Nov 29, 2013

A Paper Shopping Bag That Transforms Into a Hanger Back Home

If you get lucky, the clothing store where you bought that new sweater or shirt might toss in the plastic hanger it was on free of charge. Otherwise, you'll have to scrounge one up yourself—at least until this wonderful redesign of the shopping back becomes a reality. With a few folds the Hangbag transforms into its own hanger, strong enough to support everything short of a lead-lined suit.

The bag is the brainchild of designers Parin Sanghvi, Shruti Gupta, and Mohit Singhvi, and it takes the less-used reuse approach. Instead of encouraging shoppers to just toss the sack in their recycling bin, it includes instructions on how to use some basic origami techniques to turn it into a very functional hanger. And while it might not be the prettiest hanger in your closet, the important thing is that it's free, it works, and it finally makes paper bags as useful as their plastic counterparts. More here.

Ugh, Who Invited Math To the Rubik's Cube Party?

The simplicity of the Rubik's Cube puzzle is what makes it so devilishly difficult to solve at times. It's just a bunch of colored squares, but getting them to group together can be a life's pursuit for many people. So who in their right mind thought that taking the Rubik's Cube formula and adding mathematical patterns of numbers into the mix was a good idea? Clearly someone with a deep love of mathematics, or a sincere hatred for humanity.

At first glance you might assume the rules of Sudoku might come into play here, but they don't. Solving the six sides of this puzzle cube instead requires you to group the numbers into well-known mathematical patterns or collections—including a Fibonacci series, a prime number series, and even the digits of Pi. In other words, unless you've memorized these numberical formations, solving this puzzle will be all but impossible for anyone other than practising mathematicians. But it's great news for anyone with a math professor on their holiday shopping list, and a $20 limit. More here.

Nov 28, 2013

Why Your Thanksgiving Meal Makes You Tired

Today, you're gonna shovel one hell of a lot of turkey and pie down your throat, then collapse in a food-coma in front of the TV. But why does your huge meal make you feel like snoozing?

As you'd expect, science has some answers. It turns out that there are two big factors that make you fancy a snooze soon after the pumpkin pie is polished off.

First, when the food starts to arrive in your belly, the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system increases and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system decreases. Huh, what does that mean? Well, the sympathetic nervous system provides our fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic system gets your organs ready for digestion. Basically, your body wants you to stay still in order to sort out the contents of your stomach. That's why you choose not to move too much after your meal.

Next, when you start digesting your food, you get a big rush of glucose into your blood stream. If you don't have diabetes, your body creates insulin to help the body's cells absorb the glucose. The insulin works by affecting the uptake of a bunch of amino acids in the body — stick with me here! — except for one called tryptophan. So the concentration of tryptophan increases relative to other amino acids. Turns out that in the brain, tryptophan is converted to serotonin, which is itself converted to melatonin — both of which result in sleepiness.

Voila! Your nervous system and your brain both want you to sleep. So I say go with it.

Incidentally, there's a myth that turkey contains a lot of tryptophan. That's kinda rubbish, though, as turkey doesn't contain any more than chicken, beef, or plenty of other meats. So don't blame the turkey too much. Blame your gluttony instead. More here.

A Multipurpose Key That Will Unlock Your Inner MacGyver

In addition to opening doors, that set of keys in your pocket also serves as makeshift knives, prybars, and even ice scrapers. But why risk accidentally bending a key and losing access to your home when this key-sized multi-tool can do so much more?

What you're looking at here is actually five tools in one including a box cutter, a bottle opener, a metric and imperial ruler, a multi-sized wrench, and a flat-head screwdriver. But that's just its official uses. With enough imagination this can come in handy for countless other uses, even gaining access to your home if your actual key's gone MIA.

And it's just $5. Break that down and you're paying just a buck for every tool this little wonder emulates. You can't even buy a decent screwdriver for that much, and especially not one that will sit as comfortably in your pocket as this one. More here.

