Jul 31, 2013

The Insides of Meteorites Are Nature's Stained Glass

On the outside meteorites look like volcanic rocks. But astronomy photographer Jeff Bartoncracks them open to reveal the glittering geodes inside.

Barton—who is the director of Sciences at Cowell, Texas's Three Rivers Foundation—calls the innards of space debris "natural stained glass." He's been collecting these gems since 2004. The photos from this set are from the Allende Meteorites, which rained on the Mexican state of Chihuahua in 1969.

To capture the stunning shots of meteorite guts, Barton cuts the rocks open with a rock saw with a diamond-coated blade. He'll then grind down a stamp-sized piece so thin light can pass through it, like sun through the windows of a cathedral. Photos are subsequently taken with polarizing filters and a DSLR attached to a petrographic microscope. Aren't they just beautiful? I wish I could wear one on a necklace. More here.

Jul 30, 2013

Commercial Drones Are Now Approved for Aerial Surveillance

Creepy drone spying is no longer just the purview of the military in the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration recently cleared two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for commercial use surveilling the Alaskan coast, marking a sharp turn for the future of domestic drone use.

One of the drones, an Insitu Scan Eagle 200, will be used by a "major energy company" for monitoring migrating whales and icebergs off the Alaskan coast, while the other one, an AeroVironment PUMA, will monitor oil spills up in the Beaufort Sea. These are the first of what will surely be a significant number of commercial drones use for aerial surveillance around the country.

The arrival of certified commercial surveillance drones comes as a first step to measures in the FAA Reauthorization Act that President Obama renewed last year calling for new regulations to govern the use of commercial drones by 2015. Until now, drones could only fly with an experimental airworthiness and not for commercial purposes. Although that didn't stop photographers or journalists from using the machines for specialized purposes. Itdid kickstart an entire industry of commercial drone manufacturing to make sure there are UAVs ready for purchase when the FAA gives the go ahead. More here.

This Fixie Uses Two Frames to Make One Bike

This incredible looking bicycle, known as Viks, is a fixed-gear commuter bike with a twist: it actually uses two identically shaped frames to form its body.

Made from sweeping tubes of stainless steel, the two frames flank the wheels and come together at the bottom bracket and head tube to create what—from the side (see below)—looks like a (relatively) normal bicycle. The lack of seat tube adds to the quirky look, and the single-piece fork and handlebar—also made out of stainless steel tubing—look cool if not entirely practical.

Developed by Estonian engineer Indrek Narusk , the design apparently draws on "styling cues from cafe racer-style motorcycles and classic streamlined aesthetics". The bikes are built to order, and pricing depends on customization. They ain't gonna be cheap, though. More here.

Jul 28, 2013

A Plastic iPhone Called The 5C May Really Be On Its Way

This image from Chinese blog WeiPhone looks like a bunch of Apple packaging in a bin. But folks it's so much more! Oh, no, actually that's exactly what it is. No one has been able to legitimize the photo yet, and it could just show some knockoff packaging, but the nomenclature makes sense at least. If the aluminum body upgrade that seems probable for September/October is called the 5S, a cheaper plastic model (also heavily rumored) could be called the 5C where C stands for "color". . . or something.

WeiPhone doesn't really have a track record for directly reporting rumors, but 9to5Macpoints out that the plastic packaging does look similar to the plastic trays in the current iPod Touch boxes. The hamster wheel that is iPhone rumors spins on. More here and here.

Jul 27, 2013

Someone Finally Invented 3D-Printed Inkjet Printer Cartridges

Jul 26, 2013

Here's Every Emoji Being Used on Twitter in Real-Time

Gosh! I wonder which emoji is trending on Twitter right now! I wish there was some sort of online tool that tracked such a thing! Oh, there is! Praise jeebus for!

Why anyone would want to know which emoji is trending in real-time on Twitter is beyond any normal human being's comprehension. But here it is. According to the about page, emojitracker is "an experiment in realtime tracking of all emoji used on twitter." Also, it comes with an epilepsy warning because better safe than sorry. Right? Right.

