageous. It’s stunning. It’s incredible," gushed one critic. "Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that you can hold these beautiful images in your hands, or maybe it’s the technology that Apple is utilizing, or maybe it’s the responsiveness of the operating system. But there’s something almost otherwordly about how good this screen is. For rendered text or high-resolution images, it just looks like a glowing piece of paper."
Read our full iPad review roundup here.
Earlier this year, Microsoft launched a consumer preview of Windows 8, the latest iteration of its popular operating system, and the first to be designed for cross-platform use. Now, according to Bloomberg News – which cites "people with knowledge of the schedule" – we have a (possible) release date: October of 2012. Is the timing propitious? It is.
Unlike past versions of Windows, Windows 8 has a tiled interface called Metro, which allows users to access and control the OS via a flick of the finger. (Old-schoolers shouldn't fret: Windows 8 will still work just fine with a mouse.) And early reviews of the OS have been largely positive.
"It looks like Windows 8 is certainly going to take some getting used to," writes the team at PC Advisor. "But underneath that daunting new interface are a wealth of smart decisions that go a long way towards dragging the behemoth that is Windows into the future."
In related news, Microsoft has doled out a kind of beta version of Office 15, a new software suite that should launch in conjunction with Windows 8. Paul Thurrott, who runs Supersite For Windows, a popular tech site, got his hands on Office 15, and he reports that the suite sits "visually, between the new Metro style and the traditional desktop." More on that here.
Late last month, Microsoft launched a consumer preview of Windows 8, the latest iteration of its popular operating system, and the first to be designed as a cross-platform OS – software for use, in other words, on traditional desktops, laptops, and on tablets. Reviews have been mostly kind. Now Microsoft is releasing a very limited preview of its new Office suite, and according to one tester, the entire Office experience is about to be revolutionized.
The tester in question is Paul Thurrott, who runs Supersite For Windows, a popular tech site. Thurrott spent an undisclosed amount of time with the new Office software – officially titled Office 15 – and he says the products sits "visually, between the new Metro style and the traditional desktop." Metro, of course, is the tiled interface introduced with Windows 8. Thurrott's entire report is here; it's well worth reading in full.
But here's the bottom line: The new Office will be streamlined and in many cases simplified, with plenty of clean lines and Metro-style widgets. Of particular interest to casual users will probably be the new Word set-up, which includes "touch mode" – the ability to manipulate text by on tablet computers and smartphones. No longer will Word be confined to your laptop or desktop. So is that a good thing?
Maybe not, writes Preston Gralla of Computerworld.
"The vast majority of people will be using Office on traditional computers, not tablets, for many years to come and possibly always," Gralla argues. "Making Office more Metro-like is unlikely to make people more productive on traditional computers. As I've written before, I think Microsoft is making a mistake by designing Windows 8 for tablets rather than for PCs. I hope the company doesn't make the same mistake with Office."
In late January, Mozilla released Firefox 10, the latest edition of its popular browser. Now, less than two months later – and after a brief security scare – the company is trotting out Firefox 11. The new browser is not particularly laden with bells and whistles, although there are a couple of notable functionalities, including the option to sync add-ons across various computers, as well as a suite of development tools, such as the new Mozilla "Style Editor."
Writing at PC Mag, Michael Muchmore gives a thumbs up to the development tools and new add-ons, but finds the performance on Firefox 11 to be lacking.
According to Net Applications, in February of 2012, almost half of all Internet users browsed the Web using Internet Explorer, the Microsoft desktop OS. By comparison, during that same time period, 19.35 percent of consumers used Firefox and 17.48 percent used Chrome. But Chrome has seen its market shares rise in recent months, while Firefox has consistently slipped.
Will Firefox 11 be enough to halt the slide? Well, probably not, admits Preston Gralla of Computerworld. "[A]part from the add-on sync, there's really nothing in this new version of Firefox to get anyone to switch from a competing browser," he writes. "If Mozilla wants to do something about its slowly shrinking market share, it's going to have to come up with something significantly better than Firefox 11."
On Friday, Apple will begin selling its latest iPad – a sleek machine with an improved 5-megapixel camera, a faster processor, and a much better display. So how does the new iPad stack up to the iPads of yore? Let's go to the scorecards.
"Apple has been able to keep the shell of the new iPad almost exactly the same as the previous iteration," writes MG Siegler of TechCrunch. "It’s ever-so-slightly thicker (0.37 inches versus 0.34 inches), which you can only really tell when you hold the two at the same time. The new iPad also weighs slightly more than the iPad 2 (1.46 pounds versus 1.36 pounds — for the cellular versions), but the weight difference is basically indistinguishable."
"The new iPads are the first iPads that access the 4G or fourth generation data networks being deployed nationally (but not everywhere) by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, each with variations on how wireless is delivered," writes Edward Baig of USA Today. "The test machine, a Verizon model that taps into the company's 4G LTE network, was really zippy in a week of testing in San Francisco and Austin. Downloading apps was quick, including previously purchased apps that had to be accessed through Apple's iCloud service. Web pages loaded much faster than on an older iPad running 3G."
