So Long, Farewell: In Transition

"So long, farewell ... " The colorful figure known as "Tablet Man" at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“So long, farewell … ” The colorful figure known as “Tablet Man” at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

I left my job as a Senior Writer at TechMediaNetwork on Friday, Feb. 1. I don’t plan on saying goodbye permanently as long as I can continue to freelance for my former editors at TechNewsDaily, LiveScience and SPACE.com, but I had thought long and hard about returning to freelancing or trying something new since last year. Many of the TMN editors have been my colleagues and mentors since the earliest days of my science journalism career with SPACE.com and LiveScience (under different management), and so I’ll always be grateful to them.

I’m currently taking a short breather and assessing my future options. But I don’t plan on staying idle for long.

A Storm of Stories — Story Roundup 12/12/12

Apologies for the long delay on story updates. Hurricane Sandy has long since passed, but both work and some personal travel for Thanksgiving took their toll. But I was able to squeeze at least one story out of my hometown visit during the start of the winter holidays …

Happy 12/12/12.

Why SEALs Paid the Price for ‘Medal of Honor’ Game Consulting

Cyborg Guinea Pig’s Inner Ear Becomes a Battery

Why US Oil Dominance Won’t Lower Gas Prices

Plentiful US Oil Won’t Kill Renewable Energy

‘Call of Duty’ Game Could Reshape Real Warfare

Balloon Space Tourism Aims for 2014 Launch

DNA ‘LEGOs’ Build a Mini Space Shuttle

Smartphone App Alerts Drowsy Drivers

Why 3D Printing Matters for ‘Made in USA’

Story Roundup 11/4/12

Hurricane Sandy’s body blow to NYC ensured that my TechMediaNetwork colleagues and I spent last week working remotely from home. That was the case for those of us lucky enough to have power — others were less fortunate with the combination of flooding and power outages that struck lower Manhattan and much of the outer boroughs.

Still, I ended up posting a few non-Sandy related stories this week.

 

 

Off to the Movies with ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Cloud Atlas’ – Story Roundup 10/28/12

Hurricane Sandy is churning close to New York City tonight, which means it’s a good time to do a quick update on the week’s past stories. This week’s edition included two stories I wrote about “Cloud Atlas” (Oct. 26) and “Skyfall” (Nov. 9).

This headline is pretty appropriate for Halloween, but is about the search for much cooler things than ghosts or goblins.

I was lucky enough into a sneak preview of the latest 007 film, called “Skyfall,” and I came away very pleased that this third adventure for Daniel Craig as James Bond was a return to excellence. Unfortunately, I had to sneak out for a phone interview just before the grand finale, but I’ll be going back to see it again when it opens in U.S. theaters.

The film also happens to star a new, younger “Q” (Ben Whishaw), but he’s oddly inept when it comes to his supposed cybersecurity expertise.

On a different movie note, I took a brief look at science behind the dystopian future imagined by one of the six stories of “Cloud Atlas,” a film based on the novel written by David Mitchell. Send in the clones!

GM Mice as Landmine Detectors, Jesus’ Wife and a Cancer-Detecting Bra — Story Roundup 10/20/12

“The mice catch the scent of landmines and they fall down.”

As I joked on Twitter, I would have named my story about genetically-modified mice differently if I could by making an esoteric reference to the incredible book “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.” That’s because these genetically-modified mice have extremely sensitive noses capable of detecting DNT, a close chemical cousin of TNT found in explosives — but the sensory overload may also cause them to have seizures.

The ongoing saga of China’s rather incomplete reporting on air pollution in cities such as Beijing inspired a great DIY project by a Chinese and U.S. grad student — a grassroots effort that marries air pollution sensors to the ancient Chinese kite-flying tradition.

My most popular story this week was about the latest evidence that the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is a rather clever forgery by an amateur. The Guardian gets credit for being among the first to spot the new scholarly analysis of the “gospel” written on a small papyrus fragment, but I dug into more of the implications by talking to several of the scholars.

