Keeping up with the Times: Current Events

Headlines in our World Today

This page is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date with technological advances in our world today. Technology constantly affects us, and it is helpful for us to know how it may continue to affect us in new ways in the future. These articles are applicable to several different aspects to life, from making music to spending money. Enjoy the articles as you learn how technology continues to play an active role in our lives!

Digital Money Increasing in Popularity

April 17, 2012

MintChip Challenge Logo

The digital economy accounts for a great deal of transactions in our world today; many times, the question at a register these days is "Credit or Debit?" rather than "Cash or Card?" This shift is definitely for convenience's sake, because it is much easier to carry around a plastic card than a pocketful of dollars and coins. |

Becoming increasingly aware of this trend, Canada has decided to stop making the penny--it costs more to make a penny than a penny is actually worth--because it does not serve an important role in purchases anymore. However, the country is now attempting to take its currency changes a step farther than that. In Canada, there is currently a program, created by the Royal Canadian Mint, which is called the MintChip Challenge. Its goal is to enable people to use digital money on a small scale, such as using it for cheap purchases, both safely and easily. Shoppers would simply have to load their money on a smartphone, USB stick, computer, tablet, or another electronic device, and then they could pay using that device instead of actual currency. The challenge the Royal Canadian Mint is proposing dares people to create the best app that can put this process into action, and there is so much interest that the competition is already full.

I think the whole notion of digital currency is very interesting. Although it may seem a bit discomforting because people do not get to hold their "hard earned cash" in their hands, it seems as though this shift is inevitable. Ever since credit cards have been in circulation, the shift has become more and more evident. In the future, money will probably continue to be digitized. Instead of money being a physical entity, it will be data in computers and thoughts in our minds. It is very strange, but hopefully it will become easier to embrace in time.

Primary Source: McEntegart, Jane. "Canada Launches MintChip, a Project to Digitize Currency." Tom's Guide, April 15, 2012.,news-14778.html (Retrieved April 17, 2012).

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Smart Sand: The Way of the Future?

April 10, 2012

Smart Sand Cubes

A team of people at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory are currently working on a project that seems more magical than just regular research. They are attempting to create a substance called "smart sand" that can duplicate objects a person drops into it! Although it sounds impossible, this group of people have written a paper and worked out algorithms that show that this can be done. An example of this process in 2-D form can be found here:

Being able to drop an object into the smart sand, wait for it to react, and then pull out a duplicate is an enchanting idea. There are many possibilities that this new technology would offer. For example, if a little child broke his favorite toy, he would be devastated; but with smart sand, he could tape the toy back together, drop it in the sand, and get a new one! Another nifty quality of this technology is that it can either reproduce the object in its original size or in a large size. Someone could insert a miniature toy teacup and pull out a regular-sized one.

I think this technology is entirely interesting. If it becomes popular, it will be able to revolutionize the way people fix household problems. They will no longer need people to fix tools and toys; all they will need is smart sand and the original, broken object! It will be interesting to see if it sets new standards for living in the future.

Primary Source: Hardesty, Larry. "Self-Sculpting Sand: Heaps of 'Smart Sand' Could Assume Any Shape, Form New Tools or Duplicatie Broken Parts." ScienceDaily, April 2, 2012. (Retrieved April 7, 2012).

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Editing Images Continues to Get Simpler

March 27, 2012

Picture of Award Winner, Kevin Karsch

Editing images may seem like a daunting task, especially to people who do not have professional training in the area. Taking one image and combining it with another can look sloppy and obvious, which makes people wary of trying to figure out how to edit images in the first place. However, a man named Kevin Karsch (pictured right), who attends the University of Illinois as a twenty-four year old doctoral student studying computer science, has created a way to help alleviate those difficulties. He has made a method that makes it simple for even beginners to alter images in a way that looks professional, and he has won a $30,000 prize for doing so. Now cutting and pasting images into pictures and videos may seem like a breath of fresh air compared to older methods. The process only takes about half a minute, and all the editor has to do is specify the room's parameters and its light sources.

