Pi to 10 Trillion Digits; Peering Through Concrete Walls

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Today in Research: counting 10 trillion digits of Pi, encouraging progress for a malaria vaccine, another TV watching warning, and MIT researchers who are peering through concrete walls.

  • Pi = 3.14159265 and then add ten trillion or so digits to that number. For some reason, math whiz types have an affinity for seeing how many digits of Pi they can memorize or jot down. Taking this interest to the next level was a Japanese systems engineer, Shigeru Kondo, who last year set the world record for using computer to calculate Pi up to 5 trillion digits, the AFP reported. A search on the Guinness World Records site confirms this. This year, he apparently calculated the number to 10 trillion. Sheer staggering numbers aside, it looks like the computing power of his homemade contraption heated a room in his home considerably: "The temperature in the room where the computer was constantly in operation climbed as high as 104F," The Telegraph wrote. [AFP, The Telegraph]
  • TV as a babysitter for toddlers, and just TV watching at all, is discouraged.  "Clearly, no one is listening to this message," said Dr. Ari Brown, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics who was quoted by The New York Times explaining the new guidelines set out by the Academy. In short: Children under two shouldn't be watching TV, as it's not very good for their development. The Times, however, notes what appears like a loophole: "The latest guidelines do not refer to interactive play like video games on smartphones or other devices, but to programs watched passively on phones, computers, televisions or any other kind of screen." [The New York Times]
  • An experimental vaccine to help stave off malaria is showing progress. The vaccine, called RTS,S or Mosquirix, is touted for reducing the risk of African children getting malaria. And the clinical trial of "more than 15,000 newborns and babies in seven African countries found the vaccine cut the risk of being infected with the malaria parasite by about half and the chances of getting deathly ill from an infection by more than a third," The Washington Post reported. The study was funded by, among others, "$200 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and $300 million from [global pharmaceutical company] GlaxoSmithKline," USA Today disclosed. Andrew Witty, executive at the pharma company, told Reuters that the drug will be affordable: "We are not going to make any money from this project." [Reuters, The Washington Post, USA Today]
  • MIT researchers can see (blobs) through walls. The ability to see through walls isn't quite there yet, if this video presented by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers testing new radar technology is any measure. In a press release, the MIT research team explained their device this way: It's an "unassuming array of antenna arranged into two rows — eight receiving elements on top, 13 transmitting ones below — and some computing equipment, all mounted onto a movable cart." It appears to have picked up the movement from behind solid concrete walls. But the video below showing their seeing-through-wall technology doesn't display anything resembling a person, just what are aptly deemed "blobs." [MIT - Press Release]

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