Scientists urge governments to turn old TV frequencies into free “super WiFi”

Governments should sack plans to auction off old television frequencies to the highest bidder and instead use the bandwidth for free super-frequency WiFi if they want to boost the economy, scientists have said.

Old television frequencies are becoming available for other uses around the world, thanks to a switch from analogue to digital transmission.

However, while governments are for the most part auctioning these off to whoever is prepared to pay the most – usually mobile phone networks – they should instead be using the frequencies to create free-to-use, wide-range WiFi, scientists from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany have said.

This new “super WiFi” would have a far wider range than existing WiFi networks, which are mostly transmitted over wireless local area networks (WLAN) at frequencies of 2GHz or above.


WiFi transmitted over old TV frequencies could be transmitted at lower frequencies than traditional WiFi, resulting in a far wider area covered. This super WiFi’s coverage area could even be as big as several kilometres in radius, a massive improvement on existing networks.

This would mean that pricey mobile services such as 4G were no longer required, which the scientists believe would lead to more mobile internet use, and a wealth of economic benefits.

“Implementation of our approach would have far-reaching consequences,” said Arnd Weber of the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at KIT.

“Individuals, institutions and companies would be far less dependent on expensive mobile communications networks in conducting their digital communication. This would also be of great economic benefit.”

In addition to providing direct, measurable cost savings, the technology could, according to the researchers, result in the development of a host of new technologies just as existing WiFi has.

It could also provide direct benefits during disaster scenarios, as a means of providing updates and enabling communication.


However, the big challenge here is convincing governments that this is the right move.

Many have argued they these frequencies are common property and therefore should be made available to the public free of charge, a view that has been opposition from a number of people, including the late Nobel Prize winning economist Ronald Coase.

Coase argued that the frequencies should be auctioned off to ensure they are most effectively used, and the money used by governments to fund other services.

Others have also argued that congestion would make these lower frequency networks unworkable, however Weber and his colleague Jens Elsner argue that it is possible to avoid such congestion with the right technological approach.

Ultimately, convincing governments will be a matter of showing that long-term economic benefits greatly outstrip the short-term financial gains of an auction.

While Weber and Elsner plan to make this case at the UN World Radiocommunication Conference next year, they will no doubt struggle to get many governments onboard.

In the long run, though, those of us living in areas where auctions have gone ahead could find ourselves quite jealous of the countries that choose the super WiFi option.

Featured image courtesy of gunes t, inline images courtesy of Mr. Theklan

US safeguards Mars mission

The US’ Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has passed a bipartisan bill that guarantees $19.5 billion to continue work on a Mars mission and efforts to send astronauts on private rockets to the International Space Station. The move aims to protect the nation’s space programme regardless of who wins the upcoming presidential election.

Source: USA Today

Tattoo therapy could ease chronic disease

According to scientists at Baylor College of Medicine, a temporary tattoo to help control chronic diseases might someday be possible. The group placed antioxidant nanoparticles just under the skin which gave the appearance of a tattoo. The technique kept the nonoparticles in the system longer, making them more available for uptake by T cells.

Source: Medical Xpress

Nokia researchers show off internet speeds of up to 1 Terabit per second

Nokia researchers have reached internet speeds of up to 1 Terabit per second, which is about 1,000 times faster than 1 Gigabit per second offered by Google Fiber. Nokia said that its 1Tbps internet speeds were achieved in "real-world conditions", but customers will have to wait a little while longer before the faster speeds are made available.

Source: Tech Times

Will Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan end disease by 2100?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, want to tackle all diseases by the end of the century, and have pledged $3bn (£2.3bn) to fund medical research over the next decade. Zuckerberg and Chan said their ultimate goal was to "cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of the century".

Source: BBC

Hackers take control of Tesla Model S from 12 miles away

A team of Chinese security researchers have taken remote control of a Tesla Model S from a distance of 12 miles away. The team were able to interfere with the car’s brakes, door locks, dashboard computer screen and other electronically controlled features by targeting the car’s controller area network.

Source: The Guardian

Microsoft vows to 'solve' cancer within 10 years

Microsoft has claimed it will be able to “solve the problem of cancer” within a decade by using ground-breaking computer science to crack the code of diseased cells so they can be reprogrammed back to a healthy state. The company thinks the technique will be technically possible in five to 10 years time.

Source: The Telegraph

One-upping Hubble: ALMA produces deepest, sharpest images of the early universe

The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA), a group of European Southern Observatory-operated radio telescopes in Chile, has revealed images of the early universe at a depth and sharpness far greater than previous efforts.

ALMA is able to observe submillimetre wavelengths that allow astronomers to study not only the distant universe but extremely cold objects, such as the dense clouds of cosmic dust and gas from which stars and planets form.

