Mar 31, 2013

What If The Sun Disappeared?

This is actually a pretty great thought experiment. At first it might seem kind of pointless to talk about what would happen if the sun vanished, but it doesn't actually result in the immediate destruction of everything. Which is weird. Vsauce walks through a pretty nuanced description of how earth's natural systems would slowly fail, but over weeks and even years, not seconds. The cold would get us in the end, but extremophiles that live in deep sea volcanoes and thermal vents could survive for billions of years.

Mar 30, 2013

Scrambling Eggs Inside Its Shells to Make Scrambled Hard Boiled Eggs Looks So Fun

Here's a fun little cooking trick for you to try: scramble eggs inside its shell so that you can make scrambled hard boiled eggs. Meaning the entire egg will be perfectly golden all around. Delicious!

A Sculpture Made of 10,000 Balloons Redefines Balloon Art

Jason Hackensworth is a balloon artist, but not the kind that wears oversized shoes and has been the villain in a 1990 horror movie. He's known for his balloon sculptures of biological forms and creatures, like this anemone-like sculpture, currently on display in the Grand Gallery of the National Museum of Scotland as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

The installation is called Pisces. Made from 10,000-balloons, it's Hackensworth's interpretation of the Greek legend of Aphrodite and her son Eros escaping the monster Typhon by becoming a pair of intertwined fish. The image of the duo was later immortalized in the sky as the constellation Pisces. It took Hackensworth and his team nearly a week to blow up the balloons then weave them all together into this towering creation. Imagine how many balloons popped in the process. Anyway, it came together to create this amazing sculpture, which is on display through April 14. It's much more impressive than your average balloon animal. More here.

Mar 29, 2013

A Batman Coffee Table Bruce Wayne Wish He Had

Because we all dreamed about being Bruce Wayne once upon a time (or to this day), here's something you can get that he could never: a batman logo coffee table. Made by Charles Lushear of the Bohemian Workshop, the coffee table is carved from wood with hairpin legs and is a must for any comic book geek still living with his parents or someone who has a really understanding girlfriend (or boyfriend).

The bad news? You can't actually buy the Bat signal coffee table. DC Comics found out about Lushear's beautiful wood work and only allows him to display it on his website. Still, it's comforting knowing that at least one man can pretend to be Bruce Wayne. More here.

Mar 28, 2013

With an Arched Bookshelf You’re Never At Risk of an Avalanche

Designer Ivan Zhang has the perfect solution for anyone who's tired of angling the last book on a shelf so the rest of them don't perpetually fall over. Instead of some space-wasting bookend, he's simply added graceful arching shelves to this piece which tasks gravity with keeping them all standing.

The arched shelves also provide structural support, constantly pushing outwards which keeps the folding frame from collapsing when it's set up. And while function is definitely leading the way with this design, form is not far behind since the curved shelves don't look too bad either. More here.

Mar 27, 2013

Google Translate Will Now Work Without the Internet on Your Android Phone

Google Translate for Android will now offer downloadable offline language packs. So now when you're staring at a weird sign in a country where you don't speak the language, your phone will actually be able to help you.

This solves one of the hugely obvious problems with the translation app. When you're traveling abroad, you usually don't have access to the Internet. That also happens to be when translations are most useful.

The new language packs will be available in fifty (!) languages. They aren't as comprehensive as the real thing, but you don't need to translate fine literature. You just need to find the bathroom. More here.

A Wooden Chair That’s As Comfy As a Cushion

Whether at school, at the DMV, or at an over-crowded family get-together; we've all done time sitting on a cheap, uncomfortable wooden chair. But it doesn't have to be that way. With just a little flexible polymer added to the mix a wooden chair doesn't need a cushion to be comfy.

J.C. Karich's Rombo Chair is proof of that. The backrest and seat are composed of ash plywood segments connected in a diamond pattern using flexible polymer in between. The results are a chair that's still made of cheap components, but one that flexes under your weight providing an enjoyable spot to sit for a spell. More here.

The Sne Stand Cradles Your iPad In Its Graceful Curve

Each stand is hand-made from Baltic Birch plywood, and in the landscape orientation it holds your iPad at a comfortable 40 degree angle without hindering access to any of its buttons. There are no product shots of it being used in a portrait orientation, but presumably it's not impossible—just not ideal. Only 2,000 of the snes are being produced, which helps explain the $90 price tag for what is essentially a warped piece of wood. More here.

