Archive for April, 2011

New study: Why the ability to multitask wanes with age

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

A new university study shows that as we age, it gets tougher to successfully “multitask,” or remembering to complete one task while distracted by another.

Using brain scans, a team of UC San Francisco researchers have discovered that people over age 60 are less agile in switching from one neural network to another — which means that brief attention-grabbing interruptions can undermine their ability to recall the original task.

“A lot of us feel the need to respond really rapidly to an email or text message,” said Dr. Adam Gazzaley, director of the UCSF Neuroscience Imaging Center and senior author of the study, which was published in Monday’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

If we stop what we’re doing to send a reply, Gazzaley says, “there may be a price to be paid.”

While others have observed that aging adults experience difficulty completing a task after a distraction, no one had explored neurological science to learn why.

The problem is central to daily life as increasing numbers of digital distractions — such as electronic messages, alerts and feeds — demand our attention, interrupting the process of retaining information from deep learning.

The topic has growing relevance “especially as older adults stay in the workplace later “… and the societal expectations increase about how quickly we should respond” to interruptions, Gazzaley said. (more…)

NASA to Announce Shuttle Retirement Homes Today

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

NASA’s chief Charlie Bolden will be at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday to announce where the space shuttles will spend their retirements.

The 30-year-old shuttle program is ending this summer after two final flights to deliver a Hubble-class science instrument, known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, and a year’s worth of supplies to the International Space Station. Though budget uncertainties have kept NASA from moving forward with a follow-on program, the shutdown of the shuttles remains on track.

Competition to house a retired spaceship has been keen. I’m not a gambler, but the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center is an obvious pick. Why else would Bolden make his announcement here?

The fleet leader, Discovery, which completed its final spaceflight last month, is promised to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which plans to showcase the ship at its Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. In exchange, the Smithsonian will give up its shuttle prototype, called Enterprise.

So the only real question is who gets the third shuttle and who gets the consolation prize, Enterprise? NASA says 21 institutions submitted proposals. They include the visitor center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA’s human space flight hub; New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum; the Museum of Flight in Seattle; and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located outside of Dayton, Ohio. (more…)

Intel Takes on ARM with New ‘Oak Trail’ Atom Platform

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Intel’s roll out of its “Oak Trail” Atom platform is the first move in an aggressive strategy to take on ARM-based chips in the highly lucrative smartphone and tablet markets.

After more than a year of saber-rattling, Intel officials have taken a significant step in their push into the mobile device space and in ramping up the competition with ARM Holdings, whose chip designs are found in most smartphones and tablets.

At the Intel Developer Forum in China April 11, Intel officials unveiled its “Oak Trail” Atom platform, including the new Atom Z670. They also gave attendees a peak at the next Atom platform, dubbed “Cedar Trail,” a 32-nanometer platform that will extend Intel’s reach into a market that the giant chip maker has little if any presence.

The officials said the Oak Trail chips will begin appearing in tablets in May, and that in all, more than 35 designs will start appearing from OEMs like Lenovo, Fujitsu, Evolve III, Motion Computing and Razer, running a variety of operating systems, including Windows, Android and MeeGo.

Executives from Intel, the world’s largest chip maker and the long-time dominant vendor in the server and PC markets, hopes that Oak Trail and later Cedar Trail will help the company fulfill the promise of President and CEO Paul Otellini, who said during the IDF in September 2010 that Intel would become a major player in the burgeoning tablet space. (more…)

Microsoft, Google tussle over government contract

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Microsoft fired a broadside at Google in a battle over a US government contract, accusing its rival of issuing misleading claims.

Google rejected the charges by the Seattle-based software giant in the legal tussle over a nearly $60 million contract with the US Department of Interior.

Microsoft said documents unsealed in the court case showed that “Google Apps for Government,” Google’s Internet-based suite of office tools, had not been certified under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

“Given the number of times that Google has touted this claim, this was no small development,” Microsoft deputy general counsel David Howard said in a blog post. “It’s time for Google to stop telling governments something that is not true.”

FISMA lays out the security standards for information management systems such as email.

Google and Onix Networking Corp., a reseller of Google products, filed suit against the US government last year claiming the terms for the Department of Interior contract favored Microsoft. (more…)