You Can Build This Boat in Under a Minute

Foldable boats were invented to be convenient — a boat when you want one, a strangely-shaped lump in your garage when you don't. But the convenience is lost when you have to spend the best part of a perfect fishing day trying to assemble the dumb thing. Enter the aptly named Quickboat, which goes from scattered to seaworthy in three minutes if you're working by yourself, and under a minute with a helper.

Disassembled, the boat comes in two carrying bags that should fit on the roof of your family truckster. Fully clicked together, it forms a 12-foot boat with room for four. There's no motor in the bag, but the Quickboat is rated for up to 10 horsepower, for those who don't have kids who need to learn the character-building nature of rowing. And unlike other collapsible boats, the Quickboat's composite Kevlar construction makes for a rigid backbone on the water.

The boat will officially launch (that's boatin' humor, son) at the Sydney International Boat Show on August 1st, at a price just over $4,000. The company hopes to have them sailing our way in summer 2014. More here.

Jul 25, 2013

This Is What Photosynthesis Looks Like From Space

Google Can Now Translate Handwritten Notes

Say you have some scribbles in an unfamiliar language you want to translate. Better find a native speaker. Or you could just turn to Google Translate, which now supports handwritten translation in 45 different languages.

It's insanely simple. Go to the Google Translate page, select the language you're working with, and go to the menu on the bottom left of the input window and select the pencil icon. You can then write out what you're trying to translate, and Google will interpret. You could definitely see this being useful for translating notes or symbols from character-based languages if you don't know how to actually type the word on your keyboard.  More here.

Scientists Just Discovered a New Force That's Stronger Than Gravity

Scientists have long known that blackbodies produce radiation and that radiation creates a repulsive effect. However, according to a new study there's another force at play, one that acts a bit like gravity and attracts objects to the blackbody. They're calling it "blackbody force."

Blackbodies, celestial objects that are perfectly non-reflective, shift the atomic energy of molecules around them in what's known as the Stark effect. This occurs when the electric field created by the blackbody radiation sends photons into surrounding molecules and atoms that often create the repulsive energy we're used to seeing around blackbodies. However, if the energy level of the photon is just right and the radiating blackbody is less than about 6,000-degrees Kelvin, it creates an attractive force that's greater than the radiation pressure and, in some cases, greater than the force of gravity.

This new blackbody force only affects the smallest particles in the universe, though it has an effect on basic astrophysical scenarios. The Austrian team of scientists that discovered the force are particularly interested in how it affects cosmic dust. "These sub-micron-sized grains play an important role in the formation of planets and stars or in astro-chemistry," M. Sonnleitner at the University of Innsbruck told PhysOrg. "Apparently there are some open questions on how they interact with surrounding hydrogen gas or with each other. Right now we are exploring how this additional attractive force affects the dynamics of atoms and dust."

Scientists have so far had a hard time replicating the effect in a laboratory, but when they do, they hope it will shed light on some fundamental questions of astrophysics. At the very least, it will be pretty cool to see a new force at work, even if it only works on tiny things. More here.

Jul 24, 2013

This $200 Brute Force Bot Will Bust Your Phone's Pin in Hours

Your Android phone is not safe. This 3D-printed robot systematically tries all of the possible lock screen PINs for your phone until it gets in. With your standard four-digit number, your phone is compromised in under a day. If only you'd had an iPhone!

The Robotic Reconfigurable Button Basher will be presented by researchers at the Black Hat conference next week in Las Vegas. Besides being able to crack an Android device's lock screen PIN, Forbes reports that the researchers behind the open-source bot are working on adapting the technology to work on any security system that requires a PIN—say a hotel safe or an ATM.

Now, of course, there is a very simple way to counter the assault of this robot, which is to employ security systems that prevent brute force attacks by simply blocking excessive attempts at busting the code. iOS, for example, will lock you out to the point where you need outside help to get into your phone after three fails. Android, however, only locks you out for a short period before you can try again—by default, anyway. Regardless, the bot is a sobering reminder that the PIN on your phone is no match for someone who really wants to get past it. More here.

Google Android 4.3 Update: Bluetooth, Profiles, and Other Minor Stuff

Google is continuing the Jelly Bean reign with today's Android 4.3 update. It's shipping with the new Nexus 7, and is for the most part, very incremental.