Mar 26, 2013

The Next iOS Needs to Look Like This

App Switcher Concept: Multitasking Redesign for iOS from Jesse Head on Vimeo.

Mar 25, 2013

Graphene Sponges: The New Lightest Material on the Planet

At this point, it'd be more of a surprise if graphene wasn't an integral part of a mind-bending, record-setting new technology. But, of course, it is. Again. Enter the lightest material in the world: graphene aerogel.

Aerogel is nothing new. All made primarily of air, different flavors of aerogel have been one-upping each other for the title of lightest for years now. The previous record holder was aerographite with a density of 0.18 mg/cm3, and now researchers at China's Zhejiang University have made some aerographene, which takes the crown with a density of 0.16 mg/cm3.

Building chunks of the almost-but-not-quite weightless material involves some high-tech freeze drying that can yield graphene sponges of arbitrary size. Professor Gao Chao, the research team's leader, says the process can easily be scaled up to an order of meters. And aside from being less dense than helium—an acheivement in and of itself—aerographene is extremely resilient and can mop up 900 times its weight in oil, making it potentially indispensable as a clean-up sponge.

The sponges may not be as immediately useful as say, terabit-down graphene antennas, but if/when there's another awful oil-spill, aerographene will be worth far more than its weight in awesomeness. Tack it on to the ever-growing list of graphene craziness. Some sort of graphene immortality can't be that far off, right? More here.

Hollow Fiber Optic Tunnels Can Blast Data at Practically the Speed of Light

We all want faster downloads, and developments like graphene antennas promise a speedy future. There is an upper limit—the speed of light—but that should be fast enough, right? Well a new kind of hollow fiber optic cable promises to get us 99.7 percent of the way there.

Developed by researchers at the University of Southampton in England, the new breed of cables makes use of good old-fashioned air to get the data really cooking. Technically, all fiber optic cables transmit data at the speed of light, but the transfer material can slow that down. And while the speed of light in air isn't close to max speed in a vacuum, it beats typical glass handily. Air-cables are 1,000 better than what we've got now, and can hit speeds of 10 terabytes per second.

Air-filled cables aren't a new idea, but in this iteration researchers have vastly improved the way light is bounced around corners, enabling not only blistering speed, but also reasonably low data loss of 3.5 dB/km. That still adds up at a distance though, so these crazy fast cables are most likely destined for supercomputer and data center applications, for now at least. But it's still a gigantic leap towards the ultimate end-game of high-speed data transmission. Then it's just a matter of rollout. More here.

Mar 24, 2013

Finally Someone Stepped Up and Designed A Way To Not Lose MagSafe Adapters

The $10 MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter is annoyingly expensive, but it's better than buying new gear. And now for $15 you can adopt an annoyingly expensive, but ingenious way to keep track of the tiny dongle. It's the Apple way.

The MagSafe Adapter Key Ring, created by Jonathan Bobrow, is 3D printed from stainless steel and uses the MagSafe converter's internal magnet to hold everything together. Bobrow claims that the magnet is much stronger than people might think, because usually we create torque from the charger cable to get it off.

There were some blissful years when MagSafes abounded and anyone who had a Macbook could find solace in a stranger at Starbucks if they lost their charger or their way. But in these treacherous, next-gen days only a steady diet of cash and 3D printing can save you. More here.

Mar 23, 2013

It Took Five Years To Make a Beautiful Android Phone

Android has become an enormous success in part by appealing to a lot of people who don't prioritize aesthetics. It's no wonder it's been ugly for half a decade. But finally, it's spawned a truly gorgeous object for everyone: the HTC One.

Google's take on phones was never meant to be pretty—it was just supposed to do all the things the iPhone could. All that mattered was that big touchscreen, and Computer Lite™ things like email and internet. And it did! It was rough, but hey, so was the first iPhone.

But as the software advanced into a fantasy cartoon playground for people who care about custom ROMs and spending hours tinkering with settings, the hardware stalled. Every new Android phone was like every other Android phone—and not in an Ah, slight refinement! way. Just a lazy way. Just a, Hey, let's make this part red now way. All smartphones are basically just glass rectangles, but the Android lineage has never cared to be anything more—never put any attention into powdering its pedestrian little face. More here.

Mar 22, 2013

You Should Wear a Red Shirt on Your Online Dating Profile

If you want to improve your chance of getting a date on any online dating site, you should wear a red shirt. Slate took a look at various studies comparing the same person wearing different colored clothes and each time, red was the most successful color. Do it. Change your online profile now.

