May 31, 2013

Radiation Makes a Manned Trip to Mars Impossible with Current Tech

Though Curiosity the rover can explore and see Mars up close, curious men and women of Earth will have to wait a bit longer. NASA reports that a manned trip to Mars is likely impossible with current technology because of radiation.

Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) was able to measure the radiation of Mars from inside the spacecraft and found data that makes NASA reconsider the effectiveness of current radiation shielding. Specifically:
The findings, which are published in the May 31 edition of the journal Science, indicate radiation exposure for human explorers could exceed NASA's career limit for astronauts if current propulsion systems are used.
Two forms of radiation pose potential health risks to astronauts in deep space. One is galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), particles caused by supernova explosions and other high-energy events outside the solar system. The other is solar energetic particles (SEPs) associated with solar flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun.

Right now, spacecrafts do a better job at shielding against SEPs than they do GCRs. GCRs are highly energetic and penetrate the shielding on current spacecrafts. In order to protect astronauts from being exposed to radiation, NASA might have to invent better shielding. Or invent better something.

Exposure to radiation, which is measured in units of Sievert (Sv), increases the risk of cancer. We know that. Exposure to 1 Sv over time is associated with a five percent increase in risk of developing cancer. NASA's acceptable limit for its astronauts is a three percent increase in risk. Curiosity's RAD instruments measured an average of 1.8milliSv per day on its trip to Mars. The accumulated dose of the trip, according to Cary Zeitlin, lead paper in the findings and a principal scientist at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, would be equivalent to "getting a whole-body CT scan once every five or six days". Yeah, that's too much.

But knowing this doesn't prevent a manned trip to Mars from ever happening. Knowing this helps protect the men and women who will take that manned trip to Mars. More here.

May 30, 2013

Loop Tea Strainer Reduces Dirty Dishes in Your House

Multifunctional tools can help in reducing the amount of dirty dishes in your house, checkout this Loop Tea Strainer. This tool allows you to have smart tea preparation, no spoon is required and this stick-shaped tea strainer can be used as a scoop. Open the sliding mesh lid and fill with tea leaves, close it, and place it in the hot water in your tea cup.

Nowadays, we’ve been trying to reduce dirty dishes in any way, from eating directly from the container to using paper plate. This product is a smart way to serve a cup of tea. More here.

May 29, 2013

Clever Mug Catches Coffee Drips Before They Become Stains

Harnessing the complex hydrodynamic properties of surface tension, this brilliantly re-engineered mug features a strategically engineered reservoir running around the circumference of the vessel's outer wall. Or, in other words, designer Kim Keun Ae added a groove that cleverly catches drips before they hit the table.

Cleaning the mug takes a little extra effort to get that groove sparkling, but otherwise it's a simple innovation that goes a long way to improving the coffee experience, particularly if you hate coasters. And while you can't buy one just yet, it won't be terribly difficult for someone to implement this simple improvement. More here.

Leaked Windows 8.1 Screenshot: Oh, Hello, Start Button

Over on the Windows SuperSite, Thurott has dumped a few, choice screenshots from the upcoming, free update to the operating system. And chief among them is that one featuring everybody's favorite Start Button. It should go without saying that this button launches you to the Metro Modern UI Start Screen, and not into some sort of Start Menu, but the button's back. Interestingly, there seems to be no way to turn it off either. Not that you'd really want to.

Along with the start button, Thurrott's reporting that 8.1 also comes with a Boot To Desktop option (disabled by default) and the ability to use the desktop wallpaper of your choice as the background on the Start Screen.

And, of course, while this seems like a pretty credible leak, it's still a leak. But it's seeming more than ever like the real deal. More here.

May 28, 2013

Heatsink Coasters Cool Hot Beverages While Protecting Your Furniture

If they're good enough to keep temperatures under control inside your electronics, it only makes sense that a simple aluminum heatsink would be just as effective at taming a piping hot cup of coffee. Not to mention providing plenty of tiny channels for condensation to collect instead of dripping onto your furniture and leaving unsightly rings.

These Fin Coasters feature a thin cork underlay further protecting the surface of your tables from scratches and excess heat. And since this is a highly engineered way to deal with hot beverages, it only makes sense that a set of two—available in silver or black finishes—will set you back $65. A tad bit pricey, but your furniture will thank you for splurging. More here.

May 27, 2013

Finally, A Wrinkle Reducer That Is Also The Embodiment Of Evil

Our superficial, beauty-obsessed culture is pretty scary. People starve themselves or have serious surgeries so they can look a certain way. But for better or worse (definitely worse) we're all pretty used to hearing about those beauty interventions. Which is why it's unusual to see a new wrinkle-reducer and immediately want to shit your pants or run away. Or both. But behold.

The Facewaver Exercise Mask uses stretching and tightening action for "kneading out wrinkles, lines and sag." The site recommends you use it for five minutes a day to get younger-looking skin. The problem is that during those five minutes you will send anyone you encounter into cardiac arrest as a result of their general shock and terror. Or you yourself will be killed because people will assume that you are a zombie. And frankly, if you choose to wear this they won't be totally wrong.