Here's what's up: Google is adding restricted profiles, which are basically just more comprehensive parental controls. It forces an app to behave differently, based on what a parent has set up. So if a child is playing a game, you can say he or she can only see a couple of levels, for example.Restricted profiles also let you set limits on transactions, or web browsing, or other things you're using your device for.

Android 4.3 also features some Bluetooth updates that let you pair an Android device with low-power gadgets like fitness trackers. Got a FitBit? You can hook it up to your Nexus 7 to monitor your performance.

Additionally, Android 4.3 is getting a refresh on something called Open GL:ES 3.0. It's a big boost for graphics that mostly applies for gamers. It'll make everything on screen look better, more detailed, and render quickly in native 1080p resolution. More here.

Jul 23, 2013

A New Kind of Microchip Mimics the Human Brain in Real Time

A team of scientists in Switzerland has managed to cram 11,011 electrodes onto a single two-millimeter-by-two-millimeter piece of silicon to create a microchip that works just like an actual brain. The best part about this so-called neuromorphic chips? They can feel.

Don't over interpret the word "feel" though. The brain-like microchips built by scientists at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich are not a sentient beings, but they can carry out complex sensorimoter tasks that show off the network's cognitive abilities. And what's more impressive is that all of this happens in real time. Previous brain-like computer systems have been slower and larger, whereas the Swiss system is comparable to an actual brain in both speed and size. That's exactly what the team was trying to do. "Our goal is to emulate the properties of biological neurons and synapses directly on microchips," says University of Zurich professor Giacomo Indiveri.

The next step for these neuromorphic chips is to take on more and more complex tasks. In a paper published this week by the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers who built the chips suggest that they could connect the neuromorphic chips to sensory systems like an artificial retina. This is somewhat of a fascination for the community of scientists trying to build a brain-like computer. Stanford professor Kwabena Boahen rose to prominence after developing a silicon retina that behaved like a biological retina, and since then, he's been working on ways to mimic the brain using artificial circuits. More here.

This Is What Gravity Looks Like

You can't see gravity, right? It's just an invisible, natural force of attraction, created by mass, yeah? Well, almost—but in this image you can see its effects in still and breathtaking glory.

The ripples in the clouds of this images are known as gravity waves. NASA explains exactly what they are:
Offshore and to the west and southwest of Pukaskwa National Park, several distinct sets of parallel cloud bands are visible. Gravity waves are produced when moisture-laden air encounters imbalances in air density, such as might be expected when cool air flows over warmer air. This can cause the flowing air to oscillate up and down as it moves, causing clouds to condense as the air rises and cools and to evaporate away as the air sinks and warms. This produces parallel bands of clouds oriented perpendicular to the wind direction. The orientation of the cloud bands in this image, parallel to the coastlines, suggests that air flowing off of the land surfaces to the north is interacting with moist, stable air over the lake surface, creating gravity waves.
Thanks, gravity: as well as keeping us on the ground, you make the world a prettier place, too. More here.

Jul 22, 2013

This Might Be Your Home Security System of The Future

So what's inside? All of this:
  • HD Camera w/ Night Vision and 170 degree wide angle lens

  • Wi-Fi

  • High quality microphone speaker
  • Siren 

  • RGB LEDs
3-axis accelerometer

  • Motion detection (Passive Infrared)
  • Temperature sensor
  • Humidity sensor 

  • Air quality sensor
Not a bad mix but where Canary has the potential to really shine is in its software offering. By tapping into all the aforementioned sensors, the Canary app will be able to relay a plethora of information in real-time and learn a thing or two about you. More here.

Jul 20, 2013

There's a Beautiful Chair Hiding in Your Washing Machine

You can sit on a washing machine, but that doesn't make it a chair. A transformation like the one industrial designer Antonina pulled off does make it a chair, though. And there are even DIY instructions so you can try too, if you're into that sort of thing.

As part of a project with the incredibly appropriate title "I used to be a washing machine," Antonina carefully dissected and old washer to make not one, not two, but three different flavors of chair, each a wonderfully stark piece of furniture in its finished form.

While all washers are going to have different innards, it stands to reason most of them would be kinda-sorta similar enough to pull something like this off. It also stands to reason that none of us will really bother trying. You can hop over to Designboom to look at the plans and see what it would be like if you did, though. 