It's like the secretly effective scarlet letter. One study showed a picture of the same woman bordered in different colors and the picture bordered in red was found to be more attractive and sexually appealing. It was the same woman! Another study showed 64 women on online dating sites. Their shirt was rotated between six different colors and red won out again. Slate says:
Twenty-one percent of their emails arrived when they wore red, whereas the other colors-black, white, yellow, green, and blue-attracted 14 to 17 percent of the total.
Moral of the story: wear red. It works for guys too. Read more about why here.

Pepsi’s Plastic Bottle Design Gets a Swirliie

Pepsi has redesigned the shape of its 16-ounce and 20-ounce plastic bottles for the first time in 16 years. Move the arrows on the slider above back and forth to see the a before and after comparison.

The slider isn't meant to be a 1:1 model, of the actual bottle sizes but it gives you an idea of the leaner look Pepsi is going for. The snazzy new shape sure has a refreshing plastic swirl to it, huh? It's more lively than the dated look from 1997.

AdAge reports that the new bottles will begin shipping in April but it could take until the end of the year for the nationwide turnover to be complete. More here.

Mar 21, 2013

A Sleek Clock Radio for Rocking out to Top 40 Hits

Maybe you're old fashioned and you just want to listen to the radio sometimes. Here's Lexon Design's Modern Titanium clock to satisfy your old school desires.

The AM/FM radio is $130 on the Fancy right now. Made out of aluminum (even though it has titanium in the name for some reason), it comes in white and black and has an auto-dimmer switch. It's otherwise simple and basic, but sometimes that's what you're going for. More here.

Mar 20, 2013

One Little Tweak Makes a Vastly Improved Soap Dispenser

There hasn't been much innovation in the soap dispenser world since self-pumping sensor-activated models entered the picture. But those can easily break and/or run out of batteries rendering their hands-free advantages moot. Which is why the simple design improvements of Joseph Joseph's new C-Pump are so brilliant.

The C-shaped dispenser is still manually operated, but it lets you use the back of your hand, which is presumably not the side that needs cleaning, to help minimize the spread of germs. After all, how often do you really clean the pump dispenser that you touched before washing your hands? The answer is probably never. So if for $27 you don't pass along that cold to someone else, the C-Pump design is more than worth its weight in liquid soap. More here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have Left the Solar System

For the very first time, a man-made object has reached the cosmic abyss beyond the farthest reaches of our solar system. As of today, Voyager 1 is the first spacecraft to begin the endless journey into deep space.

Launched way back on September 5th, 1977, Voyager 1 has been blasting along towards the edges of the heliosphere at 10.72 mile per second, faster than any other man-made object to date. On its way out there, it explored Jupiter in '79 and Saturn in '80. We've known Voyager 1 was going to peace out sooner or later, but now a study in published Geophysical Research Letters has made it official.

From the release:
Thirty-five years after its launch, Voyager 1 appears to have travelled beyond the influence of the Sun and exited the heliosphere, according to a new study appearing online today.
The heliosphere is a region of space dominated by the Sun and its wind of energetic particles, and which is thought to be enclosed, bubble-like, in the surrounding interstellar medium of gas and dust that pervades the Milky Way galaxy.
Voyager 1 isn't headed toward any particular star, but it'll be making a "close" (1.6 lightyear) flyby past Gliese 445 in just 40,000 years. Don't expect to hear about that though; strategic shutdown of its sensors will start in 2020, and by 2030, there won't be any power left. But there will be a little—albeit lifeless—bit of humanity cruising endlessly among the stars. And that's awesome, in the most literal way. More here.

Mar 19, 2013

Science, Not Magic, Guarantees You’ll Never Get Lost Wearing This Pendant

In what could be the most stylish camping accessory ever created, Meister designed this gold and titanium pendant that transforms into a functioning compass. So whether you're deep in the woods, or strutting down a runway, you'll theoretically never get lost with some basic survival skills. That, and just over $3,000 for the pendant. I'll stick with hunting for moss on a tree. More here.

This Desk Assembles With Nothing But Manual Labor

If you end up doing more harm than good when tools are around, you'll love Fraaheid's collection of easy-assembling tables designed by a trio of Amsterdam-based architects. Cut from a single sheet of plywood, the tables use a series of strategic slots and grooves to assemble in less than three minutes without the need for a single hammer, screw driver, or roll of duct tape.

Ranging in price from $165 to $1,156 you'll pay dearly for convenience here. But the use of exposed seams and visible t-shaped joints on all of the tables in the collection at least ensure you'll have a unique piece in your home or office. And all of your fingers intact. More here.