International teams of astronomers used the ALMA to explore the distant corner of the universe first revealed by the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). The Hubble images were published in 2004 and were, at the time, the deepest images of the Universe that had been taken, revealing galaxies stretching back to less than a billion years after the Big Bang.

Using ALMA to observe this area for the first time both deeply and sharply in the millimetre range of wavelengths has allowed astronomers to see the glow from gas clouds, as well as the emissions resulting from warm dust in early universe galaxies. By combining this data with the HUDF images, the astronomers have produced the most detailed snapshot of the early universe ever assembled.

A close up of a portion of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, with additional detail imaged by ALMA visualised in orange. Image courtesy of B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); NASA/ESA Hubble. Above: the wide view of HUDF, with ALMA's additions marked and circled in orange. Image courtesy of ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/NASA/ESA/J. Dunlop et al. and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team

A close up of a portion of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, with additional detail imaged by ALMA visualised in orange. Image courtesy of B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); NASA/ESA Hubble. Above: the wide view of HUDF, with ALMA’s additions marked and circled in orange. Image courtesy of ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/NASA/ESA/J. Dunlop et al. and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team

The HUDF region has now been observed by ALMA for a rough total of 50 hours, the largest amount of observation time the array has spent on any one area. Several teams were involved in use of the array, studying various aspects of the HUDF.

One of the teams, led by Jim Dunlop of the University of Edinburgh, put together the first deep, homogeneous ALMA image of a region as large as the HUDF, allowing them to match up the detected galaxies with objects already seen with Hubble and other facilities. Doing so provided clear proof for the first time that a galaxy’s stellar mass is the best predictor of star formation rate in the high redshift Universe.

Jim Dunlop, lead author on the deep imaging paper, summed up its importance. “This is a breakthrough result,” he said. “For the first time we are properly connecting the visible and ultraviolet light view of the distant Universe from Hubble and far-infrared/millimetre views of the Universe from ALMA.”

The second team, led by Manuel Aravena of the Núcleo de Astronomía, Universidad Diego Portales and Fabian Walter of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, conducted a deeper search across roughly one sixth of the total HUDF.

Among their observations, they tailored their search to detect carbon monoxide rich galaxies, a strong indicator for star formation in regions. Despite being at the root of star formation activity, these molecular gas reservoirs are tricky to detect with Hubble’s equipment. ALMA’s greater range of wavelengths allows it to observe this “missing half” of galaxy formation.

“The new ALMA results imply a rapidly rising gas content in galaxies as we look back further in time,” added lead author of two of the papers, Manuel Aravena, from the Núcleo de Astronomía, Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile.

“This increasing gas content is likely the root cause for the remarkable increase in star formation rates during the peak epoch of galaxy formation, some 10 billion years ago.”

New study concludes you can’t throw tech at your fitness problems and hope weight doesn’t stick

Fitness trackers have gone from gadgets targeted at serious athletes to appendages that monitor, manage and cajole even uninitiated sportspeople.

But a new study by the University of Pittsburgh Department of Health and Physical Activity has concluded that commercially available activity trackers are no substitute for traditional weight loss approaches, like talking about physical activity and diet with likeminded people and professionals.

“While usage of wearable devices is currently a popular method to track physical activity our findings show that adding them to behavioural counselling weight loss that includes physical activity and reduced calorie intake does not improve weight loss or physical activity engagement,” said the study’s lead researcher and chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Health and Physical Activity, John Jakicic.

“These devices should not be relied upon as tools for weight management in place of effective behavioural counselling for physical activity and diet.”


For the study, Dr Jakicic monitored 470 people aged between 18 and 35, each of whom were classified as overweight at the beginning of the trial.

For the first 6 months all participants were placed on low-calorie diets, prescribed increases in physical activity and received group-counseling sessions on health and nutrition.

After 6 months participants were divided into two subgroups: one that continued with health-counselling sessions on a monthly basis and another that received a wearable device to monitor diet and physical activity.

The tracking device used within the study was to be worn on the upper arm and provided feedback on energy expenditure and physical activity.


Over the course of the next 18 months, both groups showed significant improvements in body composition, fitness, physical activity and diet, but those who received health counselling throughout the study lost nearly twice as much weight as those who used wearable devices for three-quarters of it.

Participants who used wearable devices reported an average weight loss of 7.7 pounds, while those who partook only in health counseling reported an average loss of 13 pounds.

“The findings of our study are important because effective long-term treatments are needed to address America’s obesity epidemic,” said Jakicic. “We’ve found that questions remain regarding the effectiveness of wearable devices and how to best use them to modify physical activity and diet behaviors in adults seeking weight loss.”