Jul 19, 2013

You Can Download VLC for iPhone and iPad Now

Hey now! VLC, the bestest fastest sweetest codec-iest easiest to usiest and every positive -est adjectie there is video player around, is now available (again) on iOS. If you're looking to play videos on your iPhone and iPad, VLC is probably going to be your best bet.

MacStories spent some time with the new VLC app and though it looks pretty much the same, it's supposed to be improved:
VLC has been completely rewritten to use modern audio and video output modules, multi-core decoding, and support for any file type supported by VLC on the desktop. In my tests, the app was able to quickly start playing any video file that I threw at it, such as .mp4 and .mkv files.
The app also lets you adjust playback speed, tweak brightness, contrast, saturation, etc. and supports subtitles. It's a welcome return to VLC which was kicked out of the App Store in the beginning of 2011. More here.

A Private Venture Wants to Build a Telescope on the Moon

There might not be a man on the moon right now—but there may soon be a gazing eye. A new private venture aims to build a long-range telescope on our planet's little satellite, and it could happen as soon 2016.

A partnership between Moon Express, Inc. and the International Lunar Observatory Association is all set to install the telescope on the humble lump of rock. The plan is to position the 2-meter dish antenna, known as the International Lunar Observatory, on the rim of a crater near the moon’s South pole.

The first step will be a proof-of-concept mission, which will see the partnership take a shoebox-sized device called ILO-X to the moon in 2015. If that's successful, the full-size telescope will follow early the next year.

The aim of the project is to provide new views of the universe—but the plan is to democratize star gazing, too. Data from the telescopes will be made freely available online for use by citizen scientists. But don't be entirely taken in by the good vibes—Moon Express admits that it's going to explore the area around the South pole for minerals and water while it's at it, too. More here.

How Retail Stores Track You Using Your Smartphone

A Mechanical Wooden Pencil That Will Never Go Dull

As low-tech as it may be, the pencil has managed to still keep itself relevant—despite the endless graphite-free ways we can communicate these days. That being said, it doesn't mean it couldn't use an upgrade, and Tous Les Jours has managed to combine the convenience of a mechanical pencil with the feel of a traditional wooden writing instrument.

You never have to sharpen it, and as long as you keep feeding it shafts of graphite it will never go dull. And for an added bit of whimsy, the days of the week are printed on the sides of the $7 pencil with suggestions on how to best seize the day. More here.

Jul 18, 2013

All Those Open Browser Tabs Really Are Killing Your Laptop's Battery

There's a ton of info on the web. You're never going to read it all, but you want to, so your browser has fistfuls of open tabs waiting for that rainy day when you'll want to read a two-month-old article that's no longer relevant to anything. But have you ever wondered what all those tabs are doing to your battery life? Wired's Rhett Allain did, so he measured it for Firefox, Chrome and Safari.

The bottom line is this: on Allain's Macbook Pro, 100 tabs decreased battery life by one hour, while (hypothetically) 24,000 tabs would drain the battery completely in just one minute. The full article has great graphs and some imposing looking formulas, and you should really open a new tab and read the whole thing. More here.

Jul 17, 2013

This Motion-Sensing Tingling Spidey-Sense Tee Has Got Your Back

Taking the geeky fanboy t-shirt to a whole new level, ThinkGeek's just added this wonderful Spiderman tee to its collection that actually gives the wearer a Spidey-sense for when danger approaches from behind. But instead of a radioactive spider bite, a proximity sensor clipped to the back of the shirt provides the superpowers.

After all, no one in their right mind would ever turn down superpowers. But they always come with a catch: horrible mutations, deceased loved ones, tacky costumes. This is the best of both worlds, a stylish black tee and a side-effect free sensor that vibrates at varying speeds as someone gets closer than five feet behind you. It sadly won't be available until October, and will set you back $40, but that's a small price to pay for not having to face any personal demons. More here.

Jul 16, 2013

Astronomers Found a New Moon of Neptune--Hidden in Images From 2009

Astronomers have spotted a new moon orbiting Neptune—the first to be discovered in over a decade—by studying images that were archived all the way back in 2009.

The new moon, known as S/2004 N1,was discovered in images acquired by the Hubble Space Telescope. Mark Showalter, based at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California,stumbled across the moon when studying images taken in 2009.

