Archive for the ‘neat new tech’ Category

Yet another Tab Dump

August 9, 2011

Invasion of the Viking women unearthed – Science Fair –

So, the study looked at 14 Viking burials from the era, definable by the Norse grave goods found with them and isotopes found in their bones that reveal their birthplace. The bones were sorted for telltale osteological signs of which gender they belonged to, rather than assuming that burial with a sword or knife denoted a male burial.

Overall, McLeod reports that six of the 14 burials were of women, seven were men, and one was indeterminable. Warlike grave goods may have misled earlier researchers about the gender of Viking invaders, the study suggests. At a mass burial site called Repton Woods, “(d)espite the remains of three swords being recovered from the site, all three burials that could be sexed osteologically were thought to be female, including one with a sword and shield,” says the study.

“These results, six female Norse migrants and seven male, should caution against assuming that the great majority of Norse migrants were male, despite the other forms of evidence suggesting the contrary. This result of almost a fifty-fifty ratio of Norse female migrants to Norse males is particularly significant when some of the problems with osteological sexing of skeletons are taken into account,”

Sun-free photovoltaics – MIT News Office

The solution, Celanovic says, is to design a thermal emitter that radiates only the wavelengths that the PV diode can absorb and convert into electricity, while suppressing other wavelengths. “But how do we find a material that has this magical property of emitting only at the wavelengths that we want?” asks Marin Soljačić, professor of physics and ISN researcher. The answer: Make a photonic crystal by taking a sample of material and create some nanoscale features on its surface — say, a regularly repeating pattern of holes or ridges — so light propagates through the sample in a dramatically different way.

“By choosing how we design the nanostructure, we can create materials that have novel optical properties,” Soljačić says. “This gives us the ability to control and manipulate the behavior of light.”

The team — which also includes Peter Bermel, research scientist in the Research Laboratory for Electronics (RLE); Peter Fisher, professor of physics; and Michael Ghebrebrhan, a postdoc in RLE — used a slab of tungsten, engineering billions of tiny pits on its surface. When the slab heats up, it generates bright light with an altered emission spectrum because each pit acts as a resonator, capable of giving off radiation at only certain wavelengths.

Silver pen has the write stuff for flexible electronics

While it looks like a typical silver-colored rollerball pen, this pen’s ink is a solution of real silver. After writing, the liquid in the ink dries to leave conductive silver pathways — in essence, paper-mounted wires. The ink maintains its conductivity through multiple bends and folds of the paper, enabling devices with great flexibility and conformability.

Metallic inks have been used in approaches using inkjet printers to fabricate electronic devices, but the pen offers freedom and flexibility to apply ink directly to paper or other rough surfaces instantly, at low cost and without programming


Getting the apodizing phase plate out of my tabs

May 12, 2011

Get ready to see lots more exoplanet images soon | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

What the new technique does is steal a bit of light from the core and use it to suppress some of those ripples. It interferes with them, damping them down. It only works on half the image, as you can see: on the right the ripples are obvious, and on the left they are essentially gone. If you’re looking for a planet, it means you have to observe it several times rotating the detector so you can clean up the halo all the way around the star.

Planet hunters no longer blinded by the light

The Steward Observatory team used a machined piece of infrared optical glass about the size and shape of a cough drop to introduce the ripples. Placed in the optical path of the telescope, the APP device steals a small portion of the starlight and diffracts it into the star’s halo, canceling it out.

I really like this because it’s a hack. Astronomers have been trying for hundreds of years to get rid of excess diffracted light, and you can’t do it. You just can’t. But what you can do is get rid of some of it, and shove the rest into parts of the image that you don’t care about looking at. And that turns out to be better than good enough. (Technically, what they’re doing is trading spatial resolution for time, since you have to observe for much longer to image all angles around a star, but that’s OK too. And, as with most things that have thresholds, you’re not going from mediocre signal to slightly better signal, but from no signal to signal at all…)

At last: e-paper that’s actually like paper

May 5, 2011

Video: E Ink Shows Off Rollable, Scrunchable, and Video Screens | Popular Science

These demos show that e-ink displays can be embedded into other materials–the video below shows it sewn right into a bit of Tyvex cloth, the super-tough, paper-like cloth used in shipping envelopes.

It’s easy to see the uses for that kind of thing: Envelopes could be sturdy and reusable, with shippers simply changing the shipping address on the screen rather than tossing the envelopes.

This makes me happy, but what I particularly want to see is the next step: e-ink displays where most of the driver electronics have been separated from the display. Because for the kinds of e-ink applications they’re talking about, you don’t want the display changing a lot, and you don’t want just anybody to be able to change it. For instance, you don’t want the routing or delivery folks at the shipping company to be able to change the label…

Figuring out the right partitioning for this kind of thing is difficult; maybe you could have some kind of scrambling section that would reroute all the rows and columns according to a key known only by authorized people. Or maybe real crypto somewhere. Or just something that measured how much current had been passed through the drivers and encoded it with some kind of checksum…

But none of that is necessary for what I want: a pile of e-paper and a printer that will erase and reprint each sheet whenever I want, so that I can spread out as much reference material as I can see, just like I used to be able to do with books.

