Interesting tech for 06 to 10 September 2010

I write a Tech Universe column for the NZ Herald. This is a fun assignment: Tech Universe brings 5 headlines each day about what’s up in the world of technology. Here are the links from last week.

Tech universe: Monday 06 September 2010

  • SMART STAMP: Use the Junaio app on your iPhone or Android smartphone to view the latest ‘smart’ British postage stamp. The phone’s web browser will open a web page and show you a short film. Stamp? Stamp? Where’s my Old English dictionary again?
  • RED HOT SATELLITES: Toshiba’s recalling 41,000 Satellite notebooks after some have overheated, deforming the case or causing burns. Heat to send you into orbit.
  • MICRO FLASH: The LaCie MosKeyto USB Flash Drive is truly tiny. It extends only 6mm from your laptop, though it can hold up to 8Gb of files. Not so much a thumb drive as a thumbnail drive.
  • SOUNDS LIKE ART: Researchers used an argon-ion laser to create acoustic waves in various hues of coloured paint. Each hue has a distinctive sound profile that helps reveal the authenticity of a work of art. If it looks like a Picasso and sounds like a Picasso…
  • E. COLI KILLER: Stanford University coated cotton with silver nanowires and carbon nanotubes, then used it to filter E. Coli laden water. 20 volts of electricity from a hand crank zapped the bacteria, killing more than 98%. Imagine if you could hook it in to a video game somehow!

Tech universe: Tuesday 07 September 2010

  • POLE SLITHER: Carnegie Mellon’s modular snake robots can slink, roll, swim and even climb trees. They could help in search and rescue operations or inspect bridges or slide into small spaces. See it climb a tree: nightmarish!
  • HAWK EYE: NASA’s new unmanned Global Hawk observation aircraft flew right into Hurricane Earl last week. The Global Hawk carries a microwave instrument and an HD camera so observers on the ground can take real time measurements of hurricanes. Look that hurricane right in the eye.
  • BEAM IT UP: LaserMotive in Seattle have found a way to use laser beams to power a 300 gram miniature helicopter. Photovoltaic cells on the craft convert light from a ground-based laser into a few watts of electricity. That’s enough to stay aloft. Watch out for passing birds interrupting the beam.
  • SMARTPHONE MACRO: A modder superglued a tiny $5 microscope in front of his smartphone camera with impressive results. Look at fleas, flies and specks of dust right on your phone camera.
  • ON THE BALL: Vancouver are trying a new way to jolt drivers into awareness — with an optical illusion. A 3D image display has been installed close to a school. As drivers approach within 30 metres it will appear as though a young girl is crossing the street in front of them. Will it increase traffic from ‘sightseers’ though?

Tech universe: Wednesday 08 September 2010

  • BRIGHT LIGHT: The Magic Bulb features a 4 watt LED bulb that produces the equivalent of an old 50W bulb. But wait! It also has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 3 hours after a power outage. But wait! In an emergency unscrew the bulb from the housing, extend the neck, and use it as a handheld torch. That’s a seriously bright idea.
  • ENERGY BEAM: Energizer are releasing an inductive charger built to universal charging standards. An electromagnetic field transfers energy, doing away with annoying plugs and cables. It charges up to 3 devices at a time and has a USB port for additional devices. These should become standard in hotels, offices and cafes.
  • SPACE SWARM: NASA are exploring how to use swarms of small space probes rather than single larger craft. The tiny probes would need to sacrifice themselves if they failed and proved a danger to the swarm. This creates an interesting software challenge. All for one and one for all.
  • SLIM FIZZ: Champagne bottles have to be sturdy to handle the pressure of the fizz. A new design slims the shoulders and shaves 65 grams off the weight. The reduced carbon footprint will be equivalent to 4,000 small cars. If we all slim down can we reduce our carbon footprint too?
  • CYCLE POWER: Stationary bikes in the Greenasium, a San Diego gym, generate electricity. They generate enough power to offset the gym’s usage for cooling, music, computer and lights. Slim down and offset your carbon footprint at the same time.

Tech universe: Thursday 09 September 2010

  • NET SQUARE EYES: Comscore report that over the last year American audiences spent almost 650% longer than before watching live Internet video. They also spent around 70% longer watching YouTube and Hulu. That’s one way to improve TV quality.
  • PURE VIDEO: Broadband signals degrade as they move along cables. The University of Southampton are using lasers to duplicate and strengthen the signals, removing noise and generating a pristine version. This could improve web video enormously. So we’ll be able to watch even more.
  • GREEN POLLUTION: Many facilities in China recycling e-waste use low-tech methods to separate components. They release numerous organic chemicals, heavy metals, flame retardants and persistent organic pollutants into the air. One person’s green is another person’s poison.
  • DIAMOND DRUGGING: Nanodiamonds are tiny pieces of pure carbon that contain a nitrogen atom. They could be used to attach to cancer cells, immune cells, pathogens and other cells to deliver drugs. Early tests on earthworms suggest the nanodiamonds could be safe. What’s good for worms is surely good for people.
  • ELECTRIC LOOPS: A minute single-seater Cri-Cri is the first four-engined all-electric aerobatic plane. It uses high energy-density Lithium batteries and can do aerobatics at speeds up to 250 km/h. Video (in French):

Tech universe: Friday 10 September 2010

  • STAR MAKER: Paranal Observatory in Chile uses a laser beam to create an artificial star 90 km high in the mesosphere. The Laser Guide Star provides known reference values for correcting blurring in images and allows astronomers to make sharper observations. Twinkle, twinkle tiny star, now we now just what you are. Photo:
  • LIGHT PUSH: The Australian National University used hollow laser beams to move tiny glass particles more than a metre. The dark centre of the laser beam stays cool, while the rest heats up. The heat differential nudges the particles into position. How about crowd control?
  • DON’T TOUCH: eyeSight Mobile Technologies provide a Touch Free Interface for camera-enabled devices like cellphones. Users move their hands above the device to control MP3 playback, games or other apps. Don’t wave your hands around while talking!
  • CLEAN GREEN: The Swiss EMPA institute found that even if electric vehicles are powered by ‘dirty’ energy sources they are still better for the environment than petrol driven cars. The vehicles are even ‘greener’ though if fuelled by renewable energy. Is smoke-filled wind clean energy or not?
  • LEAF POWER: MIT created solar energy molecules that repair themselves the way leaves do. In the right conditions the molecules break apart and spontaneously reassemble into a light-harvesting structure that produces an electric current. After repeated cycles a prototype cell showed no loss of efficiency. Hey, perpetual energy.