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Category: Google | Sep 24, 2013
Do you have an idea to change the world? That’s what we asked the 2013 Google Science Fair participants back in January, and students ages 13-18 from around the world met our challenge. Today, the finalists—representing eight different countries—gathered at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. and presented their projects to a panel of esteemed judges. Attendees of the Fair and judges alike were wowed by the finalists’ passion for science and their drive to change the world.
The top 15 projects were selected from thousands of entries submitted by talented young scientists from more than 120 countries around the world. These projects were impressive and represented a vast range of scientific ingenuity—from a multi-step system created for early diagnosis of melanoma cancers to the invention of a metallic exoskeleton glove that assists, supports and enhances the movement of the human palm to help people who suffer from upper hand disabilities.
It was a tough decision, but we’re proud to name the three winners of this year’s Google Science Fair:
- 13-14 age category: Viney Kumar (Australia) — The PART (Police and Ambulances Regulating Traffic) Program. Viney’s project looked for new ways to to provide drivers with more notice when an emergency vehicle is approaching, so they can can take evasive action to get out of the emergency vehicle’s way.
- 15-16 age category: Ann Makosinski (Canada) — The Hollow Flashlight. Using Peltier tiles and the temperature difference between the palm of the hand and ambient air, Ann designed a flashlight that provides bright light without batteries or moving parts.
- 17-18 age category AND Grand Prize Winner: Eric Chen (USA) — Computer-aided Discovery of Novel Influenza Endonuclease Inhibitors to Combat Flu Pandemic. Combining computer modeling and biological studies, Eric’s project looks at influenza endonuclease inhibitors as leads for a new type of anti-flu medicine, effective against all influenza viruses including pandemic strains.
Viney, Ann, Elif and Eric
Each of the winners will receive prizes from Google and our Science Fair partners: CERN, LEGO, National Geographic and “Scientific American.” This evening, we also recognized Elif Bilgin, from Istanbul, Turkey, the winner of the “Scientific American” Science in Action Award and the winner of the Voter’s Choice award with her project creating plastic from banana peel.
Thanks to all our 2013 finalists for their amazing projects and love for science. For updates on next year’s competition, see the Google Science Fair website.
Science and technology are crucial to solving many of the world’s greatest challenges. We started the Google Science Fair to support and foster the next generation of scientists and engineers. We look forward to seeing you change the world!
Posted by Clare Conway, Google Science Fair team
Category: Google | Sep 23, 2013
Constitutions are as unique as the people they govern, and have been around in one form or another for millennia. But did you know that every year approximately five new constitutions are written, and 20-30 are amended or revised? Or that Africa has the youngest set of constitutions, with 19 out of the 39 constitutions written globally since 2000 from the region?
The process of redesigning and drafting a new constitution can play a critical role in uniting a country, especially following periods of conflict and instability. In the past, it’s been difficult to access and compare existing constitutional documents and language—which is critical to drafters—because the texts are locked up in libraries or on the hard drives of constitutional experts. Although the process of drafting constitutions has evolved from chisels and stone tablets to pens and modern computers, there has been little innovation in how their content is sourced and referenced.
With this in mind, Google Ideas supported the Comparative Constitutions Project to build Constitute, a new site that digitizes and makes searchable the world’s constitutions. Constitute enables people to browse and search constitutions via curated and tagged topics, as well as by country and year. The Comparative Constitutions Project cataloged and tagged nearly 350 themes, so people can easily find and compare specific constitutional material. This ranges from the fairly general, such as “Citizenship” and “Foreign Policy,” to the very specific, such as “Suffrage and turnouts” and “Judicial Autonomy and Power.”
Our aim is to arm drafters with a better tool for constitution design and writing. We also hope citizens will use Constitute to learn more about their own constitutions, and those of countries around the world.
Posted by Sara “Scout” Sinclair Brody, Google Ideas Product Manager
Category: Google | Sep 17, 2013
As part of our quest to power our operations with 100% renewable energy, we’ve agreed to purchase the entire output of the 240 MW Happy Hereford wind farm outside of Amarillo, Texas. This agreement represents our fifth long-term agreement and our largest commitment yet; we’ve now contracted for more than 570 MW of wind energy, which is enough energy to power approximately 170,000 U.S. households.
The Happy Hereford wind farm, which is expected to start producing energy in late 2014, is being developed by Chermac Energy, a small, Native American-owned company based in Oklahoma. The wind farm will provide energy to the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the regional grid that serves our Mayes County, Okla. data center.
Some (happy) cows on the future site of the wind farm.
The cows will still have plenty of room to graze between the turbines.