UAE Opens Biggest Solar Power Station In The World

The Shams Power Company opened their Shams 1 concentrated solar power station this week in Abu Dhabi. The station generates 100 MW and can power 20,000 homes while reducing CO2 emissions by 175,000 tons per year.

Not to be outdone, two companies in California proposed solar towers yesterday that will generate 500 MW and power about 200,000 homes. But the Shams 1 project still holds the biggest solar station title for now. The project took about two years and $600 million to build. Shams 1 has 258,048 parabolic mirrors that collect sunlight which hits heat-transfer fluid and then flows through tubes to a heat exchanger. This process creates steam, which powers turbines to generate electricity.

On the energy front, the United Arab Emirates is mostly known for oil and natural gas, but that doesn't mean they can't build the largest solar station in the world in two years. Look, if you have the desert space you might as well go big. More here.

Mar 18, 2013

An iPhone in Different Colors Looks Fantastically Fun

People want choices! People want colors! People want to obsess over the perfect hue of yellow, have dreams about how to describe cyan and flash their Ferrari red iPhone on the street. I'm sure if Apple ever released these phones, a black or white iPhone would look as outdated as a black and white TV. Okay, maybe not that bad. But still, dripping the iPhone in any sort of colored dye would make those people who slap chintzy cases from China go nuts.

Would you want an iPhone to come in different colors? What about at least having the option to choose a different color? More here.

Mar 17, 2013

Geometric Coat Racks Play Tricks on Your Eyes

These coat racks are deceiving. On first glance, you can't quite tell if they're 2D or 3D, as if you'd lost all depth of field.

The collection—designed by John Tony from +tongtong—is called Les Ailes Noires. It includes 11 different geometric-shaped racks that are supposed to stand alone and lean against the wall or lie on a flat surface. They're so simple, but the way they react to light and shadow draws your eye to them. If only geometry had been this interesting—and practical—when you were learning it in school. More here.

Mar 16, 2013

Making Salt Water Drinkable Just Got 99 Percent Easier

Access to steady supplies of clean water is getting more and more difficult in the developing world, especially as demand skyrockets. In response, many countries have turned to the sea for potable fluids but existing reverse osmosis plants rely on complicated processes that are expensive and energy-intensive to operate. Good thing, engineers at Lockheed Martin have just announced a newly-developed salt filter that could reduce desalinization energy costs by 99 percent.

The Reverse Osmosis process works on a simple principle: molecules within a liquid will flow across a semipermeable membrane from areas of higher concentration to lower until both sides reach an equilibrium. But that same membrane can act as a filter for large molecules and ions if outside pressure is applied to one side of the system. For desalinization, the process typically employs a sheet of thin-film composite (TFC) membrane which is made from an active thin-film layer of polyimide stacked on a porous layer of polysulfone. The problem with these membranes is that their thickness requires the presence of large amounts of pressure (and energy) to press water through them.

Lockheed Martin's Perforene, on the other hand, is made from single atom-thick sheets of graphene. Because the sheets are so thin, water flows through them far more easily than through a conventional TFC. Filters made through the Perforene process would incorporate filtering holes just 100 nm in diameter—large enough to let water molecules through but small enough to capture dissolved salts. It looks a bit like chicken wire when viewed under a microscope, John Stetson, the Lockheed engineer credited with its invention, told Reuters. But ounce for ounce, its 1000 times stronger than steel.

"It's 500 times thinner than the best filter on the market today and a thousand times stronger," Stetson explained to Reuters. "The energy that's required and the pressure that's required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less."

Lockheed is reportedly already ramping up production efforts for the filters—and trying to find a way to keep them from tearing—though there are no announced plans on when they'd hit the market. More here.

Mar 14, 2013

Measuring Beakers Make Your Kitchen Into the Lab You Always Wanted

Baking is pretty much basic science, so you might as well use some measuring beakers in the process. And they're a lot more exciting than your run of the mill measuring spoons and cups.

The awesome, colorful set comes in 1-ounce, 2-ounce, tablespoon, and teaspoon sizes for $10. It's made by Oxo, the same company behind plenty of clever cooking accessories. You might never be a chemist, but you can at least play one in the kitchen. More here.

Here Are the Samsung Galaxy S IV’s Guts

Samsung is just about to announce the Galaxy S IV but the same Chinese site that showed us in clear detail what the S IV will look like on the outside has decided to pry open the giant superphone and expose its innards too. An 8-core processor, 13 megapixel camera and motion detector too. You can peep all the guts here.

