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  1. Supreme Court to Police: No More GPS Tracking Without a Search Warrant

    The U.S. Supreme Court gave a unanimous ruling today in the case of Antoine Jones, who received a conviction of life in prison after evidence from a GPS tracking device in his car connected him to a house full of money and drugs. That conviction was overturned by a lower cour, and the Supreme Court agreed. The court ruled that GPS devices constitute a search, and as such require a search warrant before being used in an investigation. For those of us concerned about being digitally tailed by the cops, this is a pretty big win.

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  2. True3D Heads-Up Display for Windshields Wins Competition, Seems Promising

    The idea of mapping a HUD display onto the windshield of a car seems like a pretty neat idea, but in the past it's run into some snags. Visuals popping up over what the driver is seeing could be distracting, and the fact that the windshield is constantly moving makes it rough for the images to have any sort of consistent context, not to mention if the physical tech is too big, it'd be a pain to install. Well, the True3D Heads Up Display & Navigation System from Making Virtual Solid seems to have overcome those obstacles. That's why it picked up the 20,000 euro prize at the European Satellite Navigation Competition in Munich.

    It's only in the demonstration phase at the moment, but the tech looks promising. The idea is that the display slaps translucent images on the windshield that actually match up to real-life objects outside and updates those images in real-time (60 fps) so that they don't so much look like they're appearing on the windshield, but instead actually look like they are outside.

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  3. Russian Soyuz Rocket Lifts Off in First Historic South American Launch

    Today saw the successful first flight of a Russian-made Soyuz rocket from the European Space Agency (ESA) launch site in popular French South American colonial holding French Guiana. The liftoff was the first time a Soyuz rocket has blasted off from any location other than the six launchpads operated by the Russian Space Agency, and took place in a newly constructed facility at the Guiana Space Centre (GSC). For the ESA, the flight bolsters the status of the GSC as a major player in space flight. It also works to cement relations between Russia and the ESA, giving both organizations access to an extremely reliable launch vehicle in the Soyuz and an ideal equatorial launch site. So ideal that the Soyuz realized a nearly 50% boost in efficiency thanks to the Earth's spin, allowing the rocket to carry three tons into space instead of the normal 1.7 tons when launched from the traditional home of the rocket.

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  4. Not so Fast, Neutrinos! Possible Explanation for CERN's Faster-Than-Light Claims

    A few weeks ago, news broke that scientists at the CERN laboratory observed what could be particles traveling faster than the speed of light. With such physics-shaking implications on their hands, the researchers put out a call for independent verification. Though there have been a flurry of responses, one from the University of Groningen's Ronald van Elburg could be the sweeping refutation that puts this issue to rest. Emphasis on "could be." In the original experiment, called OPERA, scientists measured how long it took for particles called neutrinos created at CERN to arrive at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy.  The distance between the laboratories (roughly 454 miles), and the fact that Gran Sasso is located underneath quite a bit of mountain, complicated the experiment since synchronizing two clocks in different locations is extremely difficult. In order to account for this, the scientists relied on the time signal from an orbiting GPS satellite. Using this benchmark, the researchers found that the neutrino arrived 60 nanoseconds earlier than light would. However, it's this reliance on an orbital clock that van Elburg says is causing the results observed in the OPERA experiment.

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  5. FCC Rules All Cellphones Must Have GPS by 2018

    GPS capable phones have been around for a while and are an absolute godsend if you have a sense of direction that is as bad as mine. The downside is that I have to rely on other people's GPS enabled phones because I'm still living in the Stone Age. If the FCC has its way --which it will, it just ruled on this-- all phones will have GPS come 2018.

    Why? The reason they cite is for the purpose of tracking 911 calls. Whether or not that's just a smokescreen depends on your personal level of paranoia and frequency of illegal activites. Currently, if a non-GPS enabled phone dials 911, the provider has to triangulate the location, which is annoying and inefficient, apparently. Straight up GPS is just much better for figuring out exactly where you are, however that makes you feel.