The structure of this agreement is similar to our earlier commitments in Iowa and Oklahoma. Due to the current structure of the market, we can’t consume the renewable energy produced by the wind farm directly, but the impact on our overall carbon footprint and the amount of renewable energy on the grid is the same as if we could consume it. After purchasing the renewable energy, we’ll retire the renewable energy credits (RECs) and sell the energy itself to the wholesale market. We’ll apply any additional RECs produced under this agreement to reduce our carbon footprint elsewhere.
This type of power purchase agreement represents one of several ways we’re working to make additional renewable energy available for both our data centers and the communities in which we operate. In Scandinavia, due to the region’s unified power market and grid system, we’re able to purchase wind energy in Sweden and directly consume it at our Hamina, Finland data center. We’re also working with our local utility partners to develop new options. In 2012, we signed an agreement with GRDA, our utility partner in Oklahoma, to green the energy supply to our Oklahoma data center with 48 MW of wind energy from the Canadian Hills Wind Project. Earlier this year, we began working with Duke Energy to develop a new renewable energy tariff (PDF) in North Carolina.
We take a comprehensive approach to acquiring renewable energy for our operations. We’ll continue working directly with utility providers, collaborating with industry regulators and pursuing creative agreements (PDF) like the Happy Hereford PPA.
Posted by Matt Pfile, Senior Manager, Data Center Energy and Location Strategy
Category: Google | Sep 16, 2013
From time to time we invite guests to post about subjects of interest and today we’re pleased to share a post from Guy Willoughby, Executive Director of the HALO Trust, a U.K.-based nonprofit dedicated to landmine clearance in post-conflict areas. Hear how HALO is using Google Maps for Business to fight the war against mines, clearing more than 1.4 million landmines worldwide. -Ed.
When conflicts end, making communities safe and livable often means removing dangerous remnants of war. “Getting mines out of the ground, for good,” as we say at the HALO Trust, has been our mission over the last 25 years. We work in more than a dozen countries and regions across the globe, clearing landmines and other explosives, many of which have been buried underground. While we’ve been in operation for almost three decades, there is still more to be done.
In Kosovo, where people are reclaiming their homeland after the conflict in 1999, we’re working in close cooperation with the government and local population to collect and share information about where mines are located. It’s a true community effort—farmers tell us where they’ve seen signs of mines and where accidents have occurred. It’s our job at the HALO Trust to take this data and make it usable, accessible, and visually compelling, so clearance becomes more efficient and happens faster.
One of our biggest challenges is keeping our field teams safe. We need easy-to-use tools that can help us find, map and clear hazardous areas without putting our operations at risk. Over the years, we’ve continuously improved our mine clearance techniques, including the deployment of Google Earth Pro.
Google Earth Pro makes it easier for the HALO team to do the dangerous and detailed work of finding and mapping at-risk areas. Because it’s based on the same technology as Google Maps and Earth, it’s easy for our teams to use and create maps without IT or GIS expertise. It’s a tool that is familiar to our employees and something they use in their daily lives, so we can start mapping right away.
The information we gather, including GPS references to landmines in the field, is imported into Earth Pro so that we can plot mine locations. We also use the incredibly detailed satellite imagery in Google Earth to identify and map hazardous areas. These high-resolution maps serve many people: from families who live near mines, to crews who clear them, and donors and other organizations that support us. When donors view the vivid interactive maps of our project areas—with mines so close to schools, farms and houses—they understand why the HALO Trust’s work is so critical.
Accurate maps from Google Earth Pro mean safer working conditions for our local teams, and faster progress toward our goals. In Kosovo alone, we’ve removed thousands of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosives. And with the help of Google’s mapping tools and our donors, we’ll be able to declare the country mine-free.
Posted by Guy Willoughby, Executive Director, the HALO Trust
Category: Google | Sep 12, 2013
This week marks the 178th anniversary of Darwin’s discovery of the Galapagos Islands. This volcanic archipelago is one of the most biodiverse and unique places on the planet, with species that have remarkably adapted to their environment. Through observing the animals, Darwin made key insights that informed his theory of evolution. Here’s a short documentary that captures the 10-day expedition:
Today, in partnership with the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Foundation, we’re launching the 360-degree images from the Galapagos Islands that we collected in May with the Street View Trekker. Now, you can visit the islands from anywhere you may be, and see many of the animals that Darwin experienced on his historic and groundbreaking journey in 1835.