Showalter was actually studying images of Neptune's rings, which are incredibly faint. But instead of using long exposures, he stacked multiple, short exposures on top of each other—and out leapt the moon, clear as day. His team confirmed the finding by studying images acquired back in 2004, too.

The new moon has a nearly circular orbit, and travels around the planet once every 23 hours. But scientists are now scratching their heads over the finding. The moon is so small—just 20 kilometers across—that the astronomers are surprised it managed to survive the chaotic period when Neptune's other moons formed. As New Scientist explains:
Neptune's biggest moon, Triton, is 2705 kilometres wide and orbits backwards – travelling in the opposite direction to the planet's spin. Its large size and wonky orbit led astronomers to believe that Triton was captured by Neptune's gravity about 4 billion years ago and that it destroyed whatever moons the gas giant originally had as it was settling into its new home.
Apart from its slightly baffling existence, there remains one more question, too: what name will it take? It's currently up for grabs, but Neptune's moons are typically named for minorwater deities in Greek mythology—so expect something suitably aquatic. More here.

It's Ok To Spend Your Day Staring At the Clock When It Looks This Good

It's hard to justify wasting an inch of deskspace on a clock when your watch, your phone, your computer, even the coffeemaker can tell you what time it is. But then you lay your eyes upon the O'Clock from Okum Made and realize there's still a place for traditional time tellers. At least ones that look this good.

Made from a solid block of walnut, maple, douglas fir, or cork, the O'Clock ranges in price from $85 to $98 depending on the type of wood that suits your fancy. The half donut-shaped recess that represents the clock's face is carved using a bowl-nosed drill bit, while a set of simple wooden hands complements the aesthetic.

They're not cheap, that's for sure. But if you find working dragging on every day, at least you'll have a lovely place to point your vacant stare. More here.

Jul 15, 2013

This Lego Microscope Actually Works

This working Lego microscope was built by Carl Merriman, a Lego artist who's been building for over 27 years. It's sleek, functional and even though you couldn't use it to study Ebola or the T-Virus, it's still a pretty sweet piece of kit.

The build was inspired by Lego X-Pod sets (now discontinued):
While trying to find a use for the pod itself, I realized that it was very close to a deep petri dish. I used a planetary gear system to allow both coarse and fine adjustment of the objective “lens”. A little more tinkering and I connected the focus to a magnifying glass and fiber optic light in the eyepiece, so adjusting the focus knobs would actually bring the writing on a LEGO stud in and out of focus.
Clean lines, simple construction and wonderful little details. I could totally see this becoming a CUUSOO set. More here.

Apple's Next-Gen Chips Will Be Made By Samsung Again

Apple's had a turbulent time with Samsung, both in the courtroom and the marketplace—which in part helped inspire Cook and co's recent move away from Sammy as a chip supplier. But according to a new report, Apple is hopping back into the silicon bed with South Korea's finest.

The Korea Economic Daily reports that Apple has signed a deal with Samsung which will see them work together on future A-series chips for Apple's iOS devices. Specifically, the agreement appears to be for the production of A9 chips (the iPhone 5 currently uses the A6), which will be based on a new 14-nanometer manufacturing process, and begin production sometime in 2015.

The announcement comes on the back of Apple shunning Samsung in favor of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC), who it chose to manufacture the forthcoming A8 chips from 2014. The Korea Economic Daily explains:
Samsung Electronics had supplied the AP [application processor] to Apple since 2007 but lost the contract to supply 20 nano AP A8 chips to Apple to Taiwan's TSMC last year when it was engaged in patent disputes with Apple. Samsung Electronics developed state-of-the-art 14 nano models ahead of its rival TSMC, regaining the order from Apple.
Some reports have suggested that TSMC had also secured the contract for the A9 chips, though—so it's unclear if Apple will be sourcing silicon from one or both of the chip manufacturers comes 2015. More here.

BlackBerry's Rumored A10 Is a Departure, At Least

While me and you and everyone we know weren't paying attention, BlackBerry invented a nice big shiny new phone, the A10. It's definitely different! And at this point, that might be just what BlackBerry needs.There aren't many details available from the video other than that the A10 is a decidedly bigger phone than the Z10; for specs, we have to look to a previous report that indicated a 5-inch, 720p display. 