Nov 26, 2013

Chrome Is Finally Getting Hands-Free "Ok Google" Search

Even if your family gets bored and stops listening to you this Thanksgiving, at least your computer will still have open ears. Just in time for the holidays, Google has officially released voice recognition for Chrome browsers in the form of a Chrome extension.

To enable the new Voice Search Hotword ability, all you need to do is head to the Chrome Web Store and download the extension. At that point, you'll be able to talk to your laptop totally hands-free, like it was a Moto X or an Xbox One. To activate the feature, simply say "Ok Google" followed by your search or command. You know the drill.

Whether you need to start a timer, look up unit conversions, or dates, or whatever, Google's voice command will listen, and relay back to you out loud. See, the holidays don't have to be so lonely after all, kind of. More here.

Astonishing Picture of Earth Compared to all its Water and Air

This image really gives you a perfect idea on how fragile our planet is by adding all the air in another sphere. The density of the air pictured here corresponds to its density at sea level (one atmosphere.)

Here's the high resolution image made by Globaïa's Félix Pharand-Deschênes, based on a concept by Adam Nieman for the 2002 Earth Summit in Johannesburg.

Nov 25, 2013

Considerate iPhone Thief Returns Handwritten List of Stolen Contacts

What really sucks about losing your phone—besides losing the phone—is that you also lose a whole bunch of your data. But to help ease that pain, a iPhone thief in China copied down a list of all his victim's contacts (by hand!) and returned it to its rightful owner. All 1,000 of them.

According to the Independent, victim Zou Bin lost his iPhone when he split a cab with a robber, who managed to snag it off him. As soon as he got to another phone, Zou texted the stolen handset and demanded that the robber return it to the home address stored inside. It didn't quite work; big surprise.

But Zou didn't wind up empty-handed. A few days later, he received a package including his SIM card, and more impressively, an 11-page, hand-scrawled list of all 1,000 some contacts that had been stored in the phone.

It's not exactly a happy ending, but getting back a SIM card back is definitely better than notgetting a SIM card back. And as for the contacts? Those were probably stored in the cloud anyway, but that list must have been a serious pain in the wrist to write. And with a wrist that cramped, that new stolen toy is going to be hard to use at least. More here.

Nov 24, 2013

You Can Buy Bacon Deodorant

The bacon-everything craze has mostly passed, thankfully, and things seem to be getting back to normal. The constant barrage of bacon Band-Aids and bacon office supplies is over. Bacon personal care products are apparently another story, though.

Bacon cologne appeared in 2011 and bacon soap is definitely out there. But bacon deodorantcan't possibly be useful for keeping clean and smelling good. Can it? J&D Foods also sells bacon lip balm, bacon shaving cream, and maybe weirdest of all, bacon sunblock, so $10 bacon deodorant isn't without precedent for them. Most people who buy this stuff are probably just looking for gag gifts. But maybe, just maybe, there's someone out there who is actually slathering on bacon deodorant before a big date. More here.

Nov 23, 2013

It has more or less become fact that when you pay money to travel on an airplane, you're subscribing yourself to probable gropage, uncomfortable seats, shoddy service, a few degrees of recline comfort and nuked sludge as food (if there is food). It's not pleasant. It's not futuristic. It's not fun. What if airplanes were a little bit more adaptable? Starting with the seats.

This concept design for airplane seats, designed by Seymourpowell, show an economy seat that can be re-arranged, flexed, fit and morphed to your liking. The idea is to provide something more customizable than your usual stodgy seats. Seymourpowell writes:
It is still a standard product, but it can adapt to the changing needs of the passenger. Morph uses smart architecture to adjust both the width of the seat, and individually control seat pan height and seat pan depth to suit varying sizes of passenger.
It might work. But judging from the incompetence of most airlines, it probably never will. More here.