Some products from the Japan Trend Shop can be very soothing, but this just isn't one of them. It's scary enough to see someone wearing one of those green face masks before bed or even just using a Shake Weight. When will the madness end? More here.

Fight Bad Breath and Bathroom Clutter With This Toothbrush Cup

Counter clutter can be even worse in a bathroom which is typically a lot smaller than a kitchen. And if you find yourself constantly battling to find room to store things around the sink, you'll immediately see the genius behind this flippable cup that doubles as a way to rinse your mouth and a convenient spot to store a toothbrush.

Available in a small selection of decor-friendly colors, the $11 Flip Cup also features a contoured rim that allows air to get in when flipped upside-down so it dries quickly preventing germs and bacteria from finding a home. So say goodbye to halitosis and goodbye to awkwardly trying to rinse your mouth directly from the faucet. More here.

May 26, 2013

Listen To Music Through Your Cheekbones While You Swim Laps

It's hard to listen to music while you're swimming because even waterproof earbuds that actually stay on try to conduct sound through air to reach your eardrums, and there's not a lot of air underwater. The FINIS Neptune works on this issue by sending sound waves straight into your face. Total bombardment. In a good way.

The Neptune speakers rest on your cheek and make the bone vibrate so that the vibrations can be relayed to your cochlea, allowing you to hear music. The process is called "bone conduction," and is also used by some marine mammals. Since the music is going straight into your head, you don't have to deal with anything in your ears while you're trying to swim.

The Neptune is an updated version of FINIS's years-old SwiMP3, which had 128MB of memory and sold for $180. Now at 4GB, the Neptune costs $160. A quick PSA, though: Just because you feel the music in your bones, does not mean you should engage in any type of swim-singing or swim-dancing unless you are totally sure no one is watching. More here.

May 25, 2013

A Working Apple I Computer Just Sold For $671,400 at Auction

The Apple 1 is a little piece of history, the first in a lineage that's taken the world by storm since its birth in 1976. And that piece of history is worth a lot. An anonymous collector just picked up a still functioning(!) one of the suckers at auction for a cool $671,400. And you thought gaming PCs were expensive.

The recent sale—which just closed today—beats out a record of $640,000 that was set in the same Cologne, Germany auction house just last year, and a record of $374,500 just a few months before that; these have got to be some of the few electronics that are going up in value as they age.

Not much is known about the purchaser except that he/she is "a wealthy entrepreneur from the Far East" according to the New York Times. I'll bet you wish you had that much cash to throw down on a seriously antiquated piece of hardware. And though it might be a bit of an increase over the machines initial $666.66 launch-price (some $2,700 in current-day dollars), it's priceless in its own way. But most of us would probably just be better off with an iPad. More here.

What's the First Thing You Can Remember Doing on the Internet?

There's no denying the global connectivity literally changed the world, and most of us are lucky enough to have been alive and conscious when that paradigm shift was rolling out. You might not remember your first real interaction with the digital behemoth, but you have to have a first recollection. What is it?

It's worth noting that the Internet and the World Wide Web are technically different things, and depending on what kind of person you are, you might have some distinctly different first memories of both. Either way, it's story time. Who's got a good one?

May 24, 2013

Tomorrow's Galactic Explorers Could Use Pulsars as Interstellar GPS

Space is so ludicrously vast that keeping a precise fix on our spacecraft—even within the solar system—is really tough. So rather than track them from afar, a team of researchers want spacecraft to govern themselves—using pulsars.

For every astronomical unit (AU) between the Earth and the craft, ground control loses 4km of tracking accuracy. That means we can only guess a satellite's location orbiting around Pluto, about 50 AU, within a radius of 200km. You're not going to catch an asteroid with that level of inaccuracy.

Instead, Werner Becker and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy have devised a method for spacecraft to triangulate their own positioning in space based on the relative locations of known pulsars—rapidly spinning neutron stars that emit blasts of high energy radiation in precise intervals. By measuring how long it takes for the emissions of at least three pulsars to reach the craft, compared against their predicted values, the spacecraft should be able to determine its location to within 5 km. This is essentially the same method used by cell towers and the global positioning system, but over massive distances.

There are many technical hurdles that must be overcome before this concept is actually feasible. For one, different pulsars emit radiation at different wavelengths, which can only be received by collecting dishes of a specific size. The 21cm waves that Becker's team is investigating would require an array measuring 150 square meters. This of course leads to the problem of designing and packing a sufficiently large—and, more importantly, sufficiently light—dish into the craft and successfully launching it into space. More here.

A Clever Plastic Brace Turns Long-Stemmed Flowers Into Their Own Vase

Florists around the country, pay attention. If you're looking for a value-added reason for people to buy a dozen roses from your shop, then find a way to get this brilliant Crown Vaseput into production and include one with every bouquet.

