Tag: technology

The Plane Truth: Boarding by Rows Is the Worst Possible Way, Says Physicist

By Joseph Castro | August 29, 2011 3:17 pm

Let’s face it: boarding an airplane with luggage is just downright frustrating. Not only do you have to puzzle out how you are going to wrestle your carry-on bag into the aircraft’s tiny overhead compartment, but you have to do it while trying not to get swept away by the tugging current of other passengers.

“OK, everybody count off!”
Courtesy of Steffen, arXiv

But surely not all boarding procedures are created equal—simply boarding the plane back to front would be the easiest and most efficient method, right? Wrong. In fact, boarding by sequential rows is the worst possible approach (pdf), according to a new study by physicist Jason Steffen of the Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics.

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Not Just Sci-Fi Anymore: Students Create Gesture-Controlled Robot Drones

By Joseph Castro | July 10, 2011 10:58 am

Combining the Kinect‘s body-scanning camera with overhead cameras, students at ETH Zurich’s Flying Machine Arena have created a nifty quadrocopter that’s controlled with simple gestures. Move around your right arm and the drone follows a similar path; raise your left arm and it flips; clap and it lands.

Hey, this is sort of like that sci-fi movie where people virtually controlled robots with just their body movements. It’s the weekend and we can’t think of the film—help us out in the comments section.

(via PopSci)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Laser-Equipped Wheelchairs Let the Blind "See" Obstacles in Their Path

By Patrick Morgan | May 19, 2011 8:56 am

The story of a PhD student weaving his way through a busy university corridor doesn’t usually make for breaking news. But then the average PhD student isn’t wheelchair-bound, visually impaired, and testing a new laser-based wheelchair navigation system. In front of a crowd of onlookers earlier this month, a student performed the first public demonstration of a wheelchair that lets blind people “see” and avoid obstacles, afterward remarking that it was just “like using a white cane” (presumably underselling the technology to blunt the jealousy blooming in the onlookers).

From the user’s perspective, the new high-tech wheelchair is quite simple: You hold a joystick in one hand to drive the motorized chair, while the other hand engages a “haptic interface” that gives tactile feedback warning you about objects in your path, be they walls, fire hydrants, or those mobile collision-makers called people.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

A Toast! To Scottish Homes Powered by Whisky

By Patrick Morgan | May 10, 2011 8:36 am

If you live in Scotland, the same whisky that energize your visits to the pub may also energize your home: Contracts are underway to construct a combined heat and power plant that runs on the leftovers of some of Scotland’s most famous distilleries. Scheduled to be up and running by 2013, this particular alcohol-powered project is Scotland’s first whisky-fueled energy project that will provide electricity to the public.

Sixteen whisky labels located in Speyside, Scotland—including Glenfiddich, Chivas Regal, and Famous Grouse—will contribute material to the new power plant. They’ll transport their  spent grains (or draff) from the distilleries to the biofuel plant, where it’ll be combined with wood chips and burned, generating over 7.0 MW of power. This energy output—about the same as two large wind turbines—is expected to power at least 9,000 homes. In addition, the residue called pot ale, which accumulates in the distilleries’ copper stills, will be turned into animal feed and fertilizer for nearby farmers. Read More

Everything You Wanted to Know About Semen-Collecting Robots (and Then Some)

By Patrick Morgan | May 9, 2011 2:58 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6tJk1dVIfw&feature=related

Ever since last month’s China International Medical Equipment Fair in Shenzhen, China, a curious video (above) has been spreading across the blogosphere. The gadget in question is apparently an automatic sperm collector, an all-in-one machine into which men can donate sperm (hands-free). The video treats the entire subject in a rather ridiculous manner, raising two questions: How does this gadget actually work? And does anyone actually use them?

Today, there are in fact several companies selling automatic sperm collectors on the internet (here, here, and here, for example). Your average sperm-collecting gadget consists of a kiosk with a monitor that provides stimulating visuals (!), complimented by sounds (!!). A little lower is a “semen-collection sheath,” which purportedly simulates the feel and movement of a vagina. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Sex & Mating, Technology Attacks!

Luddites Rejoice! New Glasses Let You Watch 3D Films in 2D

By Patrick Morgan | May 2, 2011 2:00 pm

Eyestrain. Headaches. Nausea. For some people, this is all part of the 3D movie experience. And until now, your choice was to either suffer through 3D; find a cheaper, low-tech theater; or else forgo some new films altogether. But that was before one guy invented 2D Glasses, a pair of specs that converts projected 3D images into 2D (yup, you read that right). It’s touted as a way of preventing eye strain while still enjoying a flick with your 3D-loving friends.

