Oct 30, 2013

A Single Cup To Handle All Your Kitchen Measurements

You can finally replace that stack of incremental measuring spoons that never actually seem to to stay stacked with Joseph Joseph's new 2-in-1 measuring cup, which handles both large and small measurements—even at the same time. The cup's larger chamber can hold up to four cups of dry or liquid ingredients, while the smaller chamber in the corner lets you measure out as little as five milliliters.

You'll also notice the $20 measuring cup's unique square corners, which makes it easier to pour out ingredients exactly where you want them. There's also a soft silicone handle that's extra grippy, so four cups of flour don't accidentally end up on the floor. More here.

You Could Get a Ticket For Wearing Google Glass While Driving

Because, as Cecilia Abadie recently found out, you might end up getting a ticket. Pulled over by San Diego police, she got a ticket for wearing the smart glasses while at the wheel just days ago. She explains:
A cop just stopped me and gave me a ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving! The exact line says: Driving with Monitor visible to Driver (Google Glass).
Clearly, Californian police feel that the display on Glass is as distracting as looking at a phone. It's not obvious if that's really the case or not—but it'll be interesting to see what lawyers and judges make of it. What do you think? More here.

Oct 28, 2013

The Internet Archive Opens Its Historical Software Collection To All

Gamers of a certain age will no doubt scream Oh wow, I remember that! as they click through the Internet Archive's latest project.

The non-profit organization recently launched the Historical Software Collection, with the mission of making old programs accessible (including plenty of games!) that were originally released for platforms like Atari 2600, Apple II, and Commodore 64.

Software itself isn't new to the Archive, but it's spent the past couple of years making these programs playable in-browser. So whether it's E.T. on Atari 2600 from 1982 or VisiCalc on the Apple II from 1979, there's no need to download a heap of emulators to try them out.

Archiving video games can present special challenges, as David Gibson at the Library of Congress has explained so well. But the independent Internet Archive claims to have thelargest software archive in the world, and it should be interesting to see how the next few years work out for them.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges they'll face is copyright. Technically, all of these programs are still covered under copyright law. And I have no doubt that the myriad companies responsible for managing the rights to something like E.T. are figuring out if they should intervene. Hopefully, no one will try to pull these programs. More here.

Oct 27, 2013

A Detailed Description of Why Human Skin Is Amazing

As Minute Earth rightly points out, we could avoid a lot of flesh wounds by having thicker armored skin like a pangolin. But the energy needed to generate and maintain that armor wasn't evolutionarily worth it for us to expend because we put so much fuel into our enormous brains. We can think of ways to escape danger or make intelligent plans to avoid dangerous situations in the first place. And we do have scales, they're just not visible to the naked eye, but they protect us from tons of microbes. A lot is going on with our skin as the layers form, live out their life rising to the surface and then die. Watch this video and then go exfoliate.

Oct 26, 2013

7 Things You Do On the Internet That'd Be Creepy to Do in Real Life

You're a different person online compared to your real life. It's okay. You don't have to irrationally like cats just because you're obsessed with cat videos. You don't have to literally poke the people you poked on Facebook. You don't have to like or follow or tag or comment or stalk celebrities like you do on the Internet. Because if you did that in real life, you'd be a total creep. BuzzFeed Video imagined 7 things that'd be super creepy to do in real life, even though you do them on the Internet.

Oct 25, 2013

Dinosaurs Were Able to Grow So Huge Because of Their Squishy Joints

There's a reason that towering mammals the likes of King Kong are resigned to fiction. Our aching bones can only take so much weight before they start crumbling under the pressure. But if that's the case, then why were dinosaurs able to reach such phenomenal heights? According to a new study, the answer isn't so much about the bones themselves as it is the soft, squishy joints they lay between.

The scientists leading the new study published in PLOS ONE measured the ends of bones in both mammals and dinosaurs as well as their descendants to see how joint and bone shape changes as size increases.

As mammals grow, our bones become progressively rounder at the ends to be able to support the increase in weight while minimizing pressure as much as possible. Reptiles and birds, however, (as well as the dinosaurs that came before them) have bones that grow wider and flatter as more weight is added to the frame. So considering that these two very different shapes are both meant to sustain more weight, the joints and cartilage that connect them must also work differently.

