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, 9 August 2010
- BEWILDERED: Why did the deer cross the road? We don’t know, but in Utah too many deer are killed on the road. DeerDeter makes sounds like the cry of a frightened animal and has strobes that look like a predator’s eyes. It’s triggered by headlights of oncoming cars, and no deer have been killed since it was installed. I’d still like to know why the deer are crossing the road.
- BEDAZZLED: The Dazer Laser ‘gun’ shoots out a bright green Class IIIB laser beam of over 500mWatts that temporarily blinds. It may cause disorientation, vertigo, and nausea, but no permanent damage, and is intended for law enforcement. Intended for and used by could differ wildly.
- SNIFF TEST: A superthin, flexible tube detected faint but distinctive compounds of nitrogen in underground air pockets to pinpoint decomposing rats. That was just a test though. The next job is to find hidden graves months after a murder, or bodies buried under rubble. You can’t escape the long nose of the law.
- SPACE BOT: NASA’s Robonaut 2 will soon be the first human-like robot in space, becoming a permanent resident of the International Space Station. The 136 Kg R2 has two human-like hands and arms, a bronze coloured head, and a torso. Its makers intend it to take over simple, repetitive, or especially dangerous tasks. That weight shouldn’t matter, where it’s going.
- MUSEUM SEEN: Often at a museum you have to squint to read the information card beside a work. New Plymouth’s Museum, Puke Ariki, will have you peering at an iPad screen instead for their McLean exhibition. The iPads include a custom app, an artist’s tour of the exhibition, audio catalogue labels, and video footage. That’s one smart smart museum.
Tech universe: Tuesday, 10 August 2010
- AN EYE OR AN EYE?: The iris of the eye has unique patterns so it’s great for identity confirmation. Until it isn’t. Scanners expect small differences between scans but aren’t calibrated for bigger differences as our eyes age. That’s bad news for India, thinking of using iris scans in identity cards.
Well, lookee here, an imposter.
- VACUUM TUBES: China needs to move a lot of people around every day, and fast. They’re working on maglev trains to travel up to 1,000 kph through vacuum tunnels. At $3 million extra per Km there’s serious money involved. It’s not the length of travel that slows you down, but the stopping.
- I THOUGHT IT MOVED: The Modular Prosthetic Limb includes 22 degrees of motion, has independent control of all 5 fingers, and weighs the same as a human arm. It’s controlled by a surgically implanted microarray in the brain. The wearer thinks and the hand responds. Just like a bought one.
- MIND YOUR SPAMMERS: A security firm analysed spam and found ‘please’ was the top word for targeted attacks, and in the top 5 for phishing and malware spam. As Mum always said:
If you want someone to do something, you have to ask nicely.
- aiBIKE: Apple are developing a Smart Bicycle System, according to a Patent application, that could help teams of cyclists communicate about the track or road. It could integrate an iPhone with bike sensors and a holographic display to monitor and report speed, altitude, incline, cadence, heart rate and other vitals.
From my bike to your bike…
Tech universe: Wednesday, 11 August 2010
- GOOGLE EYE: German Microdrones GmbH has supplied a miniature rotary wing aircraft to Google. With a camera on board, the micro drone covers several kilometres at 80 kph. Even higher resolution for Google Earth?
- JUNO ON JUPITER: Juno’s an armored tank headed for Jupiter. Equatorial radiation belts round Jupiter could fry the probe’s electronics so it has a special massive radiation vault made of titanium. Juno should launch in August 2011. Shields up!
- MUMBA JUMBO: A botnet called Mumba, on 55,000 computers worldwide, has been used by the criminal gang known as the Avalanche Group. They stole more than 60Gb worth of bank account numbers, credit card details, and social-networking log-ins. I’m keeping my Facebook login under the mattress!
- SUGAR ALERT: The University of Tokyo and BEANS Research Institute are developing a fluorescent blood sugar sensor. Hydrogel beads inside the body vary the intensity of emitted light depending on glucose concentration. This could allow continuous monitoring of blood sugar from outside the skin. Uh oh, my finger’s glowing: time to eat!
- READ LETTER: An archaeologist from Tel Aviv University recently linked a database to a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry scanner. That helped him figure out who had sent the message on a 3500 year old tablet, without damaging the clay. It may be too late now to Return to Sender.
Tech universe: Thursday, 12 August 2010
- PASSING WI-FI: LimoRes Car & Limo in New York City plans to fit out 20,000 cars with Wi-Fi transmitters by 2011. The ad-supported free Wi-Fi will have a radius of 60 metres, so nearby cars and pedestrians can hook in. Need Wi-fi? Head for a traffic jam.
- GOOGLE DOWN TO EARTH: Have you looked on Google Earth to see which of your neighbours have swimming pools? They show up a treat. Now officials in Riverhead, Long Island, have used Google Earth to find 250 residents who have pools but no permits. The $75,000 in fines is a nice little splash.
- LOVE ME ROBOT: Prototype European robots are able to develop emotions, learning in a similar way to babies. The more they interact, the stronger the bond. The robots can express anger, fear, sadness, happiness, excitement and pride and very visible distress. Oh boy, robot tantrums!
- GEEK VISION: Brother’s AiRScouter Retinal Imaging Display comes attached to a pair of spectacles. View images or data right on the lens while you’re doing other tasks. Yeah, right: you don’t look at all silly.
- PERMANENT PENCIL: Sharpie’s new Liquid Pencil contains liquid graphite. Write a message, and you can erase it for up to 3 days. After that, it turns to ink and stays permanent. If you’re going to change your mind, do it quickly.
Tech universe: Thursday 12 August 2010
- SPIN DATA: Ohio State University recently read and wrote data on a computer’s memory strip a bit differently: by controlling the spin of electrons, rather than detecting their presence. Spintronics, flipping the spin of an electron, doesn’t take much energy, and creates almost no heat. Think faster, smaller, cooler hard drives. Flipping electrons!
- MAGNETIC SURGERY: Brain tumours are very hard to treat. A Taiwan hospital coated nanoparticles with an anti-cancer drug then used a magnetic field to guide them to where they were most effective. Rats treated this way received 15 times more of the drug and survived 66% longer than untreated rats. Where there are rats there’s hope.
- TOUGH AS PAPER: Aerogels are very light and extremely rigid. Researchers freeze dried specially treated cellulose to make an aerogel that could be either a highly absorbent sponge, or a tiny piece of magnetic nanopaper able to support 400,000 pounds per square inch. Tiny but tough.
- LIQUID METAL: Apple now has access to all the Intellectual Property of Liquidmetal Technologies. Liquidmetal products are made of “amorphous” metal alloys that are light, strong and resistant to metal fatigue. Your next iPhone may weigh less but be stronger. Now just add magnetic nanopaper!
- SO THEY SAY: Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, says every 2 days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.
Nicholas Negroponte says digital books are going to replace physical books.
Bill Gates says 5 years from now you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world on the web for free and it’ll be better than any single university.
Senator Ted Stevens, killed in a plane crash on 9 August 2010, said in 2006:
The Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.
Stephen Hawking says threats to the human race mean we must move to outer space within a century.