Tag: Technology

Harper Reed, Obama’s Data Guru, Gets Voters to Engage—and Provide Their Info Along the Way

By Ashley P. Taylor | October 5, 2012 1:57 pm

harper reed

What do custom-designed T-shirts and presidential campaigns have in common? Harper Reed, chief technology officer for the Obama campaign, rose to prominence because he knew the answer: They both can benefit from websites that engage users and encourage community participation—and, in the process, gather valuable data. In a profile at Mother Jones, Tim Murphy describes how such potentially powerful and jealously guarded tech strategies—Obama’s go by codenames like “Narwhal” and “Dreamcatcher”—work.

Reed got his start at  Threadless, a website that sells quirky T-shirts to hipsters. But as Murphy details, the site didn’t just make shirts and expect people to buy them; it was a social forum that asked for their input every step of the way:
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology

Researchers Create the First Pulseless Artificial Heart

By Joseph Castro | June 15, 2011 10:45 am

VADSurgeons created the new heart using ventricular assist devices (shown above).

What’s the News: Checking a person’s pulse is often the first thing you do to see if they’re still alive. But a new artificial heart, developed this past spring, will complicate this common diagnosis: Researchers at the Texas Heart Institute have now created a fully functioning artificial heart that uses rotors to circulate blood instead of contractions, like a natural heart.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Technology

Intel Says "Fins" on Its New Transistors Are an Electronics Revolution

By Patrick Morgan | May 6, 2011 12:56 pm

What’s the News: The foundation of modern electronics, silicon transistors are miniature on/off switches that regulate electric current. This week, Intel demonstrated a new transistor design that’s being hailed by Intel as one of the most radical developments in transistors since the advent of integrated circuits of the 1950s. By adding tiny, vertical fins to normally flat transistors, Intel’s new Tri-Gate transistor allows for faster, smaller, and lower-voltage computer chips. “We’ve been talking about these 3-D circuits for more than 10 years, but no one has had the confidence to move them into manufacturing,” chip-manufacturing specialist Dan Hutcheson told The Wall Street Journal. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology

New Laser Igniter Might Be Beginning of the End for Classic Spark Plug

By Patrick Morgan | April 26, 2011 1:39 pm

What’s the News: Scientists have developed a laser that’s small and tough enough to work in the combustion engine of a vehicle yet powerful enough to ignite the fuel-air mixture that drives combustion cylinders. The researchers say that laser-ignited combustion engines could be more fuel efficient than traditional spark-plug ones: Unlike spark plugs, which transmit their sparks in milliseconds, lasers transmit energy within nanoseconds. Inventor Takunori Taira says that “timing—quick combustion—is very important. The more precise the timing, the more efficient the combustion and the better the fuel economy.”

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology

New Polymer Coating Heals Itself With 1 Minute of UV Exposure

By Patrick Morgan | April 21, 2011 9:16 am

What’s the News: Researchers have developed the fastest yet self-healing polymer: The new class of materials dubbed “metallo-supramolecular polymers” heal after only one minute under UV light even when they’re repeatedly cut. This could eventually lead to self-repairing floor varnishes, automotive paints, and other applications. University of Illinois at Urbana researchers Nancy Sottos and Jeffrey Moore say these these healable polymers “offer an alternative to the damage-and-discard cycle” that is rampant in our consumer society, and could pave the way for products “that have much greater lifespans than currently available materials.” (You can see the process below in a press video from Case-Western Reserve University.)

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology

Scientists Announce New Method to Pull Potable Water From Tank Exhaust

By Patrick Morgan | April 20, 2011 1:24 pm

What’s the News: Scientists have developed a new process that condenses diesel fuel exhaust into water. If implemented on the battlefield, it would allow soldiers to produce drinkable water from burnt fuel in tanks, generators, and Humvees, freeing them from carrying quite so many heavy water-filled containers. “Theoretically, one gallon of diesel should produce one gallon of water,” project leader Melanie Debusk told MSNBC.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
MORE ABOUT: gadgets, Technology, water

"Sexy Math" Helps App Amp Up Car Services

By Patrick Morgan | April 5, 2011 5:16 pm

What’s the News: Cool new apps come out every day, but not every app comes with its own car service. Starting in San Francisco, one company lets pedestrians hail a car using their iPhone or Android phone (or any old text-messaging clunker), providing a more expensive, yet faster alternative to cabs. To make this possible, computer scientists had to find a way to make driving routes as efficient as possible, which is actually quite complicated when you’re dealing with a city-ful of car-hailing people. As Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told Wired, “It’s really fun, sexy math.”

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math, Technology

Amazon Gets the Jump on Apple and Google by Launching Cloud Music Service

By Patrick Morgan | March 29, 2011 12:33 pm

What’s the News: Amazon has launched a fully working music locker and playback system this week. The cloud system allows users to upload digital music to the Web and play it on their computers and Android phones, giving Amazon a decided edge over its rivals. “Amazon has won the race of the big three to deliver a fully cloud-supported music option,” writes Tech Crunch’s MG Siegler.

