Jun 30, 2013

A Mobius Strip Track Makes Magnet Hovercrafts Even Cooler

Superconducting magnets are freakin' awesome. You should know this already. But the folks at the Royal Institution took it a step further with their futuristic upside-down, Möbius strip track that's fit for a racing game set in 21xx. Hopefully this is what the Hot Wheels of the future are like. Err, "Hot Superconducting Magnets," I guess.

But on top of the sheer cool-factor of seeing something hover upside down, you'll also get a nice explanation on how this kind of stuff actually works. It's not as great as getting an actual superconducting magnet car and accompanying track of your own, but here's to hoping.

Jun 29, 2013

It's Almost Worth Breaking Your Arm for this Crazy 3D-Printed Cast

Plaster casts are bulky, obnoxious, heavy, inevitably sweaty, occasionally pink. In short, they are no fun. But this 3D-printed "Cortex" cast could change all that. Sure, it looks a littlelike a fishnet stocking, but have you seen a old-fashioned cast lately?

A conceptual project designed by a Victoria University of Wellington graduate with the suspiciously awesome name Jake Evill, the Cortex cast is lightweight, ventilated, washable and thin thanks to its polyamide skeleton. But the bonuses aren't all for the wearer; the material of Cortex casts could be reused, unlike plaster.

It's just a concept and prototype for now, but ideally, computer software would be fed x-rays of the break and 3D scans of the limb, and design an appropriate cast shape for fixing it up, with the cast's densest parts concentrated around the actual break. The cast could then be printed out in pieces and assembled around the break with permanent fasteners. When all is said and done, it'd still have to be sawed off as usual.

Then there's the matter of time. Evill explains it this way:
At the moment, 3D printing of the cast takes around three hours whereas a plaster cast is three to nine minutes, but requires 24-72 hours to be fully set. With the improvement of 3D printing, we could see a big reduction in the time it takes to print in the future.
It sounds pretty good, but I'm seeing just one problem. How are you supposed write hideous signatures in Sharpie on surfaces that skinny? More here.

All the Hidden Chemicals That Are Lurking In Your Coffee

Caffeine. For most of us, that's the only chemical compound in coffee that's worth a damn. But that's far from the only thing that's hiding in that simmering cup of black (or light brownish) glory that you suck down every morning. Cockroach pheromones? Rotting meat-smell? Check and check. Drink up!

Jun 28, 2013

Everyone Who Records Video on Their Phone Needs to Follow This Rule

I understand that when you take a picture or video with your phone, it makes a lot of sense to hold your phone upright. It's more comfortable! It's totally natural! And though Instagram has helped fix portrait mode pictures by squaring them off, we still haven't solved the portrait video problem. It's awful to watch videos like that. Everyone who does it is just a bunch of scrubs.

Turn Your Phone is a 'No Scrubs' parody by Chescaleigh that makes fun of folks who just blindly refuse to change.

Bing Maps Has Revealed Russia's Secret Stealth Fighter Jet

Bing Maps is apparently really great at one thing: revealing top secret military information. After capturing a top secret military base, Bing has now caught a stealth Russian airplane that's been shrouded in mystery. The Bing Maps image above shows Russia's MIG Project 1.44, Russia's first attempt at building a stealth fighter jet. A jet that Russia might have sent to China to kick start China's stealth program. A jet that was supposed to be Russia's answer for the F-22 Raptor.

According to Foreign Policy, the 1.44 plane (it's the bigger plane in that image above) was designed with "stealth-like angles, an internal weapons bay and supposedly used electronic countermeasures and special coatings to help reduce its radar signature." The goal was to make the plane highly maneuverable and really, really fast. However, the 1.44 plane was supposedly shelved by Russia in 2001 and thrown in storage. The Bing Maps image shows that that's not exactly the case.

What's interesting is that China's J-20 stealth fighter (revealed in 2010) looks a lot like the Russia 1.44 plane. MiG denied ever giving 1.44 plans to China but a Russian official did say, "it looks like they got documents related to the Mikoyan." If the plane is out of storage, maybe Russia has been sharing a little secrets here and there. More here.

