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Seattle wins UNESCO’s laurel for literature

Seattle Public Library
Seattle Public Library. Photo via Flickr user PsychaSec.

It only makes sense that Seattle is now officially one of UNESCO’s Cities of Literature, considering that it’s home to the world’s biggest bookseller (Amazon) as well as America’s most well-read citizens (at least according to Amazon).

One might even ask what took UNESCO so long: A nonprofit group called Seattle City of Literature has been campaigning for years to win recognition from the Paris-based U.N. cultural agency, but missed getting onto the list two years ago.

Don’t expect a City of Literature to be so impertinent as to ask. Instead, leaders of the campaign graciously welcomed word that Seattle was being added to UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.

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Scientists can weave data into your clothing

Magnetized-thread fabric
Using magnetic properties of conductive thread, University of Washington researchers can store data in fabric. In this example, the code to unlock a door is stored in a patch and read by magnetometers. Commercial products would almost certainly look more stylish. (UW Photo / Dennis Wise)

Want to wear your password on your sleeve? Computer scientists from the University of Washington can make it so.

A research team led by UW’s Shyam Gollakota has demonstrated a method for encoding digital data, including ID tags and security keys, into electrically conductive threads that can be woven invisibly into items of clothing.

The digital code is activated by magnetizing the threads, and then can be read out using magnetometers. A report on the data-weaving experiment was presented last week in Quebec City at the Association for Computing Machinery’s User Interface Software and Technology Symposium.

“This is a completely electronic-free design, which means you can iron the smart fabric or put it in the washer and dryer,” Gollakota, an associate professor at UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, said today in a news release. “You can think of the fabric as a hard disk — you’re actually doing this data storage on the clothes you’re wearing.”

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SpaceX executes Sweet 16 launch (plus landing)

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rises from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida, sending the Koreasat-5A telecommunications satellite into space. (SpaceX Photo)

SpaceX executed its 16th Falcon 9 rocket launch of the year today, sending the Koreasat-5A telecommunications satellite into orbit and then having the first-stage booster fly itself back to an oceangoing launch pad.

The mission marked a doubling of SpaceX’s launch tally from last year and signaled that the California-based launch company is hitting its stride, 14 months after a launch pad accident dealt a setback to the Falcon 9 program.

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Data harvested from bits of living human brains

Brain slices
Slices of human brain tissue, extracted from patients during neurosurgery, are kept alive in a special bath of chilled, oxygenated fluid. (Allen Institute for Brain Science)

Zapping brain cells from living human tissue? It sounds like a creepy Halloween tale, but for the Allen Institute for Brain Science, it’s a clever way to understand more fully how the brain works — and potentially bring healing to future patients.

“It doesn’t creep me out at all,” Jonathan Ting, an assistant investigator at the Seattle institute who’s been deeply involved in the project, told GeekWire. “I feel like it’s our obligation as scientists.”

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Northern lights could flare up if you’re lucky

Mount Adams aurora
Northern lights shine over Mount Adams in a Sept. 27 image. (MtAdams.tv via Brenda Turnbull)

The chances of seeing the northern lights are higher for the next couple of nights, but Western Washington’s trademark fall weather could cloud things over.

Literally.

We’re talking about two types of weather here: The space weather side of the equation, relating to geomagnetic storms sparked by the solar wind, looks promising. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center says there’s a heightened chance of minor (G1) to moderate (G2) storms tonight and on Wednesday night.

Wednesday night’s space weather forecast suggests an aurora should be visible across the northern tier of the United States.

However, the atmospheric weather side of the equation plays a role as well. National Weather Service’s Seattle office notes that clouds will be approaching Western Washington after midnight.

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Humans and robots kick off 777X jet production

Boeing 777X banner
Boeing workers sign a banner celebrating the start of production for the 777X jet. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

EVERETT, Wash. — With the rat-a-tat-tat of a robotic riveter, Boeing celebrated the official kickoff for production of its next-generation 777X wide-body jet.

Today’s ceremony brought more than 200 Boeing workers (plus a busload of journalists) to the building where the support structures for the 777X’s carbon composite wings are being assembled.

The climax of the celebration came when a laser-guided robotic arm drilled a hole into the carbon fiber layer for a 105-foot-long wing spar and its stiffener, and then loudly installed the first fastener.

Workers greeted the noise with applause.

“We’re turning the chapter,” Jason Clark, vice president of 777 and 777X operations, told the crowd. “This is a change in the history of how we manufacture, how we assemble and how we fly our aircraft.”

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Scientists seek treaty to save famous space places

Apollo 11 landing site
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin sets up scientific experiments on the surface of the moon during the historic 1969 mission. (NASA Photo / Neil Armstrong)

What’s the best way to preserve the Apollo footprints on the moon, the Face on Mars, or the mysterious “white spots” on the dwarf planet Ceres? A pair of researchers argue that there ought to be an international treaty.

They say the Antarctic Treaty, which sets aside that icy continent and its mineral resources as a natural preserve, could serve as a model for what they call the Exogeoconservation Treaty.

“It is better if we do it ahead of the interest in space rather than after the fact,” Jack Matthews, a geologist at Memorial University of Newfoundland, told GeekWire on Sunday.

But an expert on space law said the prospects for such a treaty are dim, particularly in light of rising interest in commercial activities on the moon.

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‘Modernist Bread’ finds new twists in ancient food

Nathan Myhrvold
Technologist Nathan Myhrvold is on a mission with “Modernist Bread.” (The Cooking Lab, LLC)

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Did you ever try inflating bread dough with a bicycle pump? Gourmet technologist Nathan Myhrvold did — and after thumbing through the 2,642 pages of his latest opus, “Modernist Bread,” you just might, too.

Like “Modernist Cuisine,” his earlier work, the new five-volume set of books is bigger than a bread box and costs hundreds of dollars. But although “Modernist Bread” offers hundreds of recipes, these are no common cookbooks: Myhrvold and his co-author, head chef Francisco Migoya, delve into the history of one of the world’s oldest foods, the science and technology of breadmaking, and why stunts like pumping up bread actually work.

“Some people ask me how I could possibly make a 2,600-page book on bread,” Myhrvold told GeekWire, “My answer is, ‘Because I had to hold the line somewhere.’ Seriously, we had lots of material that we had to cut.”

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Satellites track the West’s fading mountain glaciers

Mount Rainier glaciers
This map shows the elevation change of Mount Rainier glaciers between 1970 and 2016. The earlier observations are from USGS maps, while the recent data use the satellite stereo imaging technique. Glacier surface elevations have dropped more than 40 meters (130 feet) in some places. (University of Washington Photo / David Shean)

Elevation readings captured by satellites confirm that glaciers in the western United States are fading away at a worrisome rate.

The fade-out isn’t a surprise, considering the rise in global mean temperatures that’s ascribed to climate change. The new twist has to do with how the measurements were made.

University of Washington researcher David Shean looked back at satellite readings that have been amassed in databases, plus fresh readings that are being taken by DigitalGlobe’s constellation of GeoEye and WorldView satellites.

An analysis of the data, facilitated with NASA’s Ames Stereo Pipeline software, produces a 3-D elevation model of mountainous terrain. The method supplements other techniques to estimate glacier size, including area measurements based on aerial imagery and depth measurements made using stakes in the snow.

The result is a year-by-year record tracing the ups and downs of a glacier.

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NASA spacewalkers install new HD camera

NASA astronauts finished up this month’s trio of spacewalks with a nearly seven-hour-long outing today — highlighted by the installation of a new HD camera on the International Space Station’s exterior, plus the replacement of a faulty camera-light assembly on the end of the station’s robotic arm.

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