These Earbuds Will Make It Look Like a Pencil Is Sticking Through Your Brain

When someone puts on earbuds, they're pretty much telling the rest of the world to not bother them. It's the universal symbol for shut the hell up. But if someone put on this Magic Pencil earbuds? That's a conversation starter. I mean, these earbuds make it look like a pencil has been stabbed in one ear and out the other. They're hilarious!

I'd totally extend this motif and get an arrow, a knife, a sword, a lightsaber and whatever else long and slender object to make it look like my brains been sliced. $50 at Fancy. More here.

Mar 13, 2013

Build This Lego Leica M9-P Hermes and Save Yourself $49,962

Lego master builder Chris McVeigh has cooked up a playful alternative to Leica's obscenely and pointlessly expensive $50,000 M9-P ‘Edition Herm├Ęs'. The Lego version doesn't actually take photos, but you'll also pay only $38 for a kit if you can't scrounge all the parts needed to assemble it.

Or, if your Lego stocks already have every piece you need, you can save yourself even more money by just downloading the PDF build instructions McVeigh has kindly provided on his site. Oh and if you don't like the Hermes Edition, you can always build the standard model by just switching up your color palette. More here.

Bear Grylls and Kyocera Torque do the Business of Survival

Mar 12, 2013

Adding Spinning Dials To a Rubik’s Cube Is Downright Evil

Unless you're some kind of prodigy who can solve one while juggling, making pancakes, and whistling Dixie, the Rubik's cube is already difficult enough. So why on earth would someone go and add a numbered, spinning dial to each side? That's just sadistic.

You could argue that Brando's $80 Roulette Wheel IQ Cube is actually a simpler version of the standard Rubik's Cube since it only features four segments per side. But it's the addition of that dial that takes the difficulty level from child's play to Mensa challenge. However, no matter how scrambled it might become, as long as these manufacturers keep cheaping out and using decals instead of paint, it's just a couple of hours of peeling and re-sticking to easily 'solve' it again. More here.

Mar 11, 2013

Clip-On Recorder Simplifies Everything But the Legality Of Recording a Phone Call

Recording a conversation on your smartphone isn't as easy as you think it would be. Varying state-by-state laws make the legality a bit of a gray area, and if you don't have access to the free Google Voice service, you're going to have pay a monthly fee to capture a call. Or, put up with the U2 Mobile Recorder hanging off your handset.

In a round-about way the $134 U2 Mobile Recorder simplifies the act of recording a call on your iPhone or Android-based device. You just plug it into the top-mounted headphone jack of any phone except the iPhone 5, and hit record. Four gigs of non-expandable storage should be able to hold up to 144 hours of conversations, and a USB port allows the recordings to be dumped off to your PC. It's also got its own headphone jack for immediately transcribing a conversation, and on a single charge it can record or play back for about 20 hours. Which is perfect for even the most long-winded of snitches. More here.

Electronic Sensor Tattoos Can Now Be Printed Directly Onto Human Skin

Thanks to the same people that brought us the stick-on electric tattoo and stretchable battery, we're now looking at a future of electronic sensors that can be printed directly onto human skin.

At least for now, it seems like the sensors will be mainly used for medical purposes; they'll be able to monitor skin hydration, temperature, and any electric signals from muscle and brain activity. And unlike their stick-on precursor, these skin-printed tattoos don't use the easily-washed-off polymer backing, which as it turns out, wasn't even necessary in the first place.

Instead, the Rogers research group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that, by printing the electronic mesh directly onto skin, the sensor (which is held together and remains flexible thanks to special serpentine wires) becomes 1/30 the size and even conforms better to that body's natural bumps and curves. With the help of a "very robust" spray-on bandage, that sucker has a good two weeks before it begins to flake off. Of course, a longer shelf-life would require embedding the device underneath the top layer of skin, just like a real tattoo. In which case—uh oh—I'm pretty sure I know how that movie ends.

Still, with these advances and the current massive interest in wearable, body-monitoring tech, it's only a matter of time before health-tracking diehards demand taking wearable to within. What's more, these sensors could even be hooked up to interact with any number of external devices. The possibilities are truly exciting, and in a certain light, mildly terrifying. But whether we're ready for it not, the future, it seems, is here. More here.