Can a Helmet Made From Recycled Newspapers Really Protect Your Noggin?

As bike rental programs get more and more popular in big, tourist-friendly cities around the world, wouldn't it be great if occasional cyclists could get a temporary helmet on the cheap? That's the goal of the designers behind the Paper Pulp Project, who have designed a bike helmet made from recycled newspaper that costs less than $1.50 to produce, but is claimed to protect as well as a more expensive option.

So why wouldn't everyone opt for a cheap paper pulp helmet that its creator claims "meets stringent European safety standards" and easily survives drop tests? For starters, it's not the most weatherproof option, although a protective coating could let it survive the rain for a few hours. And after every accident it's pretty much a write-off, so regular cyclists will still certainly want to opt for more durable protection.

Renting a bike is a great way to leisurely explore a city you're visiting on the cheap, but as more and more tourists are taking to the streets in places they're unfamiliar with, the issue of bike safety needs to be addressed. And a disposable helmet that's just as affordable as a rented bike is the perfect solution to ensure that part of your vacation isn't spent in a hospital bed. More here.

Jun 27, 2013

Breakthrough Research Could Replace Insulin Shots With Pills

Whether you don't like needles, or whether you really don't like needles, there's some good news on the horizon: a special "bioadhesive" coating that was just developed at Brown University is bringing us one step closer to saying goodbye to injections and hello to things like insulin pills.

It's not like people are out there injecting drugs for just fun (well, except for the people out there who are injecting drugs just for fun); injections are crucial for administering protein-based drugs—like insulin—that can't make it through the stomach to the small intestine where they can get absorbed into the bloodstream. The bioadhesive coating developed by researchers at Brown not only lets doses get through unscathed, but also sticks them to the small intestine and dishes them out at controllable speeds.

When researchers coated tons of 500-nanometer particles with the bioadhesive, called PBMAD, and fed them to some lab rats, they found that a PBMAD coating is roughly 20 percent more effective at getting medicines through the stomach acid gauntlet and into the bloodstream than the previous best. And 65 percent better than no coating at all.

The next goal is getting the right medicines to the right parts of the body in the right quantities, but the recent studies have proven that PBMAD is a promising delivery mechanism. Insulin pills might still be a way off, but a future with less needles sounds like a future worth looking forward to. More here.

Jun 26, 2013

This Nesting Storage Beats Any Set of Russian Dolls

Moving house has never been easier than with this amazing set of nesting storage units. Designed by Sasa Mitrovic of TwentyTree, an amazing six pieces fit together seamlessly—and look great, too.

Called Matrioshka, the wooden storage units all fit inside the large orange armoire. Pull out the cabinets as and when you need them, or use them all from the off. They have a pretty 60s vibe about them that may or may not be to your taste, but they're damn practical regardless.

While they made their debut at the Milan Design Week earlier this year, they're now to be manufactured by SCSplus and Ergomade. Sadly there's currently no word on pricing. More here.

A Garbage-Crushing Trash Can You Control With Your Bare Hands

Who likes taking out the trash? Nobody, that's who. We'll do anything we can to avoid trips to the curb, or the garbage chute, including letting it pile up for weeks on end. But a giant mountain of stinking trash in your kitchen isn't the only solution. This stainless steel trash can includes a manual compressor letting you squeeze roughly twice the amount of trash into its 10 gallon capacity.

It's kind of like having your own personal garbage truck, except that it's not waking you up at six o'clock in the morning. At $200 it is a pricey alternative to less capable garbage cans, but you have to factor in all the quality time you'll be gaining with this. Not to mention the sheer joy when you're able to squeeze one more empty chip bag in there, instead of having to empty it. More here.

Jun 25, 2013

This Wooden Bicycle Is Beautifully Impractical

There's a natural charm to cycling that allows you to feel at one with the environment that surrounds you—but if that's not enough, maybe you need this bike that's made from the environment that surrounds you.

