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The Economist - Technology Quarterly - September 4th 2010

The Economist - Technology Quarterly - September 4th 2010

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The promise and pitfallsof geothermal power
TechnologyQuarterly
Rewiring thenervous systemBottom-up waysto deliver energyThe sceptical cyber-guru
September 4th
2010
Hot rocks andhigh hopes
 
wide open.
YoUR poSSiBiLiTieS. now
© 2010 Dell Inc. All rights reserved.
Introducing the new Dell Services.
dll a prt Systms ar  cmay th  urs. Yur urs. ista cmg  th a -sz-ts-all arach,  lst t hat’s yur m. A th  ut ur tchlgy xrts ama klg t rk t crat ctv sluts thatll ruc masurabl rsults. S yu ca achv hatvryur vs  succss lks lk. it’s hy mr ustrs, rmhalthcar t facal srvcs t mauacturg, trust us vryay. whthr t’s maagg yur iT rats, mrvgyur busss rcsss, r lyg clu cmutg,dll Srvcs lvrs. whr ul yu lk t g? As ar as’r ccr, th utur s  .dll.cm/srvcs
Alcats Busss prcss Csultg irastructurSurt
Services
 
Monitor 00Better photot images, remotemedical monitoring, a new kindof jet engine, acoustic bres,monitoring drivers’ behaviour,hacks to cut printing costs,improved speech recognition,using magnetism to measurefood quality, cracking quantumcryptography and crowdfundingcreative projectsMining social networks00Untangling the social web
What your network of friends canreveal about you
Inside story 00Energy from the earth’s core
The promise and peril of geothermal power
Bionic limbs00Rewiring the nervous system
Anew approach makes articialimbs easier to control 
Energy in the developing world00Power to the people
How bottom-up approaches canaddress the energy gap
Brain scan00The virtual curmudgeon
Aprole of Jaron Lanier, acyber-contrarian
2
Monitor 
 The Economist Technology Quarterly 
September4th2010
T
HE human brain is hard-wired torecognise faces. Babies learn to identifytheir parents’ faces within hours of beingborn, and even in old age people canremember what their childhood friendslooked like. But remembering faces is notthe same as being able to describe them.This is particularly apparent when wit-nesses are asked by the police to create acomposite picture of a suspect. Even whenthe result is thought to be a good likenessby the witness, that does not mean thatother people will also be able to recognisethe face and thus identify the suspect.Indeed, even when working from afresh memory, the composite picturespeople produce are, on average, recognis-able to others only 20% of the time. Andthis falls to just a few per cent if the wit-ness is working from a memory more thanafew days old. The problem is that facerecognition is a holistic process: people aregood at recognising faces as a whole, butstruggle when it comes to identifying ordescribing individual facial features, suchas a person’s eyes, nose or mouth.But now police forces in Britain andother countries are using a new tech-nology that solves this problem by chang-ing the task from one of recall into one ofrecognition. Charlie Frowd at the Universi-ty of Central Lancashire, in Preston, andPeter Hancock at the University of Stirling,in Scotland, have spent more than a de-cade rening their new approach, but itnow appears to be paying dividends.Instead of asking witnesses to selectfacial features their system, called Evo
FIT
,initially presents them with a grid of 18randomly generated faces that match therace, gender and general shape of thesuspect. From these the witness is asked toselect the two that most resemble thesuspect, however vaguely. The softwarethen takes these two selections andbreeds them, treating the facial featuresof their selections like genes, mixing themtogether and making random changes, toproduce 18 new ospring which are dis-played in a new grid. As this process isrepeated, with the witness again choosingthe closest two matches, the faces generat-ed quickly converge on face that bears aresemblance to that of the suspect, says DrFrowd. In fact it usually takes only a fewcycles, he says.But just how recognisable are thesefaces to others? To nd out, Dr Frowdrecruited subjects to act as witnesses whowere shown a photographs of an unfamil-iar face, who happened to be a footballplayer. Two days later the witnesses usedboth Evo
FIT
and a traditional compositesystem commonly used by the police,called
PRO
-t, to recreate this face frommemory. The resulting pictures were then
 Total recall 
Software: A novel approach to generating images of suspects uses a range of tricks to achieve a dramatic improvement in accuracy 
On the cover Geothermal power stationsharness underground heat togenerate electricity in volcanically active places suchas Iceland. A new approachuses drilling to allowgeothermal power to betapped almost anywhere. Butit has several obstacles toovercome: page 00
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