That's not great for a flagship these days, but if BlackBerry can make the A10 affordable and powerful under the hood, it's still at least got a shot to get some notice. At least, one hopes so. The company may only have so many rounds of ammo left. More here.

Jul 14, 2013

A Swiss Man Was Killed By His Remote-Controlled Helicopter

A 41-year-old man flying a Gaui X7 model helicopter in Lucerne, Switzerland suffered head and arm injuries and died after he was presumably struck by the helicopter. The model weighs 5 pounds, is about 4 feet 5 inches long, and has a rotor diameter of about 5 feet 4 inches.

Though incidents are rare, remote control helicopters have caused other deaths. A remote control aircraft instructor was struck and killed in Texas in 2003 and other fatal accidents have occurred in Korea and Brazil. The rotor blades on model helicopters can spin at speedsof 257 miles per hour. Gaui helicopters can cost more than $1,000 and various X7 models are currently selling for around $900, so there probably aren't tons of these just lying around people's houses, but even expensive toys require real safety measures. More here.

Jul 13, 2013

What Would We Do If Aliens Just Showed Up Tomorrow?

Jul 12, 2013

Almost Everything Your Kitchen Needs In One Neat and Tidy Stack

If you're attempting to outfit a kitchen with a limited budget and even less space, Joseph Joseph has put together this lovely nine-piece Nest kit that stacks like a matryoshka doll for easy storage. The $150 set includes two stainless steel mixing bowls with non-slip bottoms, a fine mesh sieve, a large colander, and five plastic measuring spoons ranging from a teaspoon to a full cup.

The Nest's unique stacking design also makes it easy to spot when a particular item has gone missing. And even more importantly, after an evening of baking they'll all take up minimal space when left in the sink for a couple of weeks. More here.

Jul 11, 2013

This Impossibly Thin Table Stores Wherever You've Got an Inch of Space

How often do you really use that dining table in your apartment? Most meals are probably consumed in front of the TV, or at a restaurant. And sure, it's handy for the occasional dinner party or tax audit, but the rest of the time it's just wasting space. So reclaim a good 40 square of your pad with this incredibly thin folding table by Lodovico Bernardi that practically disappears when you turn it sideways.

Seriously, if the prototype ever goes into production, you'll definitely want to be careful carrying this table off of an elevator. More here.

For Just $250 a Week You Can Rent Your Very Own Satellite

On August 4, a resupply mission is scheduled to take off for the International Space Station carrying a satellite for hire with it. It's actually a nanosatellite, since it's only 10 centimeters wide, and it's yours to use if you've got the cash.

Dubbed "ArduSat," the soon-to-be-launched satellite will connect with the servers at NanoSatisfi, the Kickstarter-funded company that's operating it, and provide students and space geeks alike the chance to do whatever they want up in space. ArduSat is outfitted with cameras, an ambient light sensor, a magnetometer and a Geiger counter, so the sky's the limit (heh) when it comes to the sorts of experiments you can run from the ground. NanoSatisfi also sets customers up with a control panel on the ground, so that they can change the mission as you go. The best part is that it will only cost about $250 a week to rent time with the ArduSat.

But what can one do with a flying satellite, you ask? Well, uses for the cameras are pretty obvious. Beyond that, the makers of ArduStat drew up a list of possibilities that's divided into three categories: science, engineering and entertainments. Some highlights include tracking meteorites by tuning into the radio stations reflected by the meteors' tails, writing algorithms to make the camera take different kinds of photos based on factors like gamma radiation and exposure to the sun, and even mapping Earth's magnetic field. All this fun for less than half of what a monthly Manhattan studio rental costs.

The existence of a satellite for hire is more meaningful than running a bunch of experiments in space. It reflects the imminent future of space exploration—even if it's only exploring a few miles above Earth's surface. As more and more affordable options for going to space show up on the market, the possibility exists for more people to get involved in space research, even elementary school students. While conventional satellites cost between $500 million and $2 billion, NanoSatisfi plans on spending much less than $1 million on purchasing and launching ArduSat into orbit, and over the course of its two year lifespan, the company expects to serve over 4,000 customers. More here.

