Way found to foil lens flare

Scientists use urine as an alternative power source.

August 29, 2010 02:08
4 minute read.
Rubik's Cube

rubiks cube 311. (photo credit: Wikimedia commons)

Away to eliminate the “shiny diamonds” that appear on still photographs or video images as reflections of the sun’s rays on the lens has been discovered by scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. All the photographer has to do is take a picture of the same image from the same place and the same direction at least twice.

“It’s very difficult to edit out these five- or six-sided lights from the picture,” says Prof. Yoav Schechner of the electrical engineering faculty. When you make multiple pictures of the same image, the lights will appear in different places. Then the photos can be melded together, he suggests.

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“Let’s say that we photographed a person and in the first photo, the diamonds appeared on his face. In the second photo, they appear on the side. I can take the good images from the two photos and produce a photo clear of blemishes,” explains Schechner, who supervised the work of master’s degree student Fima Korban. The researchers also examined what happens when the solar rays enter the lens of the camera and discovered that the diamonds “ride” on the line on which the sun should be. Thus they can know where the sun was at the time of the photograph, even if it didn’t enter the “frame” of the picture. If the photograph wants to process the image in an artistic way after removing the diamonds, said Schechner, he can “transplant” the sun exactly at the place it was when the photograph was taken.


Millions of surveillance cameras around the world are watching public and private areas around the clock, providing police with a valuable tool for catching perpetrators of criminal acts. Rapid apprehension of the recent attempted Times Square, New York, bomber was a sensational example. However, since video browsing and retrieval in the millions of cameras is time consuming – involving sometimes days or weeks of review – most recorded video is never even watched.

A solution to this problem has been developed by HU researchers; it is computer software that provides a synopsis of recorded video, generating a very short video preserving the essential activities of the original captured over a long period. For example, a video covering a full day can be summarized in a synopsis only a few minutes long.

For his work in developing this highly useful software, Prof. Shmuel Peleg of HU’s Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering has been named a Kaye Innovation Award winner. The invention provides a solution even for those who are able to dedicate enough manpower to review long segments of video materials, since studies indicate that human operators lose their attention after about 20 minutes when watching such videos.

Video synopsis separates between the static background and the moving objects (also called events). The short synopsis is made possible by simultaneously presenting multiple events that have occurred at different times. Synopsis users can view all events in a very short time and, when necessary, revert to the original video for further examination.

Peleg’s invention has been patented by the university’s R&D company Yissum and licensed to an Israeli startup company, BriefCam Ltd.


Want a useful and plentiful alternative power source beyond the sun and wind? Urine, according to scientists at the University of Bristol in England. The smelly liquid could serve to run fuel cells to make robots work, they suggest. The fuel cells can use bacterial cultures to digest waste and generate electricity, ScienceDaily.com reported recently. UPI reported that a team at the university’s Bristol Robotic Lab has spent more than three years developing EcoBot-III, a robot that can power itself by converting waste such as rotten fruit and grass clippings. As part of their research to find the best waste materials, they will look at urine as a “food” for the microbial power units, the team leader says. Urine is chemically very active, rich in nitrogen and has compounds such as urea, chloride, potassium and bilirubin, which make it very good for the microbial fuel cells,” said Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos said.

Why didn’t anybody think of that before?


Although there are 43 quintillion possible jumbled positions for parts of the famed puzzle, Rubik’s cube, every one can be solved in a maximum of 20 moves to place all the small squares of each color on each of the six surfaces of the cube, according to a report in New Scientist. Tomas Rokicki, a computer programmer who has spent the past 15 years with colleagues in Palo Alto, California looking for the least number of moves guaranteed to solve any configuration of the cube, called the 20 moves “God’s number.” The main breakthrough was finding a way to solve so many positions simultaneously and speedily, said Rokicki, who used computers and mathematical knowledge to solve the problem.

UPI said that previous computer methods solved around 4,000 possible cubes per second by attempting a set of starting moves, then determining if the resulting position was closer to the solution. If not, the computer would throw out those moves and start again.

Rokicki’s key insight was to realize these dead-end moves are actually solutions to a different starting position, which led him to a computer algorithm that could try out a billion cubes per second.

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