A Snail USB Drive Is the Most Adorable USB Drive

The 8BG drive is $22. At first glance, you don't even really expect it to be a tech accessory. It's all one piece—the mouth of the critter is the cap on the drive, so you don't need to worry about losing the top, which always seems to get away. It's functional, and more importantly, very adorable. More here.

Mar 10, 2013

How Your Blender Uses Physics to Make a Smoothie

Mar 9, 2013

4-In-1 Measuring Spoon Leaves You One Thing To Wash

On one hand, the Dash 4-in-1 measuring spoon from Umbra reduces drawer clutter, leaves you with just a single tool to wash, and looks pretty snazzy in the process with its avocado finish. On the other hand, if you've multiple ingredients to measure, particularly wet ones, at some point you're going to probably end up getting your hands dirty touching this. Then again, at $8 a pop you can always just buy two. More here.

Mar 8, 2013

The Science of Aging

Carry a Tiny Supernova In Your Pocket With the Ultra-Bright LED Lenser F1

You might think all flashlights are created equal, but don't tell that to a flashaholic. There are large online communities of flashlight aficionados who take their illumination very seriously, and there's a good chance even they'll be impressed by LED Lenser's new F1 which manages to squeeze a whopping 400 lumens from a single CR123 battery.

It's true that CR123 batteries aren't as easy to find in stores as regular old AAs, but it's a fair trade-off. What you sacrifice in convenience, you gain in longer runtimes and greater illumination. CR123 batteries use a lithium-cell inside instead of alkaline, and output three volts instead of the 1.5 volts from a AA battery. So it allows flashlights like the F1 to blast an impressive 400 lumens while still boasting excellent battery life.

Of course you don't have to run the F1 at full power. You can extend its battery life even further by dimming its LED bulb to its lowest setting. But if you're going to drop $80 on it, you might as well go big or go home. More here.

Flexible Flat-Pack Furniture That Actually Looks Pretty Comfy

What you gain in convenience when opting for flat-pack furniture from stores like Ikea, you lose in comfort. But with a clever enough design, it turns out that your flat-pack seating can actually look comfortable and inviting—as South Africa-based Wintec's Stratflex line demonstrates.

At first glance it's hard to believe these contoured curvaceous pieces actually came from a box. But thanks to the use of strips of flexible polymer embedded in the various panels, when disassembled all of the various components will lie completely flat. And by incorporating grids of the flexible polymer into the surfaces where people sit, the seats are actually just as easy on your butt as they are on your eyes. Now if they only didn't range in price from $185 for a simple chair, to $1,500 for a three-person love seat. More here.

Mar 7, 2013

The World’s Smallest Automatic Umbrella

The Weather Channel reporters, with all their talk of Doppler radars and satellites and fear mongering weather graphics, are, in the end, just a bunch of liars. They may say you're in for sunny skies, but just hours later you'll find yourself beneath a torrential downpour, umbrella-less and unprepared. Hammacher Schlemmer has finally found a solution to the unreliable virus that is The Weather Channel in the form of the pocketable, keep-it-with-you-at-all-times World's Smallest Automatic Umbrella.

Measuring in at a mere 8 inches long when fully closed, the teeny tiny umbrella can actually open up to a full 40 inches in diameter, shielding you from whatever the heavens hurl your way. And from the look of its guts, small doesn't have to mean flimsy; it's packing a steel shaft, ribs, and stretchers that have—supposedly—been tested to withstand winds better than other, even larger compact umbrellas. Although, given some of the crap out there masquerading as rain protection, that may not be saying much. Still, $30 isn't bad for a fully automatic, pocket-sized umbrella that you can keep on your person at essentially all times. More here.

Rats Communicate With Each Other By Sniffing

Next time you see animals sniffing in each other's presence, there might be more happening than you expect. New research suggests that a humble intake of breath actually allows rats to communicate with each other.

In a series of experiments, carried out at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, researchers used radio telemetry recordings of nasal respiration to identify how rats reacted when others sniffed in their direction.

The results, published in Current Biology, suggest that when rats of a higher status sniff in the direction of other rats, subordinates decrease their breathing rate. The researchers claim it's akin to the rats saying "don't mind me." Daniel Wesson, the lead researcher, explains:
"We know that rats and other animals can communicate through vocalizations, physical contact, odors, and also visual displays. To find that there was an undiscovered form of communication these animals had been using right in front of us this whole time was truly a neat experience."
In fact, when smaller rats failed to lower their breathing rate, dominant rats would often attack them! All of which suggests that there is far, far more to the simple sniffing that animals do than we may have previously thought—and that might help us understand the complex communication systems used by animals more clearly. Dr Doolittle would be proud. More here.