This type of a technological advancement is great; so great that Karsch wants to form a company in order to develop the technology further. Furthermore, it seems inevitable that such advances will continue to be made. But should society fear them?

Advances such as this one will only encourage image editing to increase. That's great--when it's used in the right ways and for the right reasons, of course. Helping to enhance a personal movie or a family photo is an excellent use for image editing techniques. However, it may become detrimental when it becomes increasingly easier for people to continue to edit pictures of models for magazines, thereby skewing the nation's concept of beauty. Also, such advances may endanger professional editors' jobs.

Overall, though, this new way of editing images is an exciting advancement. It is a step toward easier image editing, and when used for the right purposes, it will be fun to explore.

Primary Source: Don Dodson. "Prize winner's development may revolutionize image editing." The News-Gazette, March 9, 2012. (Retrieved March 21, 2012).

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The Internet: A Blessing or a Curse to the Music Industry?

February 28, 2012
Graph of Decreasing Music Sales

There is no question about it: The music industry looks and functions drastically different than it did twenty years ago. Record deals are not held in the same kind of high esteem as they were in past years, and musicians who thrived on what is now pegged as the "traditional"system mourn this shift. Getting a record deal today does not usually lead to a great deal of money like it did previously; people can easily pirate music from the internet instead of buying either a physical copy of the music on a CD or an electronic copy from a music provider such as iTunes. Some people see the accessibility of free music on the internet as a terrible injury to the music industry as a whole. When people can get music for free, why would they want to spend money on it? As the graph indicates, total album sales have decreased dramatically from 2006 to 2010.

YouTube Logo
SoundCloud Logo

With people spending less money on music, it makes it difficult for artists to survive on money from their music sales. These days, artists produce more merchandise and play more shows to support themselves instead of relying on music sales alone. Also, many more people are able to contribute their talents to the world's music; previously, it was difficult for people to record music anywhere except recording studios, but now it is relatively simple for an everyday person to buy a microphone and record on his or her own. Using sites such as YouTube and SoundCloud, musicians can share their music with others and gain a fan base, which was impossible before the internet became popular.

Overall, the changes in the music industry have done just that: Changed it. Making a fortune from one's music is not likely today, but it was not likely in the past, either. Being a musician is still about enjoying and thriving on music and sharing that passion with others. I believe that will always be its goal, no matter how much it continues to change in the future.

Primary Source: Brad at CD Baby. "Has the Internet Really 'Destroyed the Music Business'?" The DIY Musician, August 25, 2010. (Retrieved February 24, 2012).

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Using Email to Keep Fans Engaged

February 12, 2012

E-mail Picture

Many musicians play shows in various locations on a regular basis, but simply playing music frequently does not guarantee that the band will have a good-sized following. If budding fans are not aware of upcoming shows, chances are they are not going to get the opportunity to see the band again, and they may even forget about enjoying the band in the first place. With technology at their fingertips today, though, musicians can keep in touch with their fans by asking them to write their emails on a list if they are interested in getting information about upcoming shows.

Not surprisingly, entrepreneurs have found a way to make this method of helping bands keep in touch with their fans a money-making business. There are various services, including one called AWeber, that help musicians organize the email addresses their fans give them and then keep those fans well-informed. By paying for such a service, musicians can give their fans up-to-date information with minimal effort and maximal uniformity. It is a win-win situation; the musicians can hold onto their fans in an easy, accessible manner, and the people providing the services get paid for their help. Now musicians should not need to worry about losing the fans they gain from show to show; new email services can help them hold on to their fans and help their popularity grow.

Primary Source: Ryan Neyens. "Email Marketing Ideas for Musicians and Bands." The Gigging Musician, February 24, 2011. (Retrieved February 12, 2012).

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Last updated on April 26, 2012
by Ruth Marie.