Have you ever wondered why woodpeckers don’t pass out after scrounging a meal from a tree? Their little brains, after all, undergo decelerations of 1200g as they bang their beaks against the wood–over ten times the force needed to give a human a concussion. Now scientists are learning how to harness the woodpecker’s special abilities not to prevent headaches, but to safeguard our gadgets.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed CT scans and video footage of the golden-fronted woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifons) to design better shock absorbers. They found that woodpeckers have four traits that ease their noggins: fluid between the skull and brain, a beak that is slightly elastic, a section of soft skull bone, and a bone called the hyoid, or lingual bone, which is also somewhat elastic.
The scientists then constructed a woodpecker-inspired shock-absorbing system around a circuit using materials that approximated the bird’s four absorbers. For example, rubber represented the supportive and slightly-elastic nature of the hyoid bone, while aluminum mimicked the brain-skull fluid. With the circuit securely surrounded, they stuffed it inside a bullet and fired the bullet at an aluminum wall using an air gun.
For those tired of changing light bulbs, we’ve got some good news. A light-emitting wallpaper may replace light bulbs as soon as 2012, according to The Times:
A chemical coating on the walls will illuminate all parts of the room with an even glow, which mimics sunlight and avoids the shadows and glare of conventional bulbs.
Apply a low voltage current to the wallpaper and bam!—no more light bulbs. The organic LED wallpaper, under development by the Welsh company Lomax, will be at least twice as efficient as current energy saving bulbs. And no, the glowing wallpaper will not create an electric fence in your living room—Lomax says their electric wallpaper will be safe to touch.
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Image: flickr / nodomain1
Can’t be bothered with keys but still need a way to prevent intruders from invading your fortress of solitude? Try a secret knock detector to guard your lair.
Don’t know how to build one? Stephen Hoefer over at Make demonstrates:
However, if you live in a shoebox New York City apartment like some of us, where everyone in the building can hear you knocking, this probably won’t be very helpful.
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Video: Stephen Hoefer / Made
Scientists in the flexible electronic industry have long promised us products like rubbery circuits that will make portable devices truly unbreakable. So when UK researchers announced they had developed flexible speakers, the latest flexible electronic product to hit headlines, we listened. The ultra thin speakers—appropriately named the Flat, Flexible Loudspeaker (FFL) (pictured left)—is only 0.25mm thick.
The speakers are made of a flexible laminate material that can bend like paper and stick to uneven surfaces—a huge upgrade from the earliest model made primarily of tin foil.
Warwick Audio Technologies, the company commercializing the speakers, claims the newly minted FFLs can produce sounds at 80-105 decibels. The flat design allows sound to travel through the material differently than it does typical boom boxes. When an electrical signal goes through the FFL speakers, it vibrates and sends a rush of air through the whole sound system. So in technical speak, when the air moves through the sheets in bulk mass, planar directional sound waves are created. The resulting sounds are “clearer, crisper, and easier to hear” than traditional speakers.
Put on Paul Lemmens’ made-to-vibrate jacket while you’re watching Slumdog Millionaire, and you’ll feel Jamal’s anxiety as he struggles to find the correct answers. While this jacket won’t mimic the hits in The Wrestler or, thankfully, the bullets in The Matrix, it purports to physically connect viewers to movies by literally sending shivers up their spines.
Philips Electronics unveiled the “motor-studded” jacket at the World Haptics Conference in Salt Lake City in March. It consists of a vibrating device that will let movie buffs empathize with onscreen characters, by letting viewers feel the tense situations when neuroimpulses are sent from their skin to their brains.
The jacket works like this: It’s powered with an array of small motors that send vibrations to 64 actuators spaced throughout the jacket. Controlled by four microprocessors, vibrations are sent to eight actuators spaced evenly down each sleeve and four placed on the front and back of the torso to give the person an illusion that he is being touched all over.