Friday, September 27, 2013

PLN #3- NASA and Homeland Security Test Radar for Locating Disaster Victims

The article “NASA and Homeland Security Test Radar for Locating Disaster Victims” by NASA is about new technology that will be used to help locate people from debris and wreckage after a disaster. This past Wednesday, September 25th, a new use of radar technology was demonstrated. NASA has created a device known as “FINDER”, or Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response, is a portable device with the purpose of assisting disaster response teams in locating disaster victims trapped or lost after events such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. This device was tested to locate victims trapped under 30 feet of rubble, and can detect their movement through 20 feet of solid concrete. The scientists at NASA share how this works by sending out microwave signals, then decoding the signal received as the microwaves bounce off of objects in their path. FINDER would help for the disaster and emergency response teams to locate victims easier, “allowing rescue workers to more precisely deploy their limited resources,” as quoted by John Price, manager for a First Responders science and technology group in Washington. The article then goes on to tell how this technology may be seen in the near future, such as to monitor the vital signs of astronauts. In conclusion, this new technology can be expected in the near future to aid First responders in locating disaster victims, or later in the future of space travel and astronomy.



The article “NASA and Homeland Security Test Radar for Locating Disaster Victims” by NASA made me feel hopeful because with this tool, more lives will be saved after large scale disasters occur. After large disasters, such as a hurricane, earthquake, or even a bombing, I believe it is crucial to locate and rescue the trapped people as soon as possible. I think that during that time, dehydration, starvation, or life threatening wounds could cause death to the victim if they remain trapped for too long. I am excited because this device will help to solve the problem of not knowing where to look for victims in an area affected by a disaster. Because of the algorithms used to decode the microwaves used by FINDER, search and rescue teams would know exactly where they need to find the person, making the overall rescue go much smoother and faster. This saved time may make the difference for some victims, who may have been injured in the collapse of a building, or by whatever means they are trapped. I am very optimistic about FINDER because it has been recently demonstrated, showing that the technology does exist now and can be put into use very soon. This device could be seen saving lives very soon in the future, in those valuable seconds after a large scale disaster erupts. I value the importance of this device, because it’s pretty cool that science has come up with ways to start saving the lives of people TODAY. Overall, I think this is a very cool invention, and it gives me a lot of hope for the future of science and humanitarian efforts.



Thursday, September 19, 2013

PLN #2-
 "Is Google Making us Stupid?"

The article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains" by Nicholas Carr is about the evolution of technology and how it may have affected people both in the past and today. The author of this article begins with a reference to Stanley Kubrick's movie, 2001, with a supercomputer portraying human-like emotions as an astronaut disconnects the device from its memory. This reference will occur again later in the article. Moving on, Carr describes how he can tell that he is thinking in a different way with a different thought process. He explains how it is harder for him to read into depth and focus on long articles and novels, and how, "The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle." Carr goes on to tell what he thinks causes this change in his mind. He points out that over the last decade, he has spent a largely increased time reading online. This includes reading articles, emails, watching videos, reading blogs, etc. Carr then explains a theory he has come to believe, that reading more online is a cause for a lack of being able to concentrate. He points out that people are seeking quick, convenient ways of navigating the internet, including the skimming of articles and skipping around from page to page. The author of the article supports this with a quote from psychologist Maryanne Wolf, that, "We are not only what we read, we are how we read." Carr elaborates upon this thought with information of how the human mind still continues to change and develop throughout our lives, and doesn't stop at a set point upon reaching adulthood. He continues on this topic, explaining how humans will take on the qualities of technology they are presented with. This point is shown through the examples of the mechanical watch, as well as the computer. The author then makes another point, on how the media has begun to change as well. This is further elaborated with how the media has become more "efficient" for the reader, with more summaries, advertisements, and shortened articles. Carr leads into a further point that technology is aimed around efficiency for the user, and the technology will become self reliant. He shares how the Google team is working towards artificial intelligence in these computers that is independent and possibly smarter than humans. This leads to the economic motive of these companies to distract people. He states that, "The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought." Carr concludes the article by once again referencing the movie 2001, and restating how he believes that humans and artificial intelligence are combining as humans begin to rely on that technology more and more.


The article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?- What the Internet is Doing to our Brains" by Nicholas Carr really opened my eyes up to the influence of technology on me. Throughout the article, Carr explained how it was hard for him to focus while reading lengthy articles, and how some of his sources can no longer read lengthy novels to the extent they were previously able to. While reading, I discovered that this article really relates to me. Even while reading THIS ARTICLE, I found myself getting sidetracked to other random pages just because I couldn't stay focused on reading through the entire article. I was easily distracted by the lengthy amount of comments on the article and the colorful ads on almost the entire right half of my computer screen. Also, in the past, I used to get very into reading books, going through three novels over 200 pages in a week if I had the time to read it. On occasion, I would stay up all night reading because I just couldn't put the book down. Now, with other things occupying my recent free time (including band, video games, browsing reddit, etc) and not having the time to read a lot of books, I found it extremely difficult to get into a novel while reading it a short time ago. I couldn't submerge myself into the story as I used to, nor was I able to focus on the book I was reading without distraction from the area around me. This article makes me wonder, could this be due to technology? This point really stood out to me, as well as another intriguing thought presented by the author: Artificial intelligence. After having watched movies such as "The Terminator" and "Tron: Legacy" I realize that this idea has been present for quite a while. "The Terminator" takes place in a future world where the artificial intelligence in robots and computers is able to think and act on its own, eventually deciding to rid the earth of humanity. The machines would then take over the earth themselves. I was skeptical about finding out Google's plans for artificial intelligence, because, not if, but when computers can out-think humans, they will become out of our control. That scares me. Also, in "Tron: Legacy," Flynn creates a clone of himself, "Clue," whose purpose is to, "create the perfect system" in an electronic universe within a computer. His quest for this perfect system eventually leads to the genocide of the entire species of Isos, harmless creatures that rose out of the system. This seemed very similar to Google's plans, to, "develop the perfect search engine." If the computers really do get a mind of their own, what's to stop them from controlling our society? In conclusion, ideas such as these really do provoke an amount of uncertainty and a small amount of fear for the future of technology, and this article helped to explain possible ideas of that future to me.