The battery life
"Now, 4G is a notorious battery hog. It scarfs down electricity like a football team at a hot dog eating contest. Apple, however, was determined to keep the iPad’s battery life unchanged from the last model: nine to 10 hours on a charge. In my all-day nonstop-usage test, it did manage nine hours," writes David Pogue of the New York Times. However, Pogue notes, there is a price to note for that battery life: "[A] fatter, heavier battery. The new iPad is one millimeter thicker, and 1.8 ounces heavier, than the iPad 2. It’s a very slight difference, but fingers used to handling the old iPad will feel it, and that’s too bad."
"It's hard to overstate the significance of the new screen," writes Shane Richmond of the UK Telegraph. "Apple has packed four times as many pixels into the same space and the improvement has to be seen to be believed. The display is extraordinarily sharp. Text and photos look beautiful. Put the new iPad side-by-side with the iPad 2 and the differences are amazing. The iPad 2 suddenly looks so blurry. How have I never noticed that before?"
The display, part 2
"[Apple] points out that the display has been constructed in a new way, to separate the pixels from the signal each receives," writes David Phelan of the Independent. "By putting them further apart, the company argues, it solves problems of crosstalk, image noise and other issues. Whatever, it looks amazing."
The display, part 3
"This display is outrageous. It’s stunning. It’s incredible," gushes Joshua Topolsky of the Washington Post. "Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that you can hold these beautiful images in your hands, or maybe it’s the technology that Apple is utilizing, or maybe it’s the responsiveness of the operating system. But there’s something almost otherwordly about how good this screen is. For rendered text or high-resolution images, it just looks like a glowing piece of paper."
The last word
"If you already own an iPad 2, and like it, you shouldn't feel like you have to rush out to buy the new one," writes Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal. "However, for those who use their iPads as their main e-readers, and those who use it frequently while away from Wi-Fi coverage, this new model could make a big difference."
In 2000, when the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory wanted to design a telescope whose football-field sized lens could be folded into a small rocket, they approached an expert in a discipline not traditionally associated with aerospace and engineering: origami.
To be sure, Robert Lang, who has published 13 books on origami, also has degrees in engineering and physics and an extensive background in optics, but it was his expertise in folding paper that inspired the Eyeglass Telescope, whose thin plastic lens, designed to be forty times larger than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, would open like an umbrella in space.
Funding for the Eyeglass Telescope was discontinued before a full-scale version could be built, but the prototypes worked as predicted, showing that the Japanese art of paper folding has applications that go well beyond making paper cranes.
As noted on Google's home page, Wednesday marks the 101st birthday of Akira Yoshizawa, who is widely considered the grandfather of origami. He did not invent the practice – origami emerged as a pastime during Japan's Heian period (794-1185). But in his lifetime, Yoshizawa did more than anyone else to elevate it into an art form. Equally important, Yoshizawa created a wordless notation consisting of lines, dashes, arrows, and diagrams that allowed people all over the world, regardless of their native language, to learn origami.
And in doing so, he inspired generations of scientists and engineers to use origami principles for everything from noodle containers to domed stadium roofs. Look into the folds and creases of objects all around you and you'll see origami everywhere.
Paper folding has long been of interest to mathematicians, who found that geometric problems that are impossible to solve with a compass and straightedge, such as trisecting the angle, can be easily solved by folding paper. Origami has also introduced new puzzles for mathematicians to solve, such as the famous napkin folding problem, which explores whether it is possible to fold a square napkin in such a way that the perimeter of the resulting shape, when flattened, is greater than that of the original square (it turns out that it is possible using classical origami techniques).
These mathematical insights have led to a host of applications. In 2003, the Nissan Motor company asked Japanese scientist and origami aficionado Ichiro Hagiwara to design "crumple zones" that absorb impacts more efficiently. Similarly, Robert Lang has helped design airbags that pack tighter and deploy faster, using algorithms originally developed by origamists to make paper insects.
Another origami-inspired scientist, Taketoshi Nojima of Kyoto University, has worked on structures and furniture designed to gently collapse during earthquakes.
The principles of origami can also work on a small scale. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on techniques to fold DNA into microscopic structures that can serve as scaffolding for other nanoscale objects.
Not all of origami's applications are in the high-tech realm. Japanese astrophysicist and origamist Koryo Miura, who designed a collapsible solar array for a Japanese satellite that flew in 1995, has invented techniques that have been used on everything from beverage cans to those diamond-shaped tourist maps that fold and unfold easily.
Lang, who designed Wednesdays Google doodle, decorated the letters in the logo with Yoshizawa's iconic butterflies. Said Lang of Yoshizawa's design for the insects:
"It is deceptive in its simplicity, but can express great subtlety in its shaping and attitude. The combination of simplicity and depth is part of the essence of origami, and is key to Yoshizawa's work and legacy."