Random robot gripping improvements tab dump

March 25, 2011

At some point we’re going to turn around and this kind of stuff will actually be useful, especially with improvements in vision so that machines can see the orientation of the things they’ve picked up.

DARPA fashions miracle robotic attachment from balloon, coffee • The Register

The manipulator works by pressing the soft balloon full of loose coffee grounds down on the object to be gripped. Then the air is sucked out of the balloon, causing the coffee granules to press together and lock into a rigid shape – just as they do when vacuum-packed. The object is now securely grasped by the manipulator, and can be released as desired by ending the suction on the granule-filled bulb.

Grip-Happy Compliant Electroadhesion Sneaking Into Everyday Usage

Today, they’ve moved onto bigger and better things, like gripping a banana using the same technique. Meet “compliant electroadhesion.”

As was the case back in 2008, electroadhesion still requires very little power to function. According to SRI, 11 square feet of electroadhesive material will support about 440-lbs. using 40mW.

Oldest tab dump ever

October 18, 2010

This is what happens when firefox doesn’t crash often enough.

IEEE Spectrum: Robots With Knives: A Study of Soft-Tissue Injury in Robotics

The researchers acknowledge that there are huge reservations about equipping robots with sharp tools in human environments.

‘Underwater kite’ aims to turn energy tide –

The technology comprises of a turbine attached to a wing and rudder which is tethered to the ocean floor by 100 meters of cable.

Anchoring “Deep Green” and steering the tethered “kite” enables the turbine to capture energy from the tidal currents at ten times the speed of the actual stream velocity, say Minesto.

But now Gijs Kuenen at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and colleagues are developing a technique that cuts out the energy-consuming processes. The key is a recently discovered type of bacteria that can munch ammonia without oxygen. So-called anammox bacteria short-cut the nitrogen cycle by converting ammonium directly into nitrogen gas.

One by-product of this process is methane, which Kuenen proposes to harvest and use as fuel. The team calculates that, far from consuming energy, the process could generate 24 watt-hours per person per day. “This is about trying to make waste water treatment plants completely sustainable, in the sense that they could even produce energy, which is not the case in present treatment facilities,” says Kuenen.

Technology Review: Blogs: arXiv blog: Microbial Life Found in Hydrocarbon Lake

Pitch lake, they say, is teaming with microbial life. They say that, on average, each gram of goo in the lake contains some 10^7 living cells.

These bugs are unlike anything we normally see on Earth. Analysis of gene sequences from these creatures show that they are single celled organisms such as archea and bacteria. They thrive in an oxygen-free environment with very little water, eating hydrocarbons and respiring with metals.

This may be the first time life has cropped up in hydrocarbon lakes on Earth’s surface but these kinds of creepy crawlies have previously reared their heads in hydrocarbon samples from subsea oil wells. Which is another reason they are of interest. Just how microbial organisms can degrade and process of oil reservoirs is poorly understood. A better understanding could lead to a number of advances in techniques for things like microbial remediation.

But the most exciting implication of this discovery is for the possibility of life on Titan. There is a growing sense that Titan may have all the ingredients for life: thermodynamic disequilibrium, abundant carbon-containing molecules and a fluid environment.

Wi-Fi key-cracking kits sold in China mean free Internet

The main piece of the kits, an adapter with a six-inch antenna that plugs into a USB port, comes with a CD-ROM to install its driver and a separate live CD-ROM that boots up an operating system called BackTrack. In BackTrack, the user can run applications that try to obtain keys for two protocols used to secure Wi-Fi networks, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access). After a successful attack by the applications, called Spoonwep and Spoonwpa, a user can restart Windows and use the revealed key to access its Wi-Fi network.

Old but still good

October 11, 2010

Injectable Glowing Beads In Bloodstream Can Indicate Glucose Levels

— an implantable, fluorescent blood-sugar monitor. It involves small hydrogel beads that vary the intensity of emitted light depending on glucose concentration. They’re called Life Beans.

The system, developed at the University of Tokyo, could lead to implantable blood-glucose monitors, which could enable 24-7 monitoring of a diabetic’s blood sugar without having to prick the skin or use an attachable pump.

“Beans” stands for Bioelectrical Mechanical Autonomous Nano Systems.”

Researchers tested it in the ears of a mouse, and watched as the ear fluoresced at different intensities depending on the mouse’s blood sugar.

Anything that can get rid of fingersticks.

The operation was a failure, but the patient lived

March 27, 2010

Robot Surgery, Thy Name is DaVinci | Singularity Hub

However, the company line on the DaVinci’s effectiveness is far from the last word. According to a large study of Medicare patients, robotic prostate surgery led to fewer in-hospital complications, but had worse results for impotence and incontinence (I know which one of those bullets I’d choose to take, just saying). Costing a cool $1.7 million, plus a $100,000+ annual service fee, inconclusive results are a bit hard to stomach. There are two reasons why this ostensibly advanced surgical method can lead to mixed results. First, the DaVinci provides no tactile feedback. Doctors have to learn to use the visual environment for clues they would otherwise get by feel. Of course, with the development of haptic feedback, this flaw might be remedied soon.

