December 2019 News Wire

Interesting stories about computer science, software programming, and technology for December 2019.

Track the Movement of the Milky Way with a DIY Radio Telescope

It’s possible to detect the radio wave signature of hydrogen in the universe using nothing more than aluminum gutter flashing, an empty paint thinner can, a software-defined radio, and a few other pieces that cost around $150. Radio waves from hydrogen passes through a thin length of metal connected to the radio. Bursts of waves signal the motion of the spiral arms of the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s a neat project that mixes math, coding, engineering, astronomy, and a few other fun skills. There’s also a community, the Open Source Radio Telescope group, to help brainstorm ideas and solve problems.

The Secret History of Computer Easter Eggs

Easter eggs are fun surprises hidden inside software that users must find to experience. Lots of technology companies leave at least one easter egg in their software. And Tesla cars apparently have an easter egg that involves windows, mirrors, headlights, and doors while playing a holiday carol loudly. The first easter egg appeared in 1976 in an Atari video game called Adventure. The game designer created a surprise, a flashing credits screen with bright colors with his name. To see the credits screen, however, required a complex set of steps with a bridge and a maze and a few other things. Easter eggs have evolved into an art form and fun experiences.

Take a Virtual Dive on a 200 Year Old Dutch Shipwreck

Iceland’s oldest shipwreck happened in 1659, 360 years ago, a Dutch merchant ship called Melckmeyt or in English, Milkmaid. Denmark ruled Iceland at the time and the Dutch ship tried to break the Danish trading monopoly with Iceland. The fully loaded ship sank in a storm. An international team of researchers investigated the wreckage and made a 3-dimensional video. You can visit the wreck without getting wet or freezing in the cold North Atlantic waters.

Why Your Kitten is Smarter than any Artificial Intelligence

You might think a computer is much smarter than a kitten or a cat but you’d be wrong. Kittens figure out how to walk, listen, run, jump, and probably dozens of other skills. Recreating these skills with computers and robots turns out to be very complicated. Robots that can walk on two feet took decades to figure out and build. Meanwhile, babies learn to walk in a year or so.


  • Tim Slavin

    Tim is an award-winning writer and technologist who enjoys teaching tech to non-technical people. He has many years experience with web sites and applications in business, technical, and creative roles. He and his wife have two kids, now teenagers, who are mad about video games.

Also In The December 2019 Issue

30+ ideas for STEAM-theme gifts for kids of all ages!

Visual storytelling apps are a great way for kids to document and explore their lives.

Meet 16-year old Astronaut StarBright, whose activism is inspiring the next generation of STEM fans.

Dive into the first “console wars” and learn how more bits led to bigger and better games.

From the start of computing history, people have tried to optimize the software programming process. This includes having two coders work together to code software.

Explore the solar system and test your knowledge of space through this fun coding activity.

Learn how procedural generation can be used to create infinite maps, music, and worlds to explore.

The Wayback Machine lets you travel back in time to see old websites. Plus the Internet Archive has thousands of vintage games, software, books, and more.

Online research skills are critical for software programmers. It's how you learn any language, by searching for error messages and looking up reference material.

How rural America connected itself to the phone grid using barbed wire, glass bottles, and even corncobs!

Meet Cozmo, the clever new robot that’s bringing AI concepts to life for kids as young as 5-7 years old.

Throw some festive ornaments on a virtual Christmas Tree in this fun introduction to functional programming.

How the Internet of Things could improve education, from VR to accessibility to facial recognition.

No one wants to deal with viruses over the holidays. Here’s how to protect your new devices!

Some digital tools to help you create your own unique, ever-changing symphony with nothing but some code and a computer!

Take a peek into the importance — and the struggle — of getting truly random data.

Interesting stories about computer science, software programming, and technology for December 2019.

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