Thursday, February 11, 2010

10,000 Galaxies in 3D

10,000 Galaxies in 3D: "

In 2004, the Hubble Space Telescope captured 10,000 galaxies in an image that’s now called the Ultra Deep Field. It’s our deepest look into the universe. The video above animates the Deep Field image and puts it into 3D. No need to read more. Just watch.

10,000 Galaxies in 3D is a post from: Open Culture, the home of Free Audio Books, Free Courses, Free Movies, Free Foreign Language Lessons, a Free iPhone App and other intelligent media!

Related posts:

  1. The Open Culture iPhone App

  2. When Galaxies Collide


Monday, February 8, 2010

Google Rebuilds the Tower of Babel with Real-Time Language Translation

Google Rebuilds the Tower of Babel with Real-Time Language Translation: "

googlelogo6.jpgIf our attempts at getting such simple information as bus schedules or account balances from automated voice recognition systems are any indication, then we imagine Google has a lot of work to do in its latest endeavor - real-time, spoken-language translation.

According to the Times UK, Google is working on developing software for a mobile phone that would translate what you were saying into the language of the speaker on the other end of the line and vice versa.


As you may have noticed, Google already has a hand in the translation business, with its web page translation service. Google Translate currently translates between 52 languages, which includes a number of languages with completely different alphabets.

The Times UK spoke with Franz Och, head of Google's translation services, who said that this new service should be up and running and 'work reasonably well in a few years' time.'

'Everyone has a different voice, accent and pitch,' said Och. 'But recognition should be effective with mobile phones because by nature they are personal to you.'

Och is referring to the fact that the software would have the opportunity to learn your accent, dialect and general manner of speaking over time, becoming more accurate. But we can only imagine the difficulty of the task ahead, especially with languages such as Mandarin or Cantonese, which are tonally based. In Mandarin, for example, the word 'ma' can have four different meanings according to the tone used. If the speaker uses the first tone, a constant high pitch, then the word means 'mother'. If they use the third tone, a dropping then rising pitch, however, the meaning changes to 'horse'.

The fun doesn't stop there, the Times UK article points out, as handling the vast number of accents and dialects is also an immense task. Much like the web-based translation that Google does, though, the system would become more accurate over time, essentially learning from its experience.

We hope that one of the first things it learns is not to call our new Chinese friend's mother a horse.



Does slum tourism make us better people?

Does slum tourism make us better people?: "Slum tourism is a growth industry with more and more wealthy travelers opting to visit the poorest parts of the world. What is it that is prompting slum tourism? Is it a new trend? What impact does slum tourism have on the people who opt for this kind of ‘holiday’? Do they become better people as a result and does the experience prompt a call to action for social change?"

Metric Map: Which Countries Don’t Belong With The Others?

Let's just switch. No conversions. Just wake up one morning and we're metric. Get it over with!

Metric Map: Which Countries Don’t Belong With The Others?: "

Map : author

What sets the U.S apart from the rest of the world?

The U.S. is one of only three nations in the world (the other two being Liberia and Burma) which clings to its outmoded system of measurement, failing to get on board with the rest of the world and use the metric system.

We don’t even use the British Imperial system (that the British don’t even use anymore) – we use some bastard child of the Imperial system called “the United States customary system.” Ask any American how many ounces are in a gallon or feet are in a mile and you’re almost sure not to get a correct answer.

What does this mean for you as an American? It means that when you travel you look like an idiot. When someone asks you for directions, you are suddenly at a loss, unable to estimate distance in kilometers. If one of your South American friends asks you how cold it is, you have no idea what to say. Is 30 degrees hot? Is it cold?

There are more communist countries than there are countries not using the metric system. Everyone else has come to the conclusion that it just makes for sense to use the system everyone else in the world is using in which all units are divisible by ten.

Just try to pass the right wrench to someone and you’ll see how stupid this system is. “I need the five sixteenths hex wrench. No! I said the five sixteenths!” Of course you did.

OK. Maybe it wouldn’t be cost effective to tear down all those mile markers, but just imagine the jobs it would create to start adding kilometer markers to every highway in the U.S. of A.