May 30, 2014

The First Cheap 3D Printed Food Is Delicious Nursing Home Mush

Go to the cafeteria of a nursing home and you'll see elderly residents noshing on pureed food. It's necessary for patients for whom chewing is difficult, but it's not very palatable. AGerman company is seeking to change that by making 3D-printed, easy-to-chew food that actually tastes good.

The company behind the project is called Biozoon Smoothfood. It's using liquified ingredients—vegetables, carbs, meat, etc.—in the place of the ink or PLA that a 3D printer would normally use. Ingredients are inserted into the cartridges of the printer, and with the help of a binding agent, they come out as food that pretty much melts in your mouth. For now they're making six foods: cauliflower, peas, chicken, pork, potatoes, and pasta. But more food is on the menu for the future.

The food can come out in whatever shape the software of the program has dictated. Remember, this is 3D printing we're talking about, so the user is afforded a lot of freedom. However, Biozoon is making food items in their shapes, so it's not much of a break from what these elderly people would probably prefer to be eating in the first place. (Read: regular food or a normal consistency).

Right now the food is made off-site, and sent to homes. But the goal is that eventually, Biozoon will be able to place printers directly in the homes. Many elderly people really need this, as they suffer from dysphagia, a condition that often plagues stroke victims, causes trouble swallowing, and could result in choking. And if 3D printing makes it so your dear grandmother never has to eat pureed beets again, we all win. More here.

May 27, 2014

MIT Breakthrough Makes Tiny Apartments Feel Three Times Bigger

If you live in a big city, there's a decent chance your apartment feels cramped. Enter CityHome, a closet-sized device recently revealed by MIT that promises to make a 200-square-foot apartment feel three times as big. And did I mention that it's gesture-controlled?

The thing looks pretty awesome. With the flick of a wrist, you can summon the bed, a desk, or a dining table for six, all of which roll out slowly, like something out of The Jetsons.

The CityHome also includes a kitchen counter, a stovetop, a closet, and additional storage space, all of which look great under a Hue-like lighting system—all gesture-controlled. Voice and touch commands also work.

If that doesn't feel futuristic enough, the entire unit can move a few feet in either direction, revealing or concealing a bathroom.

May 26, 2014

Meet the Man Who Makes WWE's Official Championship Belts in His Garage

Though they're often used as impromptu grappling weapons and concussion delivery devices, these championship belts involve a whole lot of intricate craftsmanship. Millican, who began making belts as a childhood hobby and never really gave it up, has been supplying WWE with these torso prizes for the past six years—all of them built by hand in his garage, and polished to perfection on his kitchen counter.

Once you get an up-close look at the craftsmanship that goes into these belts, you'll cringe the next time you see one used as a bludgeon. But Dave doesn't mind—when the belts get beat beyond recognition, they get sent back to him for rehabilitation.

From the looks of it, Dave assembles the belts in his garage, and does the final polishing in the kitchen. Hopefully, the neighbors can't smell what Dave's cooking.

May 13, 2014

Of Course an Apple Engineer Has an iPhone Business Card

You'd assume that if any company on Earth had a well-designed business card, it would be Apple. But apparently one of their engineers still felt they could create something that left an even better first impression, so they designed this incredibly unique business card made from an actual iPhone glass sourced straight from Foxconn.

The folks at Cult of Mac got to check it out in person, but unfortunately weren't able to take one of the cards home because the engineer only had ten produced due to their expensive price tag. Because not only are they actual Gorilla Glass screens, but the durability and strength of the material makes the laser-etching process particularly difficult.

However, even if he can't actually give them out to everyone he meets, the cards are obviously still making quite an impression to more than just his colleagues. More here.

May 11, 2014

These new skyscraper tilting windows are designed to freak you out

Holy crap. The John Hancock Tower in Chicago rolled out a snazzy scary new attraction for people who visit the top of the skyscraper: windows that tilt down to give you a better view of the ground beneath you. It's like a roller coaster ride for those afraid of heights (that would be me). Just stand next to the window and it'll tilt itself down like you're falling.

May 4, 2014

This is what fireworks do when you fire them inside your living room

Dumt & Farligt (Stupid & Dangerous) is a Danish TV program that really lives up to its name: They do lots of dumb and hazardous things while filming using a Phantom camera in slow motion. Like firing big fireworks in a living room, burning all the furniture in the process.

You can go to the two minute mark, when the firework action starts, but I recommend against it because the entire compilation is worth watching.

May 3, 2014

This one-cent stamp is 'The Mona Lisa of stamps' and worth $20 million

There is art in everything. Value in trash. Millions in the tiniest of things. Take this stamp. Known as the One-Cent Magenta from British Guiana, it's 158 years old, hasn't been seen in public since the mid 1980's and is considered to be the Mona Lisa of stamps. Oh and Sotheby's expects it to sell for $10 million to $20 million which would make it the most expensive stamp ever sold.

The One-Cent Magenta stamp was first printed in 1856 by a newspaper in British Guiana during "a stamp shortage" (those existed!) along with less valuable four-cent stamps (worth $50,000). The stamp has an image of a schooner (that's pretty much faded on the one cent version) and says in Latin, "We give and we take in return." Why's it so expensive? There's only one left.