I’m sure all those practice patients feel really great about helping the doctors and the company master the learning curve of doing real surgery. It’s kinda telling that the article (and other articles) is pushing this gadget as the unstoppable future of medicine, rather than just another dead end that didn’t have quite the tech needed to do a proper job. And that hospitals are using it as a marketing tool to get patients to have their surgery there. “New! Improved! Worse results for you! Lower treatment costs for us!”

Lousy reporting, but interesting nonetheless

February 23, 2010

BBC News – Turning wood into bones

After about 10 days, the rattan wood has been transformed into the bone-like material.

The team is lead by Dr Anna Tampieri.
An X-ray of the new bone fusing with the old
Within months, the real and artificial bone will have fused

“It’s proving very promising,” she says. “This new bone material is strong, so it can take heavy loads that bodies will put on it.

“It is also durable, so, unlike existing bone substitutes, it won’t need replacing.”

Several types of wood were tested before they found rattan works best.

That is because of its structure and porous properties, which enable blood, nerves and other compounds to travel through it.

When I was a kid, I used to make rattan blowtorches — light one end of a piece on fire, put your lips to the other end, and watch the flame intensify. So I can imagine the open columns would be useful.

And in general I like to see this notion of materials scientists co-opting natural materials, which is even a step more humble than trying to synthesize mimics of them.

Geeks discussing the federal register

October 16, 2009


FedThread is a project of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. It is one of several projects that harnesses the power of the web to increase government transparency.

Old tech tab dump

September 4, 2009

Self-Balancing eniCycle is Like a Segway for the Circus – Enicycle – Gizmodo

The eniCycle’s electric-powered 1000 watt motor kicks into gear as you lean forward—similar to riding a Segway. The gyroscopes help you stay upright while measuring your vertical angle 100 times a second.

“Help” is the operative word there — there’s not much the thing can do it you lean too far or start to go over sideways. But still pretty damn cool.

Security Engineering – A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems

My goal in making the first edition freely available five years after publication was twofold. First, I wanted to reach the widest possible audience, especially among poor students. Second, I am a pragmatic libertarian on free culture and free software issues; I think that many publishers (especially of music and software) are too defensive of copyright. (My colleague David MacKay found that putting his book on coding theory online actually helped its sales. Book publishers are getting the message faster than the music or software folks.) I expect to put the whole second edition online too in a few years.

Ross Anderson is a brilliant guy. Enough said.

The Invisible Flash That Takes Clear Pictures at Night – dark flash – Gizmodo

. First, they modified the flashbulb to emit light in a wider spectrum and filter out visible light. Then, they removed the UV and IR filters normally present in camera sensors. This apparently results in making everyone in photos look like a Yugoslavian mafia goon’s mug shot. Or maybe just a normal infrared image:

Then, an algorithm adds color: The two scientist make the camera take another photo immediately after the first one, this time without the dark flash. That photo results in the usual grainy picture, but the resulting color information gets combined with the first image to get the image you see at the beginning of the article.

Roadside Dope Tester Promises To Make You Even More Paranoid – Dope tester – Gizmodo

The cartridge has two components: a sample collector for gathering saliva and a measurement chamber containing magnetic nanoparticles. The particles are coated with ligands that bind to one of five different drug groups.

After 90 seconds, the device delivers its verdict on a color-coded readout.

But officer, I was sucking on a $20 bill and it was contaminated with cocaine…

FAQ – TinEye

TinEye is a reverse image search engine. You can submit an image to TinEye to find out where it came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or to find higher resolution versions. TinEye is the first image search engine on the web to use image identification technology rather than keywords, metadata or watermarks.

Draganfly X4 UAV: Tiny, Camera-Packing, UFO-Looking ‘Copter Is Cheaper Than Ever – Draganfly x4 – Gizmodo

Like the X6—featured in Giz Gallery 2008—the X4 is a carbon fiber-bodied UAV with four carbon fiber rotating blades. The 680-gram (with battery) copter is capable of using a still/video camera (in this case, a Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot), an infrared camera and a low-light camera, all of which can be controlled from the ground. The X4 also features three accelerometers, three gyroscopes, three magnetometers and a barometric pressure sensor, and the controller is based on an OLED touchscreen. The X4 only has four motors to the X6’s six, but that comes at a big boon to the pricey ‘copter: The X6 checked in at about $15,000, and the X4 should be more like $10,000.

Genome Sequencing Gets 99.9833% Price Cut – Human genome – Gizmodo

it chops the fundamental units of DNA, the bases, into short strands, slaps them onto a specially treated glass plate, and proceeds to read the sequences.

After these steps are completed, a series of computers will assemble all the DNA strands into a genome while comparing it to previously compiled genomes. According to an algorithm used by the team, this sequencing process results in genomes which are about 95% complete. (This is on par with previous sequencing technology.)