Mar 6, 2013

A Graphene Antenna Could Give Us Wireless Terabit Uploads in One Second

Wireless uploads of big files take for-ev-er. But researchers at Georgia Tech Universityhave plans for an antenna made of crazy thin graphene that would let you transfer a whole terabit of data in just one second.

Within a couple of feet, researchers could move a terabit per second, but in theory, from a closer range, you could move as much as 100 terabits a second. That's about 100 high-def movies in less time than it takes you make a cup of coffee. Graphene, you crazy.

MIT Technology Review explains how the antenna would be made:
Graphene could be shaped into narrow strips of between 10 and 100 nanometers wide and one micrometer long, allowing it to transmit and receive at the terahertz frequency, which roughly corresponds to those size scales. Electromagnetic waves in the terahertz frequency would then interact with plasmonic waves-oscillations of electrons at the surface of the graphene strip-to send and receive information.
Of course, this is just the preliminary groundwork on a piece of tech that doesn't exactly exist yet. Next the Georgia Tech group will have to figure out manufacturing, and how to make the necessary components—signal generators, amplifiers, and so forth—so the antennas will actually work. But the thought of lightning-fast wireless downloads is enough to be a little excited for the future. More here.

These Klipsch Earphones Are Your Cheap-But-Decent Deal of the Day

If you want decent audio on the go and don't want a pair of clunky over-ear headphones, a great choice is the Klipsch S4i. $45 dollars nets you a pair of black Klipsch S4i earbuds with free shipping. This is the version with a remote and mic, and it usually retails for $60 and up elsewhere, and it's even priced lower than the remoteless version. If you had a feeling your stock earbuds weren't quite cutting it, today's a great day to give the S4i a shot. More here.

Mar 5, 2013

Finger-Shaped Tacks: Handy in the Creepiest Way Possible

Do you have piles of miscellaneous papers scattered haphazardly around your home? Are you Russel Crowe in A Beautiful Mind? If any of the above apply to you, these thumb tacks taken literally may be exactly what you're looking for.

The all-white, phalangeal tacks are a clever, easy way to add some fun to any bulletin board, photo collage, or paranoid barrage of highlighted newspaper clippings. You can even arrange them into a five-finger pattern, giving you your very own hand to sort of kind of hold—no real human required. You can pick these particular ones up for $10 at Handy-Thumbs. More here.

A Map That Shows How Salty the Seas Are

Some briny deeps are brinier than others. The Atlantic Ocean has two huge "deserts" of extra-salty water, the result of little rainfall and lots of evaporation.

These tangy tracts have been revealed by NASA's Aquarius instrument, which is aboard Argentina's Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft and is dedicated to studying the salt content of the oceans.

NASA has just released the first year of data from Aquarius, running from December 2011 to December 2012. In the image above, red and orange areas are very salty, while green and blue areas are less so.

Patterns of salinity are expected to change over the coming decades as the climate shifts, with knock-on effects for major currents and regional sea level rise. More here.

Mar 4, 2013

Microsoft Might Owe Denmark More Than $1 Billion in Unpaid Tax

A new report by Denmark's national broadcasting corporation, DR, suggests that Microsoft owes the country over $1 billion in unpaid tax.

The report claims that Ballmer and co owe the Danish Treasury a total of 5.8 billion kroner, a hangover from the 2002 acquisition of Danish financial software company Navision. The OS giant sold rights to some of Navision's software to it Microsoft's Irish subsidiary at a suspiciously low price so that it could transfer valuable assets out of Denmark—where taxes are high.

Now, the Danish Treasury is chasing Microsoft all the way to Redmond to try and claw back billions in taxes and interest. It remains to be seen how successful that will be. More here.

Bring the Drive-Thru to Your Kitchen with this Instant Breakfast Sandwich Tower

Breakfast sandwiches are one of the best ways you can start the day (taste-wise, at least). But they tend to be logistically difficult. Either you've got to take the time to carefully assemble one, or pay some scruffy, minimum-wage employee to make one for you. Hamilton Beach's Breakfast Sandwich Maker merges the best of both worlds.

A cleverly stacked arsenal of cooking-spaces, the Breakfast Sandwich maker makes multi-tasking a priority. The tower of chow cooks your egg in one compartment on the top, warms a slice of pre-cooked meat in the middle, and warms your cheese and other assorted fillings in a spot of the bottom. All between two English muffins for easy removal. And all this in five minutes or less.