There's no way around the fact that a wooden bicycle isn't as practical as its metallic brethren. Wood just isn't naturally suited to frame building: it doesn't weather as well, is bulky, and rides strangely. But this amalgam of wood and steel is a triumph of old-school design and craftsmanship, and its looks make up for the material's shortcomings.

There's a lot to lust over here, from the wooden handlebars to the neatly jointed head and seat tubes. But the best thing has to be those beautifully curved wooden mud guards, that hug the wheels just right. Pricing is as yet unconfirmed—expect it to be high—but the bikes will finally go on sale in September. More here.

This Throne of Books Is Your Own Private Personal Library

There's an endless number of distractions that can prevent us from curling up with a good book. So the folks at the London-based design studio, Tilt, created the OpenBook chair. It's an oversized comfy seat wrapped in an empty library that you can fill with your favorite books and magazines, creating an oasis of reading in a sea of distracting electronics.

The upholstered wall, featuring racks for hanging newspapers and magazines on the outside, also provides a bit of extra privacy from noise, and of course a place to rest your head. And while the OpenBook chair is certainly a lovely spot to escape into your favorite book, it also provides the perfect place to show off your amazing taste in literature to friends and other guests. Just keep the Where's Waldos hidden in a back room. More here.

Jun 24, 2013

What Does 200 Calories Look Like?

Jun 23, 2013

Fruits And Vegetables Are More Aware Than You Think

You might not think that spinach knows what's up, but the produce in your fridge is still alive and aware. Which is creepy. But kind of awesome. According to new research, fruits and vegetables still have circadian rhythms up to a week after being harvested. And they respond to light patterns by producing chemical compounds to protect themselves against herbivores.

When researchers subjected fruits and vegetables to light and dark based on when insect predators sleep and wake, the plants recognized the patterns and generated protective compounds called glucosinolates in response. And when samples of cabbage were put on the same light/dark schedule as looper moth caterpillars they were damaged the least by the predators, compared with other samples on different light cycles.

Lettuce, spinach, zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots and blueberries all defended themselves similarly, though through different chemical mechanisms, when put on the looper moth caterpillar schedule. The research is interesting in itself, but more importantly has potential applications for reducing pesticide use in harvested crops. Though it may seem like protecting growing plants is the only goal, fruits and vegetables must also be safeguarded from pests after they are harvested. Plants' own defenses could reduce the need for harsh pesticides in the future. That zucchini knows when you eat ice cream in the middle of the night and it's throwing shade. More here.

What Are You Doing About Light Bulbs These Days?

There are the LED lightbulbs you know you should buy, and then there are the insane 10 for $10 sales that try to lure you back to the incandescent days. But betweeneverlasting light bulbs, app-controlled light bulbs and light bulbs that do the dishes and see into the future, it's pretty clear that change is upon us. Bulb life, light quality and price all factor in. What do you buy and why?

Jun 22, 2013

Researchers Have Found a Way To Cram 1,000 Terabytes Onto a Single DVD

Now that its bigger brother Blu-ray has stolen the spotlight, paltry 4.7 GB DVDs have slowly started to fade into obscurity. But could they be poised for a comeback? A trio of Chinese scientists have discovered a breakthrough process that could, at least in theory, allow a DVD to store a whopping 1,000 TB—or a full petabyte—of data.

The exact science and technology behind the discovery is detailed in this paper, but here's the gist of it in layman's terms. The storage capacity of a DVD is limited by the size of the laser beam burning the small pits that represent the streams of data. Blu-ray increased this capacity by switching to even smaller blue lasers, but the storage capacity of that technology maxed out as well.