For humans and other mammals, as the bones become rounder the connecting cartilage continues to stretch thin and tight across the bones surface. Because the soft, connective cartilage is close-fitting and maleable, our weight is able to distribute more evenly. The wider, flatter bones of reptiles, however, solve the problem by packing as many layers of the stuff as they can—which as it turns out, is a much more efficient method. According to Matthew Bonnan from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and one of the lead authors on the study:
More than just evenly distributing the pressure, the joint itself may be deforming a little — it’s actually squishier, increasing the force it can sustain.
Of course, these gelatinous joint fillings weren't the only thing letting dinos tower over the rest of the prehistoric world. The lighter, hollow bones favored by reptiles also meant that larger frames didn't require as much support as our own solid bricks for bones. This does, however, at least begin to explain why dinosaurs were able to reach such larger than (modern) life proportions.

Still, as pillowy and bouncy as their joints may be, everything has its limits. You know, like extinction-event comets. More here.

Oct 24, 2013

Can a Sponge Absorb Mercury?

A sponge is a sponge because its porous material is able to absorb liquid of any kind. But what about liquid metal? Can a sponge actually absorb the heavy quicksilver material known as mercury? Not at all. At best, a little bit of mercury goop gets caught on top of the sponge and slides away like its T-1000 shaping itself back together.

We've Finally Figured Out Why Kettles Whistle

This might shock you, but for over a century scientists have been pondering why kettles whistle—and completely failed to find an answer. That's all changed now, though, thanks totwo scientists from the University of Cambridge who have worked out how it happens.

The whistle in a kettle is created when steam passes through two plates, positioned close together, each with a hole in them. But scientists have been trying, and failing, for decades to understand exactly what it is about this process that makes the high-pitched sound.

Ross Henrywood and Anurag Agarwal used insights gained from analyzing noise creation in jet engines to try and answer the question. By analyzing the flow of steam which travels up the spout of the kettle, they were able to pinpoint what creates the whistle.

Their results, which are published in the academic journal The Physics Of Fluids, show that the sound is produced by small vortices—regions where the steam swirls—which at certain frequencies can produce noise. They explain:
As steam comes up the kettle’s spout, it meets a hole at the start of the whistle, which is much narrower than the spout itself. This contracts the flow of steam as it enters the whistle and creates a jet of steam passing through it. The steam jet is naturally unstable, like the jet of water from a garden hose that starts to break into droplets after it has travelled a certain distance. As a result, by the time it reaches the end of the whistle, the jet of steam is no longer a pure column, but slightly disturbed. These instabilities cannot escape perfectly from the whistle and as they hit the second whistle wall, they form a small pressure pulse. This pulse causes the steam to form vortices as it exits the whistle. These vortices produce sound waves, creating the comforting noise that heralds a forthcoming cup of tea.
Which is fascinating. But it could also prove useful, because the knowledge gained from the study could help other scientists and engineers find and stop other similar—but more annoying—noises. Henrywood explains:
The effect we have identified can actually happen in all sorts of situations - anything where the structure containing a flow of air is similar to that of a kettle whistle. Pipes inside a building are one classic example and similar effects are seen inside damaged vehicle exhaust systems. Once we know where the whistle is coming from, and what’s making it happen, we can potentially get rid of it.
Next one the list? High-speed hand-dryers. Look out, Dyson, the University of Cambridge is hot on your heels. More here.

This Runner's Jacket Inflates To Cool You Down

The folks over at Gear Junkie got a chance to visit the product development lab at North Face's new headquarters in Alameda, California, and one of the many new innovations they were shown was this wonderful runner's jacket that uses a clever ventilation system to cool you down.

Tugging on a pair of elastics on the updated Stormy Trail runner's jacket seals off the coat at the waist. So as the wearer runs, air entering the jacket through a series of vents can't escape out the bottom. Instead, it flows up the runner's back and escapes out another vent closer to the top of the jacket, taking heat with it and cooling the wearer in the process. It's as close as a jacket can get to air conditioning, and will be available next July for about $165. More here.

Dolphins Inspire a New Kind of Radar That Detects Hidden Electronics

Not only are they out there keeping fish populations under control and occasionally leading lost boaters to land, dolphins' unique hunting techniques have also recently inspired a new kind of radar that's able to pinpoint hidden electronics like bomb triggers and surveillance devices. Move over dogs, man's officially found its new best friend.

Developed by researchers at the University of Southampton in England who were intrigued at how dolphins were still able to pinpoint fish they were hunting even in the middle of distracting clouds of underwater bubbles, the TWIPR—or twin inverted pulse radar—borrows techniques from the ocean's smartest inhabitants.

Namely, a technique where two signal pulses are sent out instead of one. This approach allows dolphins to distinguish between fish and bubbles, but with the TWIPR technology it can be used to detect electronics. When the pair of positive and negative pulses hit something like a tree, a rock, or even metal, they cancel each other out and disappear. But when the pulses hit a device made with semiconductors, the negative pulse becomes positive, doubling the signal and making the electronics very easy to spot.