Why the Hype:

  • Dubbed “Cloud Drive,” Amazon’s cloud storage service not only stores music, but also videos, photographs, and other documents.
  • Users receive the storage space equivalent of 1,200 tracks (5GB), though you can upgrade, paying as much as $1,000 for 1 TB of storage space, enough for about 70 hours of HD video.
  • Amazon provides free storage for every album purchased via Amazon MP3.
  • You’ll also get 20 free gigabytes for a year when you buy an album on Amazon MP3.
  • The playback service is called “Cloud Player,” and according to TechCrunch, “will let people listen to, download and make playlists from the music they store on Cloud Drive from any Web browser or from an app on Android devices.” It also works with Blackberry and Palm mobiles.

What’s the Context:

Not So Fast:

  • Amazon’s cloud service doesn’t stream music to iOS devices, which means you won’t see it on your iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. (You can download music to iOS devices—not nearly as smooth an interface.)
  • Although Cloud Player works on Chrome, Safari IE 8 and above, and Firefox 3.5 and above, it doesn’t work on Opera.
  • It’s only for U.S. users right now.
  • And you can’t use mobile devices to upload music.

Next Up: Amazon may be first, but it’s not going to be the only major company with cloud music storage for long: Both Apple and Google are expected to launch their own locker systems soon.

Image: Amazon

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology

Scientists Create World's 1st Practical Artificial Leaf, 10X as Efficient as the Real Thing

By Patrick Morgan | March 28, 2011 2:23 pm

What’s the News: This week, scientists say that they’ve passed a chemistry milestone by creating the world’s first practical photosynthesis device. The playing-card-sized photosynthetic gadget uses sunlight to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, which can then be used to produce energy, and is reputedly 10 times more efficient than a natural leaf. Researchers say they expect it to revolutionize power storage, especially in remote areas that don’t currently have electricity. “A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades,” says lead researcher Daniel Nocera, who’s presenting this research at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society this week.

How the Heck:

  • The artificial leaf uses nickel and cobalt as catalysts to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen by facilitating oxygen-oxygen bonding.
  • Oxygen and hydrogen molecules are then sent to a fuel cell that can produce electricity. If the device is placed in a one-gallon bucket of water in bright sunlight, it can reportedly produce enough electricity to power a house in a developing nation.

What’s the Context:

  • The very first artificial leaf was created by John Turner of the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, over a decade ago. The device lasted for only one day and was made of expensive metals, making it impractical.
  • This new artificial leaf uses nickel and cobalt, which are relatively cheap, and has so far operated continuously for at least 45 hours, making it the first practical artificial leaf.
  • In 2008, Nocera announced a way of splitting water using cobalt and platinum, a breakthrough at the time. Now, by using nickel instead of the more expensive platinum, he’s made the entire process economically feasible, in addition to combining everything into a working prototype.
  • Nocera has appeared in Discover before, including his National Science Foundation briefing on energy storage.
  • Many more labs are also working on artificial photosynthesis.
  • 80beats has covered other green energies, from wind turbines to natural gas.

Next Up:

  • Scientists are working to increase the device’s efficiency still higher.
  • Tata Group, an Indian conglomerate, plans on creating a power plant based on this research within the next year and a half.

Reference: Daniel Nocera et al. 241st National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. March 27-31, 2011 Anaheim, California, USA

Image: Wikimedia Commons / Daniel Schwen

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, Technology

AT&T Gobbles T-Mobile—Becomes Largest Wireless Co by Far

By Patrick Morgan | March 21, 2011 10:01 pm

What’s the News: Yesterday, AT&T announced plans to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion from parent company Deutsche Telekom, making the new behemoth the hands-down largest wireless company in the United States. Though AT&T touts this merger as good for everyone, some technology writers, such as GigaOM’s Om Malik write that “it’s hard to find winners, apart from AT&T and T-Mobile shareholders.”

What’s the Context:

  • AT&T says the combined skills of the two companies will improve high-speed mobile broadband service and extend coverage to more rural communities, achieving President Obama’s goal of connecting “every part of America to the digital age.”
  • With T-Mobile’s 33.7 million wireless subscribers, AT&T will have 129.2 million subscribers, dwarfing Verizon Wireless’s 94.1 million. So begins a new chapter in the companies’ long-term rivalry, as previously covered in 80beats.
  • T-Mobile is the fourth-largest mobile provider in the U.S., and offers cheaper plans than category leaders AT&T and Verizon.

Not So Fast: The company merger is still awaiting regulator approval. Some argue that the bigger AT&T will hurt smaller companies like Sprint and even larger ones like Google. “Sprint and T-Mobile often stood against AT&T and Verizon on a variety of regulatory issues, so if AT&T succeeds, Sprint will stand alone on special access and other issues,” writes Malik. With more power, it’ll be easier for AT&T to “impose its own will” on what services and apps are placed on Android smartphones. If the FCC or Justice Department agree that the acquisition will give AT&T too much power or lead to higher prices, they may veto the deal.

Image: AT&T

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
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