How Teeth Whitening Strips Attack Stains Like Tiny Spaceships

You pop on a goopy strip, and a short while later you've got teeth as white and gleaming as polished tile. But how do those strips work? Wired explains, and when you zoom in to the individual ions flying around, it looks a lot like a sci-fi space attack.
Turns out, there's a lot of powerful chemistry inside each one of those whitening strips. From floor cleaner to diaper absorbent, it's stuff you wouldn't generally think to put in your mouth. But mixed properly, and applied in the privacy of your own bathroom, the stuff works its magic, without having to sit through your dentist's annoying metal-on-tooth scraping. 

Nov 22, 2013

Google's Getting Serious About Prescription Glass

Google really knocked everybody's socks off when it revealed Glass last year—everybody except glasses-wearers, that is. As the company prepares to bring the device to market, though, Google doesn't want to leave anybody out, and that means creating Google Glass with prescription lenses.

A new Wall Street Journal report says that process is well underway and that Google is actually in talks with VSP Global, a vision benefits company—to get Glass in optometrists' offices pronto. That would include making a prescription version, one that could be ready as early as next year. The paper says it's part of a broader effort to keep Glass "from becoming just a niche product for nerds."

Well, I've got news for you, Google. Glass is a computer that you put on your face. It's going to be a niche product for nerds for quite a while. More here.

Nov 21, 2013

Scientists Discover Three Galaxies Merging in the Dawn of the Universe

NASA has published an incredible photo that shows a "far-flung trio of primitive galaxies nestled inside an enormous blob of primordial gas nearly 13 billion light-years from Earth." What's amazing about this is that you are looking at something being created in the Cosmic Dawn, the period "when the universe was first bathed in starlight."

Those are the words of Richard Ellis of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena:
This exceedingly rare triple system, seen when the universe was only 800 million years old [which is cosmic terms is the equivalent to the first 3.8 years of our lives], provides important insights into the earliest stages of galaxy formation during a period known as 'cosmic dawn,' when the universe was first bathed in starlight.
Back in 2009, astronomers only could see one ball of hot gas. But now, combining images from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array telescope in Chile and NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, they have been able to see its true form.

NASA says that Himiko—a legendary queen of ancient Japan that gives name to this space object—"it's possible the trio will eventually merge into a single galaxy similar to our own Milky Way." More here.

Nov 19, 2013

A Little Vitamin B Is All That Makes This Worm Glow Bright Green

This might look like the result of some wild nuclear accident, but in fact this worm is perfectly healthy. It just happens to glow bright green when exposed to certain wavelengths of light.

A team of researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Californiahas discovered that it's a humble splash of vitamin B—riboflavin to be precise—which causes the parchment tube worm to glow.

Interestingly, if you prod and poke the beast, it spits out puffs of mucus that glow bright blue light, too—but it's not clear yet what creates that particular hue. That piece of research is, apparently, next on the list. More here.

After Two Years of Nuclear Crises, Japan Opens Its Biggest Solar Park

This month, Japanese electronics company Kyocera launched the country's largest solar plant. The facility can power 22,000 homes—and, maybe more importantly, it poses no risk of melting down, injuring workers, or spewing radioactive water into the Pacific ocean.

Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant—the facility's proper name—is located in an inlet at the very southern tip of Japan, which means it's fairly safe from threatening storms or tsunamis—although it does sit in the shadow of Sakurajima, an active volcano. But no matter what crises may come over the next few decades, Nanatsujima poses almost no threat to the surrounding community. More here.

Mount Etna Just had its first Spectacular Eruption in 20 years

Mount Etna, Europe's most active volcano, erupted into life this past weekend, sending lava bombs about one-meter-wide soaring into the sky for the first time in over 20 years.At 11,000-feet-high, Etna is also Europe's tallest active volcano, whose history of eruptions has been traced all the way back to the days of ancient Greece. Etna has been particularly active recently after about a half-month of no activity, so there will likely be several more shows to come—hopefully all without any damage.