Jul 10, 2013

You Can Now Embed Your Instagrams All Over the Web

Twitter's been doing it for ages and Vine's been in since day one, but now Instagram is coming to the embeddable party. You can now embed your Instagrams—image or video—all across the web with handy-dandy embed code. More here.

The Ocotomask's Built-In GoPro Mount Allows a Hands-Free Life Aquatic

In the world's oceans, human divers are as mobile as a fish out of water. So, what, you think you're going to fend off an inquisitive shark or lascivious dolphin while holding a GoPro? Not likely, but that's where the Octomask comes in. Now anybody can be a modern Jacques Cousteau and keep their hands free for defending themselves under the sea.

The Octomask is exactly what it looks like—a snorkeling mask with a GoPro mount situated mid-forehead. The genius of this head-mounted device, as opposed to hand-held underwater housings, is that it records whatever you're looking at automatically. Plus the GoPro mount is integrated into the mask itself rather than being adhesively affixed as the stock dive mountis. On the other hand, the Octomask is twice the price and won't work with an existing mask but the ability to grapple against the deadly, deadly Jaguar shark make it well worth the cost. More here.

Jul 9, 2013

The Key To Never Forgetting Your iPhone's Charging Cable

Key-shaped USB flash drives have guaranteed we never forget to bring our important files ever again. And taking the same approach, Bluelounge's Kii guarantees you always have an emergency iPhone or iPad charger on hand—as long as you remembered to lock your home and bring your keys.

A 30-pin dock connector version of the Kii, available in black only, is the cheaper of the two at just $20. But if you've got the latest generation iPhone or iPad, you'll need to cough up twice that amount—$40—for the black or white Lightning version here.

Jul 8, 2013

This Plywood Chair Is Super-Stylish--and Affordable

This stylish chair may look super-classy—but don't be fooled: it's actually made from humble plywood.

It comes flat-pack style, its panels made from CNC-cut birch plywood all held together by hex screws. Named Jari—which literally means a place for a person or a thing—the design is apparently inspired by the growing number of single dwellings in South Korea.

Shown off at the Design & Art Fair 2013 in Seoul, there's currently no word on how much it will cost exactly—but expect it to be affordable. More here.

A Look Inside Nokia's Absurd Phone Testing Labs

Nokia phones are pretty sturdy. Sturdier than most, actually. And while all phones go through similar stress tests, we've got a look into Nokia's specifically. It's petty impressive!

Tumbling in boxes of dust, dropped on steel floors hundreds of times, splashed with rain and baked in tropical conditions. And the phones mostly come out just fine.

Jul 6, 2013

Say Goodbye To Hex Wrenches: Furniture That Assembles With Coins

If you're a college student or a young professional in your first apartment, you're probably well versed in assembling Ikea furniture. But soon after, those vital hex wrenches always seem to go missing, and when it's time to move your bedroom set, it's off to the hardware store to try and find a replacement. So thank goodness the folks at Nendo came up with a better solution: furniture that assembles using nothing more than the loose change in your pocket.

Developed for Kokuyo, a Japanese office furniture maker, the modular Ofon line is comprised of a series of boxes and panels that can be mix and matched to create shelving, filing cabinets, desks, and even dividers. And the various pieces all connect via a clever mechanism that can be locked and unlocked using a quarter, or similar sized currency. More here.

Silicone Pens Give You The Maintenance-Free Lawn You've Always Wanted

If you love the look of plants on your desk, but have a nasty habit of killing them through neglect, consider this faux greenery as an alternative. What look like tall blades of grass are actually unfortunately-named Pooleaf pens with long wisps of silicone coming off the end.

They're just $5 each, which isn't too shabby, until you realize you'll actually have to spend well over $100 to fill a pot to recreate the beautiful lawn effect. On the plus side, it will be incredibly obvious if someone steals one of your pens. More here.

iOS 7 Is Secretly Baby-Proof

Jul 4, 2013

This Is Our Solar System's Very Own July 4th Fireworks Display

While there will be plenty of fireworks later today, it's nice to know that our very own solar system will be joining in the fun, too—with comet ISON hurting toward the sun at a staggering 48,000 mph.