Darwin may have first sighted San Cristobal Island from the water, perhaps near where we sailed with the Trekker strapped to a boat in order to observe the craggy shoreline and the Magnificent Frigatebirds that the rocky landscape shelters. After landing on San Cristobal, we made our way to Galapaguera Cerro Colorado, a breeding center that helps to restore the population of the island tortoises, seriously threatened by invasive species. Wearing the Trekker, we walked by giant tortoises munching on leafy stalks and recently hatched baby tortoises.
The Galapaguera plays a critical role in conservation of the giant tortoises
Darwin visited Floreana Island, but he didn’t have the scuba gear needed to properly explore the marine life just off the island’s coast. Thanks to our partner, Catlin Seaview Survey and their SVII underwater camera, we were able to collect underwater imagery of some especially energetic and inquisitive sea lions that came out to see whether the divers wanted to play!
The playful Galapagos Sea Lion is one of the endemic species of the islands
On our hike through the wetlands of Isabela Island, we spotted some marine iguanas, including this one sunning itself after a morning swim. On North Seymour Island, we got up close and personal to blue-footed boobies performing their mating dance and the Magnificent Frigatebirds with their red throat sacs.
The blue-footed boobies on North Seymour island
The extensive Street View imagery of the Galapagos Islands won’t just enable armchair travelers to experiences the islands from anywhere in the world—it will also play an instrumental role in the ongoing research of the environment, conservation, animal migration patterns and the impact of tourism on the islands. See our Lat Long blog post for an example of how the imagery will be used for scientific research.
Visit our behind-the-scenes experience and tune in to an exclusive Google+ Hangout with the Google Maps team and our partners at 9:00 a.m. PT today to learn more about this special collection of imagery.
Posted by Raleigh Seamster, Project Lead, Google Earth Outreach
Category: Google | Sep 10, 2013
It was clear from the first chords of their 1977 debut album that the Clash were more than just a punk band. Their politically charged lyrics combined with their hunger for new rhythms gave them an unparalleled ability to create music that made you think as well as dance. They embraced all genres while still sounding like themselves and redefined what a rock group could accomplish musically, politically and culturally.
From the reggae-inspired social commentary of tracks like “White Man in Hammersmith Palais,” to hip-hop infused cuts like “Magnificent Seven” and even Top 40 hits such as “Rock the Casbah,” their songs gave a generation a lifelong connection not just to the Clash, but to music in general.
From time to time, Google Play teams up with iconic rockers to help tell their stories. When we heard that the Clash were planning to re-release some of their greatest music, we wanted to celebrate their legacy and create something cool for their fans around the world. They handed over hours of unseen footage of the late Joe Strummer discussing the arc of the band’s career. And the Google Play team interviewed the rest of the members to get their perspective on what they accomplished and how they did it. The result is “Audio Ammunition,” a free, five-part documentary about the Clash that walks through the writing, recording and reception of each of their classic studio albums.
Watch part one of the documentary on Google Play, and you can check out the other four parts on our YouTube channel at youtube.com/googleplay. You can also buy all five of their newly released, digitally remastered albums on Google Play. And because the Clash’s legacy continues to inspire musicians today, we’ve produced some exclusive cover versions by contemporary artists we admire. These four tracks are available as free downloads for a limited time on Google Play.
The Clash explored a world of ever-expanding rhythms and possibilities and the urgency and power of their music still resonates today. As bassist Paul Simonon says. “We weren’t concerned with playing just on our doorstep. It was to play on any doorstep, throughout the world.”
Posted by Tim Quirk, head of content programming for Google Play
Category: Google | Sep 9, 2013
Since Chrome launched in 2008, we’ve been experimenting with new ways to tell stories on the web using 3D graphics, immersive sound effects and more. In the last few years, the mobile web has also exploded, so we wanted to explore what kind of new interactions were possible using the latest technologies available on Chrome for Mobile.
“Just A Reflektor” is an interactive film directed by Vincent Morisset and featuring a new song from Arcade Fire. The film lets you cast a virtual projection on your computer screen by holding up your mobile device in front of your computer’s webcam. That way, you control all of the visual effects in the experience—not by moving a mouse on a screen, but by moving your phone or tablet through the physical space around you.
|The film’s heroine, Axelle, is revealed through a spotlight that moves in time with your mobile device.
|In a later scene, a liquid effect is combined with a time delay, creating a video collage.
|About four minutes into the film, the “reflektor” is turned toward Axelle herself.
To explore the effects used in the film, see the technology page, where you can adjust a number of visual settings and create your own effects using a robust editor. You can also watch a behind-the-scenes video to learn about how the film was made. The code for the film and tech page is open source, so creative coders can download it and try it for themselves.
|The technology page lets you create, edit and share your own visual effects using footage from the film.