You see, back in 1873, a German physicist named Ernst Abbe found that a beam of light focused through a lens could not be any smaller than half of the light's wavelength. And for visible light, which is used to burn digital media discs, that's around 500 nanometers. So instead of breaking that law, the researchers found a way to work around it using two beams of light that cancel each other out. And by ensuring the beams don't completely overlap, a much smaller beam can be created to burn even smaller pits on a disc, massively increasing its capacity.
There's a still a lot to be perfected before this technology could reach consumers. Like how these incredibly tiny pits of data can be actually be read after they're created. And since writing 1,000 TB of data would take forever, developing faster ways to burn discs will also be necessary before consumers are ready to adopt the new technology. But the prospect of DVDs and Blu-rays taking a quantum leap in storage capacity is still incredibly exciting. More here.

Jun 21, 2013

What Do You Think of Video for Instagram?

You're about to be able to cloak short video clips in vintage filters. Facebook just added video to Instagram, similar to Twitter's Vine app, only smarter. It has many more features than Vine—it looks like video sharing done right.

You'll Never Lose a Floating Cork Knife at the Bottom of a Lake

Are you planning an early summer lakeside knife fight? To ensure you have the upper hand grab one of these floating cork knives.

But really, how clever is this $26 blade? It's summer, so you're (hopefully) going to be spending a lot of time by the water. Maybe you're fishing. Maybe you're tending to the boat. Maybe you're camping near a creek. Whatever it is, you might need a knife. And this one won't swim away because it has it's always wearing its cork life jacket. More here.

Jun 19, 2013

Mars Had an Oxygen-Rich Atmosphere 4 Billion Years Ago

Though chances are Curiosity is going to come up empty-handed as far as living, potentially breathing Martians are concerned, four billion years ago might have told a very different tale. After recently examining meteorites and rocks from Mars, scientists have discovered that not only did Mars once have an oxygen-rich atmosphere, but it was developed over one billion years before Earth's.

Some of the rocks in question actually came from NASA's Spirit Mars rover, which scientists compared to Martian meteorites that had crash landed on Earth. Spirit's rocks, which came from a 3.7 billion-year-old section of the planet, show signs of early exposure to oxygen before they sank back into the terrain. The Martian meteorites, though, came from deep within the surface, which is why they appear virtually unaffected by any sort of oxygen-containing atmosphere.

Most exciting about this discovery, though, is the fact that an oxygen-rich environment is a very strong indicator for life. On Earth, we know that oxygen levels slowly increased thanks to photosynthesizing microbes, which just as well may have been the case on Mars. According to Professor Bernard Wood of Oxford University:
As oxidation is what gives Mars its distinctive colour, it is likely that the 'red planet' was wet, warm, and rusty billions of years before Earth's atmosphere became oxygen-rich.
Though it may still be mostly speculative at this point, there's a decent chance that all those wonderful pictures Curiosity beams down could actually be a peek into our planet's red, dusty future. More here.

Jun 18, 2013

Hidden iOS 7 Settings Reveal What Apple Is Working On

How to actually access the hidden settings is unclear as it doesn't appear to be readily available to everyone with the beta. The above video shows a handful of nice-to-have tweaks like the ability to nest folders within folders now that iOS 7 has pages within folders. You can even hide pre-installed apps!

Other hidden gems include gestures that are activated from corners or swipes from the edge. The latter of which can already be found in Mail and Safari, for instance. As 9to5Mac points out, we could see these new-to-iOS gestures for quicker app switching later on but not much else, as the settings are hidden and likely only for internal use. More here.

Why Haven't Mugs Told Us the Coffee's Temperature Until Now?

If you've got $38 to spare and a few weeks to wait for delivery, Brando's got a new temperature sensing travel mug that guarantees you'll never again burn your mouth on scalding hot coffee—or accidentally sip a stale brew that's gone cold.

A built-in thermometer lets the insulated mug report back how hot or cold its contents are via a two-digit LCD display on the outside. But if you can't make hide nor hare of the metric system mumbo jumbo it uses to display the temperature, the mug also has a heart on its side that glows blue, orange, or red, visually indicating how hot or cold your beverage is. Just don't expect your lawsuit against McDonald's to hold up when you're holding indisputable evidence your coffee was too hot to drink. More here.