This is the weekly College Needs News.

  • From Purdue University News article New design tool nixes mouse; users create shapes with hands only we find out about a design tool that enables people to create three-dimensional objects with their bare hands. The tool is designed by researcher at Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering. It uses a depth-sensing camera and advanced software algorithms to interpret hand movements and gestures.

    “It allows people to express their ideas rapidly and quickly using hand motions alone,” said Karthik Ramani, Purdue University’s Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “We’re democratizing the design process. You don’t have to be an engineer or an accomplished potter to use this. You can be a kid.”

    The tool is called Handy-Potter and I guess I would enjoy playing with it. The shapes shown in the picture were produced using Handy-Potter.

  • An article from The Chronicle of Higher Education relates about the online courses offered through Coursera and another company, Udacity. The title of the article is Coursera Hits 1 Million Students, With Udacity Close Behind

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    Udacity’s founder, Sebastian Thrun, said in an e-mail interview that his company planned to remain focused on computer science and related fields. “We are not doing humanities,” he said. Coursera, however, is now expanding into a variety of disciplines. Another start-up offering free online courses is edX which also has courses in several disciplines.

  • The Wasington Post writes about a strange book: Researchers write book using DNA. Researchers have encoded a full book in DNA, the largest amount of information stored on the biological medium yet.

    DNA (short for Deoxyribonucleic acid) is a nucleic acid containing the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms (with the exception of viruses, which contain another kind of nucleic acid called RNA).
    Nucleic acids are biological molecules essential for known forms of life on Earth. Together with proteins, nucleic acids are the most important biological macromolecules; each is found in abundance in all living things, where they function in encoding, transmitting and expressing genetic information.

    The scientists argue that DNA has unique advantages for data storage. They calculated that their method has by far the highest data density of any medium until now, beating flash media or even quantum holography by orders of magnitude. This is partly because DNA is three dimensional while other storage techniques are restricted to two dimensions.

    Yet the main advantage of DNA storage may be durability. DNA can survive millennia unharmed, as demonstrated by the sequencing of genetic information from ancient fossils. At the same time, the tools and techniques necessary for reading out the information will be present in future generations, because they are ubiquitous in nature.

    The main disadvantage at this time is expense. The cost and time needed to encode the information make it largely impractical at the moment, except for highly specific applications, like century-scale archiving.

    I wonder how one can read such a book. The scientist have done it and when reading out the information, the data was recovered with but 10 errors overall. Amazing!

  • From the blog at The College Puzzle we learn that public pressure leads to tuition freeze. The blog post cites an article published in the Hechinger Report. “After three decades of tuition hikes that have outpaced inflation and increases in family income, students, families, legislators, and governing boards are demanding a halt. Officials in several states — including Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and Texas — are moving to limit tuition increases or feeling intense pressure to do so.” It is about tuition for undergraduate studies. This is really good news!

Filed under: College news

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