If this is indeed a fake, it would represent the first time that an amateur without even the knowledge of the ancient, dead (Coptic) language had so successfully fooled expert scholars. But it’s also a fascinating tale that shows both the good and bad sides of the Internet’s power — enabling the supposed amateur to create a convincing forgery because of an online translation tool, but also allowing scholars from all over the world to rapidly pool their expertise and dissect the claim.

The growing chorus of doubt over the fragment’s authenticity has not gone unnoticed by Harvard University, the institute that first made the fragment’s controversial findings public. The Harvard Theological Review decided to pull the article that would have described the findings from its January 2013 issue until further tests on the fragment are completed.

Last but not least, I was proud to get mentioned by a health news watchdog for my article about a “smart bra” that would supposedly beat mammograms in screening for breast cancer. I doubt many people will read the article compared to the dozens of optimistic, unquestioning articles that flooded news sites over the past week, but I was glad to have taken the time to try and assess the new medical device’s claims — especially given that its method has some resemblance to an existing, ineffective screening method called thermography.

The maker of the device, First Warning Systems, was good enough to tell me in great detail about why it wasn’t making clinical trial data public just yet, and to explain how it’s using proprietary software and a better, real-time tracking version of thermography. I’m not even a journalist who regularly covers the health beat, but I was astounded by how so many earlier news articles failed to even try assessing the validity of this approach — especially when we’re talking about something as serious as breast cancer.

NASA’s ‘Iron Man’ Suit and Eying New Passwords — Story Roundup 10/13/12

It’s been a quiet week aside from my usual contribution to the daily TechNewsDaily story flow. But I’d like to point any interested readers to the excellent work being done by Francie Diep, my TND colleague.

First up, NASA unveiled pictures and video of a robotic exoskeleton that could be worn by astronauts or paraplegic patients on Earth. Such a device could not only grant more mobility, but also enhance normal human strength in a way that people have only previously imagined in science fiction stories and comic books.

Second, Francie has been writing a series of stories about biometrics — the technologies and methods used to identify people by unique features such as fingerprints, irises and behaviors. Her previous stories looked at biometric passwords based on a person’s heartbeat and finger swiping patterns.

Robotic Suit Aids Astronauts and Paraplegic Patients

‘Space Jumping,’ 1,000-MPH Cars and Robot Bees — Story Roundup 10/6/12

Pilot Felix Baumgartner performs freefall tests in Taft, California, USA on June 21, 2012. CREDIT: Luke Aikins | Red Bull Content Pool

A skydiving daredevil will try to shatter the world record by leaping from 120,000 feet above the Earth on Monday (Oct. 8). I interviewed Jeff Feige, CEO of spacesuit manufacturer Orbital Outfitters, to find out how close we are to making real “space diving” a semi-routine deal.

That story actually drew a few TV interview requests from curious producers (I’m probably referring them to my more knowledgeable SPACE.com colleagues). But what really pleased me was seeing the story get cross-posted on both Fox News and Huffington Post. Love of neat space-related technology has no boundaries.

Speaking of extreme technology news, I also wrote a short but fun story explaining the mind-bending possibilities of having a 1,000-mph car — the dream goal of the Bloodhound Supersonic Car project.

I was grateful to see that story end up on Mashable and get tweeted out by Mashable editor in chief Lance Ulanoff.

Both “space jumping” and 1,000-mph cars represent no-brainer tech stories of interest. But some of the most disruptive technologies may come in small packages — the UK’s “Green Brain” project that aims to replicate honeybee intelligence for use in flying drones. The artificial intelligence version may even end up in tiny “Robobees” being developed by a Harvard University group.

What can you do with a smaller, smarter drone? For starters, that was the technology at the top of the wishlist for many scientists and military officers who attended a U.S. military workshop on “game-changing” technologies in August. One expert even suggested giving such tiny drones “stingers” in the form of injectors that delivered knockout drugs to enemy soldiers inside buildings or bunkers.