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2015 February

February 27, 2015

Tracking rain and snow across the globe

NASA Global Precipitation Visualization Image from May 20, 2014NASA released a new visualization of storms that took place in 2014 gathered from the Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory–a satellite network created with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)–that provides near real-time precipitation data covering most of the planet.

One of the stated goals of this project is to assist emergency management teams in issuing evacuation notices with the data to back it up.

For more information, check out the press release from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Follow this link for the full visualization of the data set. (YouTube)

Visualizations like this one are done here at CASIT through the ACISS cluster managed by our Research Support Services team. For more information about their work, please check out their website.

February 26, 2015

Update on the FCC’s Net Neutrality push

FCC logo

CNET.com reported that in a 3-2 vote the FCC will bring broadband internet under utility-style rules. This means internet service providers can no longer push for data “fast-lanes” or give certain data sources preferential bandwidth. The key piece of the new regulation is centered around the Title II telecommunications regulations in the 1934 Communications Act. Having the Internet classified as such will give the FCC the ability to enforce the fairness provision. The push for Net Neutrality is not over yet however–once the new rules are published within the Federal Register, it is expected that some of the larger telecom companies, like AT&T, will sue due to the increased regulation on their offerings.

For more information, check out this article from CNET.com

CNET also has an article timeline of the events on this issue that can be found here.

February 18, 2015

Bringing Back Binaural Audio for Virtual Reality

Binaural MicrophoneYou’re probably unfamiliar with binaural audio, a technology that dates back all the way to the late 1800s but, for a variety of reasons, fell by the wayside while mono and then stereo sound became audio industry standards. But binaural audio is now experiencing a revival because it’s uniquely suited for a very modern technology: virtual reality.

Binaural recordings are designed to pick up sound exactly the way human ears perceive it. They’re made with specialized equipment: two microphones placed on either side of a stand or dummy head, sometimes embedded inside ear-shaped appendages on that head. The effect is stunning — binaural audio is able to recreate a sound field so the listener feels like they were actually there when the recording was made. The catch is that it only works with headphones, although people are currently working on ways to support external speakers.

For more, check out this article from Polygon.com (and check out the video too; wear headphones as you do)

February 17, 2015

Why Americans still use Fahrenheit long after everyone else switched to Celsius

Eugene 02-17-15 weather

Weather status from the Eugene Airport (weather.gov)

Virtually every country on earth aside from the United States measures temperature in Celsius. This makes sense; Celsius is a reasonable scale that assigns freezing and boiling points of water with round numbers, zero and 100. In Fahrenheit, those are, incomprehensibly, 32 and 212.

This isn’t just an aesthetic issue. America’s stubborn unwillingness to get rid of Fahrenheit temperatures is part of its generally dumb refusal to change over to the metric system, which has real-world consequences. One conversion error between US and metric measurements sent a $125 million NASA probe to its fiery death in Mars’ atmosphere.

Why does the United States have such an antiquated system of measurement? You can blame two of history’s all-time greatest villains: British colonialism and Congress.

For more, check out the remainder of this article from Vox.com

February 4, 2015

Net Neutrality: Internet as an utility

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FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, wrote a guest article on Wired.com regarding net neutrality and his push for having the Internet as an utility. Below is an excerpt from his statement.

After more than a decade of debate and a record-setting proceeding that attracted nearly 4 million public comments, the time to settle the Net Neutrality question has arrived. This week, I will circulate to the members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new rules to preserve the internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression. This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles, marketplace experience, and public input received over the last several months.

Broadband network operators have an understandable motivation to manage their network to maximize their business interests. But their actions may not always be optimal for network users. The Congress gave the FCC broad authority to update its rules to reflect changes in technology and marketplace behavior in a way that protects consumers. Over the years, the Commission has used this authority to the public’s great benefit.

For more, check out the rest of this article at Wired.com