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     Volume 4 Issue 65 | September 30, 2005 |

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Keyboard 'Speaks' its Typing Secrets
What you type on your computer keyboard may no longer remain a secret, thanks to a new software that can recreate the text by 'listening' to the sound of the keys. Doug Tygar from the University of California, Berkeley and his co-workers have been able to recreate up to 96 percent of what was typed in a computer - by 'listening' to the sound of the keyboard. A $10 microphone was used for this purpose. "Our algorithms require no information about the typist, keyboard, room or text typed," Tygar said. In fact, the microphone needn't even be placed in the same room as the typist. The method relies on the 'tap' produced when your finger strikes the keyboard. "Every key makes an ever so slightly different sound," Tygar said. "Keys at the edges sound different to those in the centre, just as a drum produces different tones when struck in the middle or near the rim." This sound isn't usually distinct enough to identify a specific key, but that's where the computer software comes in. Using the sequence of sounds, it guesses as to what the words might be, and then gradually refines them, using standard algorithms for checking spelling and grammar. The software also learns to recognise individual keys, becoming more accurate as it goes along. "Once our algorithm has 10 minutes' worth of typed English, it can recover arbitrary text, such as passwords," said Tygar.

Software that turns writings into 3D images
Scientists have developed a software that can turn written languages into 3D images. Researchers led by Pierre Nugues at Lund University in Sweden have developed the software called 'CarSim' that analyses eyewitness accounts of an incident - in Swedish - to determine the positions of the vehicles and people involved. "It is able to cope with potentially ambiguous statements like 'it overtook without signalling' by looking at their context to work out what the word 'it' relates to," the report said. The software can interpret everyday written language, used to turn descriptions of an event such as a road accident, into 3D images. The researchers hope it will help people visualise a complex chain of events such as the build-up to an accident, or as a training aid to teach drivers about safe driving.

Mechanism regulates tooth shape
University of Helsinki and University of Kyoto researchers say the balance of induction mechanism directs the placement of tooth shape features. The developmental initiation of the tooth shape features, known as cuss, is known to involve several developmental genes at the places of future cusps, but it was unknown how cusps form at the right places, according to the researchers. Computer simulations on tooth development have suggested there should be a gene inhibiting induction of cusps. The research team has identified this inhibitor to be a recently identified gene called ectodin. The team generated a mouse that has no functional ectodin. The mice appear fairly normal but the areas forming cusps were much broader, resulting in cheek teeth whose shape resembles rhinoceros teeth more than mouse teeth. Furthermore, the mice have extra teeth and sometimes, adjacent teeth are fused. These results indicate there is a delicate balance of induction and inhibition in determining tooth cusps -- and that ectodin is a key gene in this developmental control.

Extinction Update
Palm oil linked to Orangutan extinction
The British demand for potato chips, bread, lipstick and soap is contributing to the extinction of orangutans, according to an environmental group. The United Kingdom imports nearly 1 million tons of palm oil a year used in food, makeup and soap -- and the plantations needed to grow the palms are destroying the rainforests, said Friends of the Earth palm oil campaigner Ed Matthew. Friends of the Earth and international primate conservation groups say their research shows 90 percent of the orangutans habitat in South East Asia has been wiped out and the apes could become extinct within 12 years, reported the BBC. Over 100 U.K. companies and every single British supermarket is helping fuel the obliteration of orangutan habitat, said Matthew. The report, Oil for Ape Scandal, said palm oil plantations have become the main cause of the orangutans' decline in Malaysia and Indonesia. Some 5,000 orangutans die as a result each year, the report said.

Sturgeon threatened with extinction
Sturgeon, the fish that produce black caviar, are at the brink of extinction, Miami researchers reported. "I could not recommend people eat caviar from any wild population of sturgeon," says Ellen Pikitch, director of the Pew Institute for Ocean Science at the University of Miami. Pikitch is the lead author of a study published in the journal Fish and Fisheries. The study -- the first global assessment of the sturgeon's threatened state -- noted the fish is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, but illegal trade continues. Few viable sturgeon fisheries now remain, the researchers wrote. They said it takes 15 years for a sturgeon to reach reproductive age and then each fish typically spawns only every three or four years. As a result, they are expensive and time-consuming to raise in captivity. Sturgeon have been caught for caviar since 500 B.C., says Pikitch, and at one time caviar was so abundant it was served in bars like beer nuts. But during the last century sturgeon in Europe, North America and Asia have been fished to the brink of extinction.

'Hurricanes are 'Smoking Guns' of Climate Change'
Super-powerful hurricanes now hitting the US are the "smoking gun" of global warming, one of Britain's leading scientists has said. Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, told the Independent that the growing violence of storms such as Katrina, which wrecked New Orleans, and Rita, now threatening Texas, was "very probably" caused by climate change. "The increased intensity of these kinds of extreme storms is very likely to be due to global warming," he said in a published interview. Lawton hit out at "neo-conservatives" in the US who were still denying the "reality of climate change". Referring to the arrival of Hurricane Rita, he said: "If this makes the climate loonies in the US realise that we've got a problem, some good will come out of a truly awful situation." Asked what conclusion the Bush administration should draw from two hurricanes of such high intensity hitting the US in quick succession, Lawton said: "If what looks like is going to be a horrible mess causes the extreme skeptics about climate change in the US to reconsider their opinion; that would be an extremely valuable outcome."

Source: New Scientist and Webindia123

Compiled by IMRAN H. KHAN


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