On her 22nd birthday this summer, Sarah Wagner of suburban Wheaton, Ill., who describes herself as a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs, opened an email to find an incredible surprise — a recorded message from her favorite Cubs player:
"Hey, Sarah! Kerry Wood here! Thanks for your message and I hope you're having a great summer!"
"When I heard for the first time, I instantly smiled," says Wagner. "I think my hands probably went over like my mouth, like, 'Oh my gosh, Kerry Wood is talking to me, even though he has no idea who I am!' "
After failing to predict the Arab Spring, intelligence officials are now exploring whether Big Data, the combing of billions of pieces of disparate electronic information, can help them identify hot spots before they explode. The intelligence community has always been in the business of forecasting the future. The question is whether tapping into publicly available data — Twitter and news feeds and blogs among other things — can help them do that faster and more precisely.
Today marks an important anniversary. On October 7, 1952, 60 years ago, the patent for the bar code was filed. For younger listeners, it's perhaps hard to imagine that there was actually a time when everything you bought wasn't scanable. Today, of course, those vertical zebra stripes are ubiquitous, on everything - from air fresheners to zombie survival kits.
According to the BBC, the very first item ever scanned by its barcode was a pack of chewing gum in an Ohio supermarket in 1974.