Hamiliton Beach is releasing its breakfast baby into the wild later this month for the reasonable price of $30.  More here.

Can This iPhone 5 Case Really Boost Your Wi-Fi Reception?

If you're stuck with a limited iPhone data plan and rely heavily on Wi-Fi to avoid overage charges, spending $50 to vastly improve your reception when leeching from free hotspots might sound like a real bargain. That is, if the Linkase manages to deliver on its promise of boosting Wi-Fi reception by as much as 50 percent.

So how does it work? Well, that's a bit of a gray area that seems to border on snake oil. The case uses a technology called EMW—or electro magnetic waveguide—to boost your iPhone 5's signal snatching capabilities. But from the Linkase's website, that actually seems to be a combination of a case that prevents your fingers from touching and covering the iPhone's antenna, and an additional extending antenna that increases its reception prowess. Given this was the form factor for many handsets before the iPhone arrived, it's not that surprising that it works. But does anyone really want to go back to having something sticking out of their sleek handsets? More here.

Mar 3, 2013

Your 3D Printer Could Eat Empty Milk Jugs Instead of Expensive Plastic

Oh 3D printing. You're so glamorous. You're so cool. But, let's be honest, you're soooo expensive. Maybe instead of printing with $30 spools of plastic you could print with empty shampoo bottles and milk jugs. Oh, you can do that? See, this is why everyone loves you.

Researchers at Michigan Technological University have created a plastic extruder, called Filabot, that turns home recyclables into usable filament for 3D printing. Basically the machine takes 4-inch pieces of plastic and shreds them, before melting the plastic and extruding it through changeable nozzles, and shaping it for use in printers. Filabot works with thermoplastics like HDPE, LDPE, ABS, and NYLON, though PVC is out because of, you know, serious toxicity risks and stuff. The group calculated that Filabot uses a tenth of the energy needed to recycle empty bottles to produce its filament.

The first model, the Filabot Reclaimer, is in production now. The unassembled Filabot sold on Kickstarter for $350 so pricing will probably be in that range. This thing could really be worth it for avid 3D printers, and could drive down costs for hackerspaces and other groups. More here.

Mar 2, 2013

A Sailboat Napkin Holder Is the Most Clever Napkin Holder

Napkin holders! Oh sure grandma, I'd love to see your collection of antique napkin holders. Okay, yes boring topic, right? Nope, not when your napkin holder turns into a sailboat when you pop actually napkins in it like this one.

This ceramic vessel is all kinds of adorable. And it doesn't scream HEY THIS IS A NAUTICAL THEME. I love it. It's $31, and would probably make a good gift, not just for grandmas. More here.

An Umbrella Made of Cork to Plug Up the Rain

Totally sustainable, naturally impermeable, and protector of drinkables, cork is an incredible thing. But more than being functional, it's all the rage with the kids these days! And we can see why. This newly unveiled cork umbrella from Pelcor is lovely to look at but with the added, smug bonus of knowing your all-natural shield is renewable, too.

And for the burgeoning cork enthusiast, Pelcor has an entire collection of cork-based goods for your perusal. You can check them out right over here.

Mar 1, 2013

Reinforce Your Wardrobe With a Industrial-Strength Rebar Hanger

Is all your bad-ass clothing just too much for those flimsy, plastic, run-of-the-mill hangers. Do your pants or shirts, weighted as they are with pounds of pure awesomeness, need something more structurally sound to keep them in order? The "Man Hanger" suits your very strange needs.

Made from real, industrial-grade rebar, hand-bent into shape (somehow), and coated to prevent rust and corrosion, the Man Hanger is a marriage of strength and finesse fit to support those clothes that bring out both your softer side and your inner tough guy. That is, if you have any pants that fit that well.

Granted, "Man Hanger" is a god-awful name, and at $25 one Man Hanger is roughly twice as expensive as 40lbs of actual rebar (including shipping!), but unless you can bend steel, this is your only choice. Do you really need to drop that much on something that belongs in the closet and under clothes? Probably not. But damned if we don't want one. Or 12. More here.

Drink Like a Pixie WIth This Adorable Leaf-Shaped Cup

Unless you're completely snobbish about only consuming bottled water, this cute silicone cup—crafted in the shape of a leaf—will let you enjoy a drink without having to get your mouth anywhere near a tap, faucet, or bubbling spring. And it's just $12 and washable, so you'll never have to feel guilty about asking for a disposable cup again. More here.