What's particularly awesome is that the new technology—which could easily find a bomb hidden in a dumpster full of trash—measures just two inches in size and can be built from electronics costing less than a dollar. So putting it into production and into the hands of those in danger shouldn't require much further development. More here.

Oct 22, 2013

Scientists Discover Gold Literally Growing on Trees in the Outback

Every parent's favorite line about how money doesn't grow on trees just became a little more irrelevant, thanks to a fascinating find down under. Researchers in Australia recently found gold—yes,real gold—in eucalyptus trees growing in the outback.

A team of unlikely prospectors recently ventured into the arid land of the Goldfields-Esperance region in Western Australia, hoping to learn more about what was underneath its soil. The area earned its name for being rich in gold deposits—that were, however, notoriously difficult to find. So the researchers looked in an unlikely place: The trees.

Eucalyptus trees in this region are known for their resiliency, and for roots that reach impossibly deep to find the groundwater needed to keep themselves alive. It just so turns out that the elusive gold deposits are down there, too.

Chasing a longstanding rumor that the trees' leaves get their gold luster from the deposits, the scientists analyzed the leaves of eucalyptus trees in the area—and sure enough, they found traces of gold. Apparently, the trees' roots grew ten stories deep into the soil and absorbed gold particles from nearby deposits. To confirm that these particles came from the soil under the roots, they grew eucalyptus trees in gold-laced potting soil in a greenhouse. And sure enough—they found gold in those leaves, too.

The idea that plants absorb minerals from the soil around them is hardly new, but this is an extraordinary case. "Gold is probably toxic to plants and is moved to its extremities (such as leaves) or in preferential zones within cells in order to reduce deleterious biochemical reaction," reads a study about the research published today in Nature Communications. The authors also point out that this is "the first evidence of particulate gold within natural specimens of living biological tissue." That's a hell of a first, even for you alchemy nerds out there.

Don't go thinking you can get rich by cutting down eucalyptus trees, though. Each tree contains such a small amount of gold—46 parts per billion, to be exact—that it would take hundreds to compile enough for a wedding ring. But the trees could be used to scout the location of underground gold deposits. And since approximately 30 percent of the world's gold reserves are thought to lie underground in the Goldfields-Esperance region, the search may be well worth the trouble. More here.

A Headphone Jack Laser Pointer That No One Will Be Able To Spot

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise; highlighting a character's crotch on-screen at the movies is hi-larious, and always will be. But getting caught with a laser pointer in your hand and tossed out of the theater isn't. So thankfully red lasers have been around for decades, and have been miniaturized to the point where they can hide inside your smartphone's headphone jack.

Designed strictly for safe work purposes like highlighting information during a presentation, the iPinsips power from your iPhone but shouldn't drain its battery unless left on for endless hours. Speaking of which, the laser is activated using a free accompanying app, and it even has a safety to ensure it can't be accidentally turned on when you don't need it. You just turn the laser 90 degrees when it's inserted in the headphone jack and it will remain inert until you turn it back.

At just over $40 it is considerably expensive given red laser pointers are almost as cheap as penny candy these days. But what you're mostly paying for here is a covert way to harass and annoy people. Note: please don't harass and annoy people with this. More here.

Oct 21, 2013

Scientists Just Took a Huge Step Towards Curing Baldness

Hair plugs, comb overs and toupĂ©es beware; a team of researchers from Columbia has developed a way to induce new human hair growth for the first time ever. It’s not just the fact that they can just grow hair that’s so exciting, though. It’s that they can grow yourhair.

The technique centers on the behavior of human dermal papilla cells, the ones that make up the base of hair follicles. While the idea of using dermal papilla cells to generate new hair growth has been around for about 40 years, scientists have had a hard time doing it since the cells simply revert back to basic skin cells when they’re put into a culture. Rodent papillae, however, don’t have that problem, because they clump together and make it easier for the cells to communicate with each other.

Taking a cue from the rodent example, the Columbia researchers figured out how to encourage the human papillae to aggregate in a culture. After harvesting samples from human donors, the researchers transplanted the cells between the dermis and epidermis of human skin and grafted them onto the backs of mice. After a few days, scientists found that the hair was growing like normal. Sure, the human hair was growing on the backs of mice, but they matched up with the donors perfectly.

A magical hair growth tonic is probably still at least a few years away, if it's coming at all. But at least we’re headed in the right direction. More here.

Oct 20, 2013

Use a Laser Pointer to Turn Your iPhone Into a Microscope

Oct 19, 2013

Would This Bike With Storage Inside the Front Wheel Even Be Rideable?