The story starts at the end of 2010, when inventor Hank Green wanted to watch Tron Legacy in 3D with his wife. She confessed that 3D movies give her headaches; Green wanted to see the film in all three dimensions, but didn’t wanted to see it alone, which sparked the idea of modifying 3D glasses into 2D glasses. As Green writes on his website, “after a lot of poking and twisting and gluing and cutting and cursing and sawing, I had created my first pair of 2D Glasses.” He then went to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader in 3D with his wife, and she “could watch the movie in 2D, and even switch to 3D for the action scenes!”

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Can the U.S. Military Shower Trackable Dust Onto Terrorists?

By Patrick Morgan | April 29, 2011 3:29 pm

If the Air Force gets its way, it will have spying eyes hidden in the very motes on its enemies’ boots. In a wonderfully vague request this week, the Air Force called for companies to design miniature drones capable of dusting targets with signal-emitting particles. They say the technology (assuming it works) could be used to identify civilians or track wildlife, which is military-speak for “we want to track and kill terrorists, not bunnies.”

According to the request, the Air Force wants a small remotely piloted aircraft, or SRPA, that would “unobtrusively distribute taggants onto moving targets.” They describe taggants as tiny electro-magnetic-emitting devices. The key part of the request is for the tracked person to not be aware that he’s being tracked. The request makes the laughable point that a swooping SRPA or tracking-device-laden paint ball probably wouldn’t be unobtrusive enough because “the target would obviously notice a swooping SRPA and likely feel the sting of the well-placed pellet.” (Either that, or you’re dealing with one very unaware terrorist.)

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Bonus! New Night-Vision Helmet Lets You See in the Dark AND Look Ridiculous

By Patrick Morgan | April 28, 2011 4:09 pm

The latest state-of-the-art night-vision helmet should probably come with a warning label: “May cause uncontrollable laughter.” Despite its goofy, high-tech-Frankenstein appearance, the helmet actually makes a significant improvement in night vision by doubling the field of view compared to—and making that view much sharper than—the view through current goggles.

Called the High Resolution Night Vision System (HRNVS), these helmets are designed to give U.S. Air Force pilots higher-resolution images and an over-80-degree field of view, which is much better than the fuzzy, 40-degree field of view of conventional goggles. With the helmet in place, a pilot simply flips the viewers over his eyes to peer into the night. Each eyepiece is fed a synced image from two digital night-vision sensors. In addition to seeing more, the pilot also receives a crisper image because the helmet is programmed to enhance edges and contrasts, says SA Photonics, the company that developed the device. And as he spies another aircraft, a HUD-like digital overlay tells him how high it is and how fast it’s moving; and he can even record what he’s seeing as a video.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

My JELL-O Says I'm Pancreatitis-Free

By Patrick Morgan | April 28, 2011 10:42 am

Grad students are a notoriously impoverished group, and so it’s only fitting that one has invented a pancreatitis test using a dollar’s worth of materials. In less than an hour, Reynolds Wrap, JELL-O, and milk can tell you whether you have pancreatitis, a sudden pancreas inflammation that can cause nausea, fever, shock, and even death.

Invented by biochemistry grad student Brian Zaccheo, this match-box-sized test detects high levels of trypsin, a pancreatic enzyme that’s abundant in pancreatitic patients. The diagnosis involves two simple steps: First, you drip some blood from a patient onto a gelatin and milk-protein layer, which breaks down in the presence of trypsin. Second, you add a drop of sodium hydroxide, or lye, which—if the trypsin has reacted through the entire gelatin layer—dissolves the Reynolds wrap that’s underneath the gelatin; the dissolved foil frees up a connection between a magnesium anode and an iron salt cathode, which creates enough current to light a red LED. “In essence, the device is a battery having a trypsin-selective switch that closes the circuit between the anode and cathode,” Zaccheo writes in a paper published in Analytical Chemistry.  The patients know if they have pancreatitis if the LED lights up within an hour.

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Me First! Flesh-Harvesting, Hair-Transplanting Robot Gets FDA Approval

By Patrick Morgan | April 25, 2011 10:31 am

Some bald men are willing to go to great lengths to grow hair, including paying a robot to punch holes through their scalp skin. Recently approved by the FDA, a new robot takes out tiny pieces of your flesh in order to harvest hair follicles that can then be manually implanted into your bald spots.

Dubbed the ARTAS System, this automated robot images your head to single out a follicular unit, and then uses its robotic arm to make 1 mm-diameter “dermal punches” into your scalp. It continues extracting hair follicles from parts of your head that have sufficient amounts of hair (a process known as follicular unit extraction, or FUE), and these bits of flesh and hair are then stored until a doctor implants them into your bald and thinning areas. Within a few months, these newly-planted hairs start growing just like your other ones.

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