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Aug 19, 2014

How Long Will CDs Actually Last?

Once upon a time, CDs were a shiny new technology with a promise of lasting (nearly) forever. In those halcyon days of the 1990s, museums and symphonies began transferring their archives to CDs—a decision that in retrospect may not have been so wise. The catch is that some CDs are durable and others are not; we just had no way of knowing back then.

On NPR's All Things Considered, Laura Sydell peeks inside the Library of Congress, where archivists are actively researching how long a CD can last. Since the first CD was only made about 30 years ago, the answer is not so easy to figure out. To hasten up the aging process, CDs can be stored in warm and humid boxes, where conditions speed up the chemical reactions that contribute to the CDs' breakdown.

One thing the archivists have noted is that CDs can be of varying quality. Manufacturing standards differ depending on when and by whom a CD was produced. Take the phenomenon of bronzing, for example, which is when a CD's coating breaks down. Michele Youket, a Library of Congress preservation specialist, tells NPR:


"This phenomenon of bronzing was particular to only discs that were manufactured at one particular plant in Blackburn, Lancashire, in England," and only between 1988 and 1993, Youket explains.

"Everyone always wants to know the answer to the same question, 'How long do CDs last? What's the average age?' " Youket says. But "there is no average, because there is no average disc."

But if you want to keep your vintage Britney Spears* CDs from going to rot, storing them in a cool dry place is a good start. Head over to NPR to learn more about CD preservation. More here.

Aug 3, 2014

How To Portion Pasta When You're As Hungry As a T-Rex

The original version of this pasta portioner was a clever play on the phrase "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse." But DOIY Design has improved on the original in every way with a new version featuring a famished T-Rex in pursuit of a fleeing family.

Available starting in October for just over $13, the T-Rex portion probably isn't enough pasta to satiate a starving thunder lizard, but it should be more than enough to feed a family of four. And if there's less of you dining, the man, woman, and child cutouts will let you portion out exactly as much as you need to make growling stomachs extinct. More here.

Jul 30, 2014

A Squeezable "Glass" Water Bottle That Won't Collect Tastes or Smells

A plastic water bottle can survive the rigors of an active lifestyle, but over time it will collect odd smells and flavors that eventually can't be scrubbed out. A glass bottle is a better option, naturally eschewing mold and odors, but one wrong move and suddenly it's a pile of shards. These Squeezable Glass bottles claim to offer the best of both worlds—but have a bit of a misleading claim to fame.

The bottles aren't actually made from some indestructible self-repairing glass material discovered in a secret lab a decade ago; they're plastic, which is why they can be squeezed without shattering. However, the insides of the bottles are coated with an incredibly thin layer of silicon dioxide—which is what glass is made from—that's just 20 nanometers thick. It acts as barrier preventing smells, flavors, mold, and other bad stuff from sticking to the plastic, but it remains completely flexible.

The Squeezable Glass bottles' inner layer will never rub off, but even if it were to, silicon dioxide is FDA-approved for direct food contact, and it naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables. That added layer of protection also means these bottles can be just tossed in the dishwasher for cleaning, and they start at just $15 with a seventeen-year warranty, which will have you wondering why anyone would ever consider a Nalgene or Camelbak ever again. More here.

Jul 26, 2014

The Pirate Bay Is Now Mobile-Optimized

The Pirate Bay, the infamous peer-to-peer file sharing website, has provided only the finest in illegal torrents for more than a decade, but it's never been known for handsome mobile design. The torrent team has finally come up with a "mobile-friendly" version of its notorious website, in case you've ever wanted to torrent on the go.

Called The Mobile Bay, this new mobile-conscious design provides the same legally dubious amenities, just in a more appealing package. No longer do you have to zoom in just to read the normal Pirate Bay site jammed into your handset. The iconic pirate ship logo is still there, front and center, only now sections are optimized for touching instead of clicking.
"The normal version of the site renders like crap on mobile devices," The Pirate Bay team told TorrentFreak, and they won't hear any arguments from us. The Mobile Bay is the first major design change to the website in its 10-year existence.

However, when it comes to torrenting from your smartphone, not all devices are created equal. Blackberry and Android users can find lots of clients, but if you have an iPhone, you'll need to jailbreak it first to enjoy The Mobile Bay's torrent benefits.

In my few minutes spent navigating The Mobile Bay, I was pushed to a pop-up ad that redirected me to the app store to buy a game called Jelly Splash. I'm not sure if mobile torrenting is my thing. More here.

Jul 22, 2014

This Simple Contraption Lets You Make 100 Water Balloons Every Minute


Like with nuclear war, a water balloon fight isn't about pinpoint accuracy. What's most important is raining down as much soakage on your opponent as quickly as possible. Which means that the Bunch O Balloons, which promises to let you make 100 throw-ready water balloons every minute, could be the most important addition to your summertime arsenal.

The Bunch O Balloons looks like a green 37-armed octopus with tiny empty balloons hanging off of every tentacle. The whole thing attaches to the end of a garden house and when the water's turned on the balloons all automatically fill at the same time. When full they're all easily dislodged with a simple shake, while small black elastics automatically seal them shut.

Bunch O Balloons' creator, Josh Malone, is attempting to raise $10,000 on Kickstarter to put his invention into production. With a pledge of just $15 you can get a single pack which includes three hose attachments and a total of 100 water balloons—just add water.

It's certainly more expensive than buying a bag of normal balloons, until you factor in the hours spent manually filling and tying 100 of them. Suddenly, $15 sounds like a reasonable investment if it keeps your kids occupied for an entire summer afternoon. More here.

Jul 21, 2014

Scientists Can Now Cut HIV Out of Human DNA

HIV is a sneaky virus. Its MO involves integrating its own genes into your DNA, so that even as antiretrovirals hold everything in check, HIV lurks quietly inside your cells. Now scientists have found a way to edit the virus straight out of the human genome—a potential cure for even latent infections.

Genome editing is powerful technique that has really come into its own lately, thanks to aremarkable DNA-cutting protein that easily and precisely cuts out a particular DNA sequence. In fact, genome editing been used to treat HIV before. Earlier this year, another group used genome editing to cut out the DNA sequence of a particular human protein the HIV virus latches onto.

The latest study, from Kamel Khalili at Temple University, uses a similar technique but to different ends. Rather than editing human genes, it goes straight for HIV. Khalili's team showed that the protein could excise copies of the HIV genome from immune cells such as microglia and T cells. It also seemed to prevent any new HIV infection.

The research is still very new, so of course there are challenges to getting something that worked in a petri dish to work in a human. On the whole, very few cells in the human body are latently infected by HIV; how to you make sure the genome editing gets to those cells? And how do you make sure the protein never goes excising where it shouldn't?

But if those challenges are solved, genome editing could be a big step toward an actual cure for HIV. Except for a couple cases involving bone marrow transplants, a cure has been notoriously elusive. HIV hides itself by basically editing your genome—it makes sense that a cure could involve editing your genome, too. More here.