We hope this project inspires more filmmakers and visual artists to experiment with the latest features in Chrome. And for everyone else, we hope “Just A Reflektor” offers a new, exciting way to interact with the web.
Posted by Aaron Koblin, Google Creative Lab
(Cross-posted from the Chrome Blog)
Category: Google | Sep 9, 2013
Is Europe really emerging from the financial crisis? What’s going to happen to Europe’s 5 million unemployed young people? Does the rise of euro-sceptic politics spell the end of the EU as we know it? Will Europe act on Syria?
Now’s your chance to put these questions and others to the man in charge of the European Commission, President José Manuel Barroso, in a special, live State of the European Union Hangout interview, hosted by the euronews Global Conversation team, but driven by you.
The Hangout on Air takes place on Thursday, September 12 at 20:50 CET / 11:50 PDT, one day after President Barroso’s 2013 State of the European Union address.
euronews is soliciting questions, comments and ideas for the interview until 12:00 CET / 03:00 PDT on Wednesday, September 11. No topic is too big or too small—all you need to do is submit your question (text or video) on Google+, Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #askbarroso. The authors of the best questions—as chosen by euronews editors—will be invited to interview the President in person, live, in the Google+ Hangout.
To tune in, visit the European Commission’s Google+ page Thursday, September 12 at 20:50 CET / 11:50 PDT. And of course, you can keep commenting up to and after the interview using the hashtags #askbarroso and #SOTEU.
Posted by Al Verney, Communications Manager, Google Brussels
Category: Google | Sep 9, 2013
This summer we’re posting regularly with privacy and security tips. Knowing how to stay safe and secure online is important, which is why we created our Good to Know site with advice and tips for safe and savvy Internet use. -Ed.
Strong passwords help protect your accounts and information on the web. But forgetting your password is like losing your keys—you can end up locked out of your own home. It gets worse if your password gets compromised or stolen. Sometimes the thief will change your password so you can’t get back into your own account—kind of like someone stealing your keys and then changing the lock.
If you’ve lost your Google password, you need a way to get back into your Google Account—and back to all of your stuff in Gmail, Maps, Google+ and YouTube. To help you, Google needs to be able to tell that you’re the rightful account owner even if you don’t have the right password. There are a few easy steps you can take right now to make it easy for you—and no one else—to get into your Google Account if you forget or don’t know the password.
1. Add a recovery email address. By registering an alternate email address with your Google Account settings, you’re giving Google another way to reach you. If you forget your password, Google can send a link to that recovery email address so you can reset your password. Google can also use that email address to let you know if we detect something suspicious happening with your account.
Setting up your recovery options can help you get back in
if you get locked out of your Google Account
2. Add a phone number to your Google Account. Your mobile phone is the best way to regain access to your account if you forget your password. It’s like the “fast lane” for account recovery: we text a code to the phone number you’ve registered with us, and you’re back in business in no time. Your phone is more secure and reliable than other means of recovering your account. Methods like “secret” questions (asking your mother’s maiden name or city where you were born) may have answers that are easy to remember, but they are also possible for bad guys to uncover. And we’ve consistently seen that people who register a recovery phone are faster and more successful at getting their accounts back than those recovering their accounts via email.
You can also get a text message if Google detects that something suspicious is going on with your account. Giving a recovery phone number to Google won’t result in you being signed up for marketing lists or getting more calls from telemarketers.
3. Keep your recovery options up to date. It’s a good idea to check your recovery options every so often. For example, if you change your phone number after setting up your recovery options, take just a minute to update your recovery settings to match. We’ll remind you of your current settings every so often to make it easier for you to keep them up to date.
That’s it! You can either update your recovery options next time you’re prompted, or you can take two minutes to do it right now on our Account recovery options page. For more advice on how to protect yourself and your family online, visit our Good to Know site, or check out some of the other posts in our series on staying safe and secure.
Posted by Diana Smetters, Software Engineer
Category: Google | Sep 9, 2013
Today we filed an amended petition (PDF) in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This petition mirrors the requests made to Congress and the President by our industry and civil liberties groups in a letter (PDF) earlier this year. Namely, that Google be allowed to publish detailed statistics about the types (if any) of national security requests we receive under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including Section 702. Given the important public policy issues at stake, we have also asked the court to hold its hearing in open rather than behind closed doors. It’s time for more transparency.
In addition, along with a number of other companies and trade associations, we are meeting the President’s Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies today. We’ll reiterate the same message there: that the levels of secrecy that have built up around national security requests undermine the basic freedoms that are at the heart of a democratic society.
Posted by Richard Salgado, Director, Law Enforcement & Information Security and Pablo Chavez, Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs
(Cross-posted on the Public Policy Blog)