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  6. Follow a Newly Released Penguin on Google Maps as He Swims to Antarctica

    A few months ago, the Emperor Penguin that would come to be known as "Happy Feet" came ashore in New Zealand. After it was clear that the penguin was not faring well on his own, rescue workers nursed him back to health and released him with the hope that he would find his way back to Antarctica. Now, the whole world can follow this plucky bird's progress from the comfort of their own homes through Google Maps. The whole scheme works thanks to a small GPS tracking device attached to the penguin. Sirtrack, the device's maker, is keen to point out that it has been specially designed not to impede the penguin's swimming ability and weighs less than 1% of the bird's weight. Twice a day, the device activates and broadcasts location data for three hours at a time, presumably to increase the onboard battery life. So far, Happy Feet seems to be doing quite well on his southward journey, but we can only hope that he doesn't get thrown off course again.

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  7. Better Lives for Asthma Sufferers With GPS Inhalers

    David Van Sickle, an epidemiologist and medical anthropologist by training, is looking to change how asthma is treated by creating high-tech inhalers that plot the time and GPS location of their use. One of the most common chronic diseases, better treatment for asthma could help over 300 million people worldwide and possibly prevent the over 50,000 annual hospitalizations in the U.S. alone. Van Sickle's company, Asthmapolis, is aiming to introduce a device that give patients valuable information about their disease. When a patient has an attack, he or she uses an inhaler to deliver medicine to stop the attack. Van Sickle's device attaches to the patient's existing inhaler, and logs the time and location of the use. In the advanced test models, it uploads that information to a central database via a wireless internet connection. The data would then be compiled and analyzed by Asthmapolis. By tracking the exact date, time, and frequency of attacks, doctors can provide better, targeted care to their patients Though the device is still being tested, Van Sickle has already done some limited trials that have yielded good results for patients. In these trials, patients and their doctors received periodic reports about their attacks derived from the inhaler's GPS data. With such precise information, patients could be given drugs that better fit the patient's needs. Moreover, they can potentially pinpoint the environmental cause of their attacks and change their habits accordingly. The most exciting possibility from this project isn't on the individual level, but on a much larger scale.

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  8. Avoiding Traffic Snarls With Google Maps Navigation

    If you're already using the Google Maps Navigation app on your Android device, you'll have a sweet surprise coming to you: The app can now avoid bad traffic. Interestingly, this will not rely solely on up-to-the-minute data. From the Google Mobile blog:
    Starting today, our routing algorithms will also apply our knowledge of current and historical traffic to select the fastest route from those alternates. That means that Navigation will automatically guide you along the best route given the current traffic conditions.
    The feature is, however, limited to areas in Europe and North America where real-time traffic conditions are available. Traffic avoidance is being introduced as an automatic feature -- meaning that the app will be taking traffic data into account as soon as you fire it up. This might be jarring for some users, especially those who only use navigation for a portion of their trip (I am completely guilty of ignoring my GPS as it re-calculates while I drive to the edge of my geographical knowledge). Google does point out, though, that using the app may make driving better for everyone by keeping users out of sprawling traffic jams. This kind of traffic avoidance technology has been available on dedicated GPS devices for some time, though almost always as a paid feature. Bringing this capability to the masses will certainly make companies like Garmin nervous, and hopefully get people to their destinations faster. (Google via Engadget)

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  9. FBI Retrieves Tracking Device from Student They Bugged After Internet Exposes Them

    Earlier this week, a Redditor named Khaled posted a picture of a device that he and his friend found under his friend's car when they took it to the mechanic for an oil change. Khaled's friend, Yasir Afifi, is a student at Mission College in Santa Clara, California: He's also the son of a religious Islamic-American leader, Aladdin Afifi, who died last year in Egypt. Khaled asked the Reddit community if the device was a bug or tracking device of some kind, since the FBI had previously tried to contact Afifi, but disappeared when he got a lawyer involved. As it turns out, it was a bug: Reddit IDed it as "a Guardian ST820. It's a GPS tracking unit made by the company Cobham." The story quickly spread through the blogosphere, and within 48 hours, the FBI came to Afifi to pick up their tracking device:

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  10. A Reminder: Technology Doesn’t Make You Any Smarter

    This is the unfortunate experience of the American National Park Service, who say that advances in GPS and emergency technologies are great for experienced campers and hikers, but that they also give inexperienced, impulsive, or outright idiotic park visitors new and exciting ways to make nuisances of themselves. From the New York Times:
    "Because of having that electronic device, people have an expectation that they can do something stupid and be rescued,” said Jackie Skaggs, spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. “Every once in a while we get a call from someone who has gone to the top of a peak, the weather has turned and they are confused about how to get down and they want someone to personally escort them,” Ms. Skaggs said. “The answer is that you are up there for the night.”

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