Designed by Lambert Rainville, a student at the Royal College of Art, the Crown Vase works as a support allowing flowers to stand via their own stems, like a simple shelter crafted by an experienced outdoors person. A shallow dish or bowl full of water is still needed to keep the flowers alive for more than a day, but when they eventually die everything can be composted and recycled, making cleanup an eco-friendly affair. More here.

May 23, 2013

Why the HTC One Lacks a Micro SD Slot

According to technical reasons, the version of the HTC One sold in the US lacks an SD card slot due to internal space restrictions. Because of something to do with mobile radio frequencies. That’s what HTC says and we're powerless to argue.

The explanation comes from HTC’s Jeff Gordon, the company’s Senior Global Online Communications Manager. Jeff told Techradar: “Because the Chinese version of the One is designed specifically for the smaller Chinese radio bands, we do have additional space inside the device we were able to use for the microSD slot. That space isn’t available in the global version.” They could, of course, just made it a bit bigger, though. So we’re not entirely sure we believe them. More here.

Microsoft Has Two New Mice for Windows 8 Multitasking

Microsoft has a couple new mice coming out today with some simple features that make using Windows 8 a little bit easier.

First up on the the fancier end is the Sculpt Comfort Mouse, which will be on sale in June. It's $40, connects to your computer or tablet via Bluetooth, and is the first Microsoft mouse with a blue, touch-sensitive Windows button that gives you a couple of shortcuts. Press it and it'll take you directly to the start screen, or use this button to swipe through all the apps you have open.

The more basic model is the Sculpt Mobile Mouse. Available later this month, it costs $30 and features four-way scrolling, meaning you can tilt the scroll wheel up down, left, or right. We played with both of the new mice and found that they were comfy and responsive, giving you that little extra something you want out of an accessory. Plus, they're a nice match to multitasking on Windows 8. More here.

May 22, 2013

This 1.5TB Laptop Drive Is the Most Memory-Dense You Can Buy

While SSDs are blisteringly fast, they still can't offer the capacities that the humble hard disk provides. Especially this one, because with 1.5 TB squeezed into its tiny little frame, it's the most memory-dense drive you can buy right now.

The 2.5-inch Travelstar 5K1500 is just 9.5mm deep. Packing 1.5TB, that means the drive offers 694Gb per square inch—comfortably making it the densest HDD on the market. It draws just 1.8W, but there is one downside: it only spins at 5,400 rpm, so it's not the fastest drive you'll ever use.

Still, if your laptop's heaving under the weight of video, music and whatever else you choose to fill it up with, then this little guy could provide just the shot in the arm it needs. There's currently no pricing information, but it will be available in June. More here.

China Has Their Own Stealth Drone

This is China's stealth combat drone, an airplane that seems very similar to the American Northrop Grumman X-47B. The unmanned combat air vehicle was photographed while performing taxiing tests. Given the development speed of China's other military airplanes, it wouldn't be surprising to see this in flight in the next few weeks.

According to China Defense Blog, it was initially labeled to be a project by "college students" for the 601 Aircraft Design Institute/Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. Clearly, it's much more than that.

It seems obvious that China's military complex is advancing at a higher pace than many in the West would like to believe. It is not comparable to the United States yet, but the technology matching may be a matter of years and not decades. And it has already happened in the cyber war front. More here.

May 21, 2013

This Rinsing Bowl Cleverly Includes a Colander

Isn't this an ingenious design? This bowl has a moveable colander piece that folds in and out so you can wash and serve your fruit in the same piece.

The combination strainer/bowl is $15 from Umbra. It rolls two steps of meal prep into one smart kitchen gadget, while solving one of life's most grating—albeit boring—problems. Ever been rinsing off some fresh fruit and dropped a plump strawberry into the nasty depths of your sink's drain?  It's the small things, really. More here.

The New Kinect Is So Sensitive It Can Read Your Heartbeat

Microsoft claims that the new Kinect is so sensitive that it can see the slightest movement of your wrists and fingers, the tension of your muscles and, amazingly enough, even your heartbeat.

So next time you exercise in front of the TV, it will be able to tell how much you are really working out. But I bet there will be a lot more to this feature, like a first-person shooter reading your heart beat and muscle tension to spook you at the right moment. And kill you for real. More here.

May 20, 2013

Why Brushing Your Teeth Makes Orange Juice Taste Bad

If you're going to have a glass of orange juice and brush your teeth (a good idea), there's only one order in which to do them. It makes sense that your minty toothpaste-mouth would make OJ taste weird, but why so down-right heinous?

As Bytesize Science explains, it's because your tongue gets coated with a particularly troublesome foamy oral detergent.

May 19, 2013

YouTube Turns Eight Today

The domain name was activated on February 14, 2005, and the first public preview of the site went live eight years ago today. So...birthday!

More than 100 hours or about four days-worth of video is uploaded to the site every minute now. Which is pretty staggering. On average, 1 billion people, almost half of worldwide internet users, visit YouTube every month. And yes, fine, we get it, there are adorable animal videos on YouTube. They are great. But at this point it's kind of gone beyond that.