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IEEE Spectrum Tech-Alert

Slideshow: Yesterday’s Failed Ideas Are Today’s Great Inventions

When a new idea comes along, people often don’t know what to make of it. That’s why so many inventions begin as fun diversions and only reach the development stage much later. Who ever thought useful products would come from pedal-powered stilts or remote-controlled robotic hands that could shave a man’s beard?
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Where the Engineering Jobs Are

Last year, pink slips were seemingly everywhere for engineers and computer scientists. Things are better for engineers this year, but the signals are still mixed. Tech companies plan to hire at least as many electrical engineers as last year, but those already laid off are having a hard time finding jobs. And while new grads are getting fewer offers, they’re still doing better than their peers in other fields.
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How Facebook Could Make Cloud Computing Better

Computer scientists in Europe and New Zealand are working on a way to make cloud computing more efficient and potentially more palatable to those concerned with privacy. At the IEEE Cloud 2010 conference they proposed the creation of a “social cloud,” which would use the computing resources of a person’s online network of “friends.”
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GE Adds X-rays to Lower the Dose of CT Scans

In a prototype, GE engineers have shown that they should be able to lower the dose of X-rays received during a CT-scan, by using as many as 32 X-ray sources instead of the one or two used today. 
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RIM v. NTP, Yet Again

Fate has certainly been showing off its sense of irony in the notorious litigation over Research in Motion’s BlackBerry smartphone. RIM settled the dispute with NTP in March 2006 for a lump sum of US $612.5 million in exchange for a license under the asserted patents. But now that NTP’s patents are being reexamined and the outcome looks good for RIM, the company’s earlier settlement works against its interests.
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Podcast: Centrifuges Put a New Spin on Gulf Cleanup

Cleanup crews still face the challenge of getting rid of the millions of gallons of oil that have been flowing into the Gulf of Mexico since April. Some of the most fouled water is being cleaned by separating devices known as centrifuges. American actor Kevin Costner has been funding the development of this technology since the Exxon Valdez disaster off the Alaska coast in 1989, but the machines have never been used to clean up an oil spill—until now. Host Steven Cherry talks with Eric Hoek, an engineering consultant for Costner’s Ocean Therapy Solutions, about how the company’s centrifuge technology is cleaning up the Gulf.
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Nanoclast: Nano-enabled Wound Dressing Discerns Between Good and Bad Bacteria

When it comes to our health, there are bacteria that are beneficial and there are bacteria that are quite detrimental. In the process of trying to figure out why this is the case, a team of UK researchers demonstrated how a nanocapsule system can be a “nano-Trojan horse” for combating only harmful bacteria in infections while leaving friendly bacteria untouched.
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Risk Factor: Wikileaks Firestorm: 91 000 Classified Documents Published Online

Earlier this week, three major international newspapers—The Guardian, The New York Times, and the weekly Der Spiegel—simultaneously began publishing information contained in documents from a stolen treasure trove of classified U.S. military documents related to the war in Afghanistan. The information came from the whistleblower Web site Wikileaks, and the incident will continue to fuel the raging debate about the ethics of leaking documents to the Web.
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Tech Talk: Why Mint Doesn’t Measure Up

When Intuit bought and its 1.5 million users in September 2009 for US$ 170 million, it was widely assumed that the company would eventually transition the current users of its Web-based Quicken Online personal finance application to award-winning Mint. But for many ex-Quicken users, switching to Mint has been disappointing. If Quicken loses thousands of customers in the next few weeks because its product cannot meet user needs in terms of the most basic functionality, Mint’s Webby-award winning new-economy goodness will all be for naught.
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