Unlike the fireworks you'll launch, this comet isn't burning—in fact it's pretty cold. As the comet moves closer to the sun it'll warm up, its rate of sublimation will increase, and it will appear brighter and its tail longer—and by November you'll be able to see it with your naked eye. More here.

Jul 3, 2013

Using Super Slow Motion to Study the Biomechanics of Flight

It's certainly not the first time we've seen hummingbirds in slow motion, but the engineer's perspective adds a new facet to our fascination with beasts that can fly. Thanks to hours of footage recorded in the lab, the researchers are making some progress identifying how the tiny moving parts of living aircraft work together. Take, for example, the shaking motion the researchers observed:
Students Andreas Peña Doll and Rivers Ingersoll filmed hummingbirds performing a never-before-seen "shaking" behavior: As the bird dived off a branch, it wiggled and twisted its body along its spine, the same way a wet dog would try to dry off. At 55 times per second, hummingbirds have the fastest body shake among vertebrates on the planet – almost twice as fast as a mouse.
So now we've seen it, which is just the beginning when it comes to engineering. Now someone has to figure out what purpose that shaking serves, and if it's useful, someone has to build a bot that can mimic nature. More here.

Ford's New Prototyping Machine Turns Sheet Metal Into Custom Parts

A modern assembly line can churn out a new vehicle every few minutes, but when carmakers want to build and test a prototype, it takes weeks to produce the dies and moulds needed to stamp out a custom one-off part. So Ford has developed a fantastic new prototyping machine that functions kind of like a 3D printer in that it can produce a custom part in mere hours. Except that instead of plastic, it works its magic on sheet metal.

Three-dimensional models from a designer's modelling software are sent to the machine, which uses a pair of robotic arms mounted above and below a flat piece of sheet metal. The robotic arms feature very precise points at their ends, which are used to warp, bend, and shape the 2D sheet of metal into a 3D object. And depending on the complexity and size of the part being prototyped, it can do this in mere hours.

It allows designers and engineers to refine, produce, and test a new or custom part again and again in a manner of days, without having to solely rely on software simulations. And while in its infancy the machine isn't quite fast enough to join an assembly line, it's the perfect tool for crafting one-off concept vehicles, or parts for special edition vehicles that aren't intended for mass production.

Jul 2, 2013

There Are 60 Billion Habitable Planets Littering the Milky Way

A new study suggests that there are as many as 60 billion habitable planets orbiting red dwarf stars in the Milky Way alone—twice the number previously thought and strong evidence to hint that we may not be alone.

A team of scientists has been reassessing the limits of the habitable zones around red dwarf stars, which are smaller and fainter than the sun. Based on simulations of cloud behaviour on extrasolar planets—previously ignored in calculations—the team of astrophysicists calculated new parameters for defining a habitable zone around red dwarf stars. This cloud behavior dramatically expanded the size of the zone, as Dr. Dorian Abbot from the University of Chicago explains:
“Clouds cause warming, and they cause cooling on Earth. They reflect sunlight to cool things off, and they absorb infrared radiation from the surface to make a greenhouse effect. That’s part of what keeps the planet warm enough to sustain life."
The result? Instead of there being on average approximately one Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of each red dwarf, there are in fact roughly two. In total, that means there are around 60 billion habitable planets orbiting red dwarf stars in the Milky Way.

Interestingly, because red dwarf stars are relatively small and weak, the planets now deemed habitable would have to orbit their star's once every one to two months. In turn, they'd become tidally locked—which is where one side of the planet would always face the star, like one side of the moon always faces Earth. So, better pack a jumper or two if you want to visit the other side. More here.

Jul 1, 2013

Skype 4.0 for Android: Same Skype, Totally New App

After announcing today's 100 million Android-download milestone, Skype celebrated the occasion with a totally overhauled, refreshed Android app that's supposed to "make your interactions easier and put conversations first." And with a cleaner, lighter, and lightening fast UI, it may just live up to its promise.

What does it do?

It's Skype, but stripped of all the extra crap that seemed to choke the old incarnations. You'll get three separate tabs, the first of which shows you all recent conversations, followed by your contacts, followed by your favorites. Small circles similar to Facebook's attempt at the now notorious chatheads carry your contacts profile pictures. You'll also be able to attach files and video messages, one of Skype's newer native app features. Get it here.