Nov 17, 2013

Someday, Doctors May Test Circulation With Blood-Boiling Sonic Blasts

Currently, doctors use ultrasound to measure blood flow in the body. Doppler effect, just like bats! But it can't detect flow in the small, slow-moving vessels where diseases often start. The solution? Sonic blasts that heat up a tiny drop of blood, then watch where it goes. Science!

While this might sound like a comic book villain's torture device, according to researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, you'd only feel a slight warming sensation from the focused ultrasonic blasts heating up your vessels. Meanwhile, infrared laser pulses bounced off the warmed blood would be picked up by the ultrasound, delivering real-time flow data.New Scientist likens it to dribbling a drop of ink in a stream of water to determine the speed and direction of flow. Except, y'know, with hot blood instead of ink.

In experiments, the technique accurately measured blood flow as slow as a quarter-millimeter per second. By comparison, current ultrasound technique can't accurately detect anything under 10 millimeters per second. Next up: human testing. And apparently it won't hurt a bit. More here.

Nov 16, 2013

Laser Holograms as Thin as a Hair Could Be the Future of High-Res

Holograms are cool enough on their own, but amazing things happen when you make them incredibly small. A team of Army-funded scientists from Purdue did just that with the development of tiny holograms—smaller than the width of a human hair!—made by shining lasers through a metasurface. This could change display technology forever.

The new hologram set-up uses a metasurface made from thousands of V-shaped nanoantennas hammered into a gold foil. When a laser light shines through the bottom, it projects a hologram just 10 microns above the metasurface. Incredibly, the researchers who built the technology were able to display "PURDUE" in a space narrower than a human hair. The ability to make shapes as intricate as letters means that this technology could also be used to form pixels for future displays, even 3D ones. Changing shapes is as easy as rearranging the nanoantennas on the metasurface.

So if you think Apple's Retina display is impressive, well, you ain't seen nothing 'til you've seen nano-sized holograms. More here.

London Will Start Testing Fifth Element Style Multipass Next Year

All of a sudden, it's the 23rd Century. The UK's government innovation board has just approved funding to begin implementing an all-in-one train/bus/subway/airline pass in 2014. And yes, the actually named it MultiPass after the thing from the Bruce Willis movie.

The plan revolves around a passcard with an e-ink barcode display that would replace a plethora of current travel fare cards. Supporters envision it being used to pay for every aspect of travel, including parking and snacks along the way. The MultiPass company even says the cloud-based system will always give users the lowest fare, no matter where or how they're traveling — which is apparently rather challenging in the UK's current system.

Two pilot tests will begin in 2014, in London and Glasgow, with the full rollout anticipated in the following year. Plenty of time to practice your pronunciation. More here.

Nov 14, 2013

This Double Decker Glass Table Moves Desktop Clutter One Level Down

There are those of us who prefer working at a desk that's clean, free of clutter, and devoid of anything but the work we're focusing on. But that doesn't necessarily mean we're ready for a monastic lifestyle where we have to give up all of our wordly possessions. Instead, this double decker Pili Table designed by Ricard Mollon is a fair compromise, keeping all our unneccessary crap a few inches below the desktop.

At over $3,500 it's admittedly an expensive alternative to simply cleaning your desk and stashing unneeded paperwork in a filing cabinet. But it's one of those rare times when form and function seem perfectly balanced. And it seems like a great way to keep crumbs and food off a keyboard by moving and using it on that lower level. More here.

These Pencils Eventually Sharpen Into Spinning Tops

What do you normally do when you've sharpened a pencil down to a nub—just throw it away? That's the most likely outcome, but if you opt for these wonderful Spincils, you're instead left with a spinning top to add to your collection of desktop distractions.

But the Spincils are beyond just recycled toys; they're individual works of art. Each one is actually a solid piece of wood that's been hand turned in a lathe to get that large bump on the end—there's no mass production done here. So don't expect them to come cheap. But on the plus side, the Spincils work like a top after just the first sharpen (albeit a little on the tipsy side) so you don't have to grind them down to a nub to play with them right away. More here.