Indonesian volcano shakes, spews lava
HARGOPANCURAN, Indonesia, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Ongoing activity by Indonesia's Mount Anak Krakatau has residents of nearby coastal areas concerned as the volcano spewed more lava, officials said.
On Monday, the volcano in the Sunda Strait spewed hot lava and other volcanic material 2,000 feet above its peak, the Antara news agency reported.
"Tremors have not stopped rocking this area since yesterday," Hamdani, the head of the volcano monitoring post in the village of Hargopancuran, South Lampung, said.
Black clouds were obscuring the peak of the volcano, Hamdani said.
Officials warned fishermen to stay away from the volcano although they said the ongoing tremors would not cause a tsunami.
"But it is difficult to predict Anak Krakatau," Hamdani said.
Krakatau's explosion in the 18th century, so loud it was heard 1,000 miles away, caused one of history's most devastating tsunamis.
Computer scans lips to identify emotions
SELANGOR, Malaysia, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Teaching a computer to interpret human emotions based on lip movements could improve the way people interact with computers, researchers in Malaysia say.
Such technology could allow disabled people to use computer-based communications devices such as voice synthesizers more effectively and more efficiently, computer scientists at Manipal International University in Selangor reported in the International Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Soft Computing.
A computer algorithm uses equations involving ellipse shapes to match the shape of the human mouth displaying different emotions, they said.
"In recent years, there has been a growing interest in improving all aspects of interaction between humans and computers, especially in the area of human emotion recognition by observing facial expression," the researchers said.
Photos of individuals from Southeast Asia and Japan were used to train a computer to use lip patterns to recognize the six commonly accepted human emotions -- happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, surprise -- and a neutral expression.
The algorithm has been successfully in classifying the six emotions and the neutral expression, the research team said.
Amazon backtracks on Fire tablet ads
SEATTLE, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- After online criticism of Amazon's decision to feature ads on all its new Kindle Fire tablets, the company now says customers can pay to eliminate them.
When Amazon announced its larger Kindle Fire tablets Thursday, priced from $159 to $599, it said they would feature "special offer" full-screen ads on the devices' lock screens and smaller ads in the corner of the home screen.
This was to keep the prices down, the company said.
But after online criticism of Amazon's apparent decision not to give purchasers to option of paying extra to block the ads if they desire, as it had done with earlier tablets, the company reversed itself, The New York Times reported.
"With Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, there will be a special offers opt-out option for $15," Amazon representative Kinley Pearsall said in an e-mail response to questions about the policy.
"We know from our Kindle reader line that customers love our special offers and very few people choose to opt out.
However, he said, "we're happy to offer customers the choice."
Fungi create Stradivarius 'sound-alike'
BERLIN, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- A Swiss scientist says treating wood for a violin with special fungi can create a modern instrument that sounds indistinguishable from a true Stradivarius.
Qualities essential for ideal violin tone wood include low density, high speed of sound and a high modulus of elasticity, Swiss researcher Francis W.M.R. Schwarze says, and in the late 17th and early 18th century the famous violin maker Antonio Stradivari found those qualities in wood that had grown in an unusually cold period between 1645 and 1715.
Long winters and cool summers made the wood grow very slowly and evenly, creating low density and a high modulus of elasticity, Schwarze said.
Modern violin makers have no source for such a wood, but Schwarze say his fungus treatment can create it.
Two species of fungi can decay Norway spruce and sycamore -- the two important kinds of wood used for violin making -- in a way that improves their tonal quality.
"Normally fungi reduce the density of the wood, but at the same time they unfortunately reduce the speed with which the sound waves travel through the wood," Schwarze said.
"The unique feature of these fungi is that they gradually degrade the cell walls, thus inducing a thinning of the walls. But even in the late stages of the wood decomposition, a stiff scaffold structure remains via which the sound waves can still travel directly."
Before the wood is used for a violin, it is treated with ethylene oxide gas to ensure fungal growth is completely stopped.
"No fungus can survive that," Professor Schwarze said.
In a blind test against a Stradivarius, a jury of experts listening to two violins played behind a curtain reportedly thought the violin made from wood Schwarze had treated with fungi for nine months was the actual Stradivarius.
The research was reported in a release from the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.
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