Weekly news: beam me up, Geordie

IT’S ALWAYS intriguing when science fiction becomes science fact, and never more so than when an item of kit from Star Trek gets made real.

Fans of the series will recall that the apparently insurmountable problem of communications with alien species was rendered trivial through use of the ‘universal translator’, a device which was able to provide instant and near-perfect two-way interpretation.

This week a team of researchers from the University of Nottingham, UK, have revealed a new type of speech recognition program. This can, apparently, emulate Capt Kirk’s device even in places where the Enterprise would never venture – because surely the challenges of translating Romulan into Klingon and vice versa are as nothing compared to the difficulties of understanding Geordie, Scouse, or Brum.

For the benefit of our overseas readers, these are regional dialects of British English, and can be quite impenetrable to outsiders.

Faced with the difficulty experienced by some Asian students in following real-life English speech, as opposed to the standardised versions they may have experienced before, a team from the schools of Psychology, Education, and English at Nottingham has developed the Spoken English Discrimination (SED) program.

In a delightful twist, the lead researchers Nicola Pitchford and Walter van Heuven now report that their work has attracted the attention of a major Chinese mobile phone company, and the system may be incorporated as an app.

The mobile phone or ‘communicator’ is the best example of the real-life deployment of Star Trek technology. But it isn’t the only one, and devices that bear more than a passing resemblance to a tricorder are already used in medical settings. Bluetooth headsets are clearly the same thing that Uhura wore, and the transportation of subatomic particles of matter over significant distance possible – even if we’re not quite able to be beamed up yet. What’s next – warp drive, phasers, or inertial dampers?

I hope you find the LabHomepage website, and this weekly newsletter, useful. Comments and feedback are always welcome: thesecretlabproject@gmail.com. Please help us build our circulation base by forwarding this to any friends that might like it, and suggest they subscribe at http://eepurl.com/itOV2

best wishes
Russ Swan
editor, LabHomepage.com

This week’s top stories: 12 July 2012

1. Inverted microscope range has been re-engineered

TOTALLY re-engineered range of customisable inverted microscopes will be launched by Olympus in September 2012, the company has announced. Taking advantage of the attention generated by…


2. Imaging RNA in living cells in real time

THE IMAGING of RNA inside individual living cells seems like the stuff of science fiction, but is becoming a laboratory reality says Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT). The latest…


3. Microfluidic chips mimic human organs

A UNIVERSITY spin-off has attracted substantial funding to launch its organs-on-a-chip microfluidic devices. Mimetas, a spin-off of the University of Leiden, Netherlands, has attracted…


4. Better quantitative ketosis detection

THE DETECTION of clinically-significant ketosis – the condition of elevated levels of ketones occur in the body in response to a low supply of energy (glucose) – can be improved through…


5. Sample integrity is enhanced by multi-well plates

PORVAIR’s range of proprietary multi-well filtration microplates has been developed in response to the need for reliable methods to purify samples and improve assays. These microplates…


6. Nanoparticle tracking analysis now defined by ASTM

THE PUBLICATION by the American Society of Testing Materials of its new guide new nanomaterial measurement – ASTM E2834 – has been welcomed by Nanosight. The ‘standard…


7. DNA sequencing kits for use with Ion Torrent

BIOO Scientific has expanded its line of kits for NGS library preparation to include the Nextflex DNA Sequencing Kit for Ion Torrent, which has been validated for use with the Ion PGM…


8. Improved grinding of hard and fibrous material

FRITSCH says that its new, completely modified Pulverisette 9 vibrating cup mill offers practical advantages when hard, brittle, or fibrous material must be ground quickly to analytical…


9. Agilent offers single source for HPLC supplies and services

IN A bid to win lucrative new business supplying consumables and servicing for other manufacturers’ HPLC instruments, Agilent has launched its new CrossLab HPLC offering. The move expands,…


10. Bioreactor flask range bought by Wheaton

THE CELLINE range of bioreactor flasks for antibody and protein production has been acquired by Wheaton Industries from Wilson Wolf Manufacturing. Wheaton has also…





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