Weighing in at around 25 pounds, you're not going to find many cyclists adopting the Transport, but its creators claim that's about as heavy as your average road bike, so it's perfect for commuters.

They also point out that since the modified front tire is made from lightweight plastic, it weighs the same as a standard road bike tire too—except that doesn't take into account the weight of the extra crap you toss in there. Once a backpack filled with a laptop, clothing, and other daily accessories is stuffed inside, that front wheel is bound to feel quite a bit different, particularly when cornering. What do you think? More here.

Oct 18, 2013

This Thermal Wristband Tricks You Into Never Being Too Warm or Cold

We all know someone who can never seem to get comfy, no matter the temperature. They're always pulling off sweaters because they're too hot, or cranking up the heat because they're too cold. But soon, salvation for these folks could come in the form of a special wristband that uses a copper heatsink to fool your body into thinking it's just been warmed or cooled—when in reality, the ambient temperature hasn't changed.

The technology—developed by researchers at MIT and dubbed Wristify—relies on a phenomenon where rapid external temperature changes on a person's skin can actually affect how their whole body feels. So the wristband—powered by a lithium polymer battery for up to eight hours—delivers rapid but subtle thermal pulses that change at a rate of 0.4 degrees celsius every second.

Raising or lowering the temperature of those thermal pulses will actually make the wearer's entire body feel as if it's getting warmer or cooler, allowing them to get comfy without having to touch a thermostat or change their wardrobe. It would also allow a building to reduce its heating or cooling needs if everyone inside had a Wristify strapped to their arm, which might not seem so implausible if the technology was built into the many smartwatches on the horizon. More here.

Oct 17, 2013

You'll Barely Notice the World's Smallest USB 3.0 Flash Drive

When it comes to prolonging the life of your laptop, there's no easier upgrade than adding an ultra-compact USB flash drive to expand its storage capacity—particularly if it's got a small SSD on board. And a company called PKparis is now laying claim to the title of 'world's smallest USB 3.0 flash drive' with its new K’1 that more than looks the part.

Available in 32GB and 64GB capacities for $48 and $89 respectively, the aluminum drives offer read and write speeds up to 140 MB/s, and they even include a tiny LED activity light. You'll of course want to make sure your laptop is already equipped with USB 3.0 to take full advantage of the K'1's capabilities, and once it's plugged in you'll never have to worry about losing it—or even noticing it for that matter. More here.

Why Exercise When You Can Buy a $50 Fake-Muscle T-Shirt?

Fifty bucks might sound expensive for an undershirt, but not when it means you can cancel your gym membership, stop buying gallons of protein powder, and sell all of your home gym equipment. Because not only does the Funkybod t-shirt promise to camouflage manboobs, it also creates the illusion you've got a muscular toned physique, no matter how frail you might be in real life.

It's all thanks to a set of subtle plates—presumably made of a comfortable foam—that accentuate your shoulder, bicep, lat, pectoral, and shoulder muscles. Worn by itself the fake muscles are easy to spot, but when worn under another shirt no one will be able to tell you don't spend every morning at the gym. And the plates supposedly even feel like real muscle, so no one will be the wiser until you're forced to take your shirt off. Which means that if you spill on yourself, you'll be wearing that stained shirt all day until you get home. More here.

Oct 16, 2013

How a Lost Boy Used Google Earth to Find His Way Home After 25 Years

In the video, Brierly recounts how 1987, after a day of begging for money on the street, he boarded a train for home, but he never got there because he fell asleep and missed his stop. Instead, he ended up on the other end of the country. He was labeled lost, adopted and shipped off to Australia. But thanks to the Google, he found his way home—as if you needed another reason to love Google Maps.

I Have Seen the Future and It's a One-Handed Magnetic Zipper

Under Armour is making the bold claim that it's finally "fixed zippers." And while its innovative new Magzip feature probably isn't going to change the entire world, it's still a vast improvement to clothing technology that hasn't evolved in in almost 100 years. It's also voodoo magic.

If you've ever fumbled trying to connect the two loose ends of a zipper—and really, who hasn't?—you'll immediately see the value in Under Armour's new approach that uses a strong magnet and a re-engineered clasp to automatically guide the two ends of a zipper together, allowing you to do up a coat with just one hand.

The idea for the Magzip actually came from an engineer named Scott Peters, who originally designed it to allow those dealing with conditions that inhibit their fine motor control and coordination to more easily dress themselves. Perfecting the mechanism required about 25 different prototypes, but the final version was patented and eventually licensed by Under Armour for a new line of clothing and jackets destined for a fall 2014 release. More here.