The NY Times says:
Like the "Mona Lisa," it has its mysteries. Was it colorized later in life, like an MGM movie? And how did it get the unusual-looking star on the back? The shape and the pattern — and the purpose of the star — had puzzled Mr. Redden, who said he had spent hours studying it, hoping to discern something that others had missed. "Eventually," he said, "you have the feeling you could see the face of the Madonna in there, you've been looking at it so hard."
The testing of the stamp for its authenticity and the story of the journey it took is pretty fascinating. If you're into learning about things that should definitely not cost that much money, you can learn more about Mona Lisa's stamp version

Apr 29, 2014

Scientists Have Reconnected Severed Nerves with Liquid Metal

To test the alloy, the engineers applied an electric pulse to nerves in a frog leg so that the calf muscle would contract. They then severed the sciatic nerve and connected the two ends with either the liquid metal alloy or Ringer's solution, a mix of electrolytes that mimic body fluids. Sure enough, the Ringer's solution only carried the charge so far, while the liquid metal alloy transmitted the electrical signals about as well as the nerve before it had been severed. This means it could be used to protect muscles and nerves after an injury, and since it's metal, it can be easily removed with the help of an x-ray.

his is obviously the early stages of what could be an exciting new treatment for nerve injuries. It's also, arguably, the first step towards truly wired creature. Of course, we're probably closer to building a cyborg than you might think. More here.

A Waffle Made from ice Cream Means you get to eat Dessert for Breakfast

Dominique Ansel, the Willy Wonka of desserts and creator of the Cronut, has announced his latest imagination busting, tastebud oozing creation: The Waffogato. It takes the delicious affogato, which is basically ice cream topped with espresso, but remixes it by making the ice cream a waffle made from ice cream and mixed with Belgium waffle bits, tapioca balls and a bit of salt.

As you pour the espresso over the ice cream waffle, tapioca balls are released and you get a tasty treat that's drink and dessert and chewthing and breakfast in one. More here.

Apr 22, 2014

Your Internet Connection Is Almost Certainly Slower Than Advertised

Does your internet always seem too slow? Chances are, it is: a study by the Wall Street Journal suggests that the majority of ISPs deliver slower speeds than they advertise.

The research, put together using data from Ookla and its online speed test, shows that the majority of 800 cities studied suffer far slower internet speeds than providers claim. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those with faster connections only achieve a percentage point or two above the claimed offering; in contrast, those that are slower can be up to 50 percent behind the claims.

The charts below, put together by the Journal, show how each ISP fairs in general across the U.S. and maps the 20 cities with median Internet speeds highest above and lowest below those that are advertised. It sure sucks to live in Idaho. More here.

Apr 21, 2014

The Game Boy Turns 25 Today

You've almost certainly played a game on your phone today. Some beautiful, high-res game with a rainbow of colors and fluid animation. You've got a lot of power in your pocket these days, but portable gaming owes a lot to the chunky old Game Boy, which is 25 years old today.

Released in Japan on April 21st 1989—it made its way to the States that August—the original Game Boy was the first in a long line of smaller, slimmer models one of which you've almost certainly owned. Still, that original was well worth its bulk and appetite for AA batteries for the magical ability to play Tetris on the school bus.

In light of today's cellular pocket monsters, the original Game Boy's specs are adorably meager.
  • An 8-bit, 4.19 MHz CPU
  • 8 kB of video RAM
  • 2-bit color pallette with four (magnificent) shades of gray
  • A wonderful 160 × 144 pixel LCD display
All that said, you're bound to have fonder memories of your very first Game Boy than any of the touchscreen beasts that followed in its wake. There's just something about a gray monolith with purple buttons that can really work its way into your heart.

Happy birthday, little dude.

A $15 USB Adapter That Fixes an Annoying iMac Design Flaw

The J-shaped Jimi extender makes one of the USB ports on the back of a latest-gen iMac easily accessible from the front as it just peeks out from under the computer. At $15 (officially available tomorrow) it's a simple solution to an annoying problem, and should help prevent the back of your lovely machine from getting all scratched up as you try to blindly plug in a cable or a flash drive. More here.

Apr 14, 2014

This Side Table Gobbles Up Your Clutter Like a Hungry Animal

We all have a surface somewhere in our home which is covered in clutter: phones, wallets, coins, keys, pens, cables, tickets and all other kinds of crap. But this neat console table gobbles it all up to keep it out of sight.

The Balka Console, brainchild of Gregoire de Lafforest, combines a beautiful oak top with a crazy yellow bag to hold your junk. Carved into that beautiful table top is a chute which allows it to swallow everything—from keys to credit cards—wholesale. A bit like a well-designed pelican turned into furniture. The designer explains:
"The oak top of the console, pierced with a drain, allows objects to slide in and disappear in a flexible bag drawer. Stored, the user can keep them there indefinitely or unearth them at any time."
It might not keep your life organized, but it will at least keep it free of clutter. The table was unveiled just this month, but pricing and availability are as yet unknown. More here.

Apr 13, 2014

44% Of All Twitter Accounts Have Yet To Send A Tweet

A new report from Twopcharts has found that 44% of the world's Twitter accounts have yet to send a Tweet. With approximately 974 million Twitter accounts, that's an awful lot of dead air. As the Wall Street Journal points out, however, this could mean that people, scammers, or bots simply signed up for an account and never came back—or that there are hordes of shy people out there waiting for the moment to strike. Do you have a Twitter account you have never used? If not, why not? More here.

Apr 8, 2014

This Clever Newspaper Ad Hides a 3D Kitchen in the Classifieds

As far as newspaper ads go, the classifieds are an especially boring section of tiny text and identically spaced columns. But it doesn't always have to be so! This ingenious little ad for Corona's kitchens by Colombia-based designer Felipe Salazar plays with the geometry of classified ads. An entire kitchen, complete with gas hood and stove, pops right out at you. You can't do that with Craigslist.

If there were more clever ads like this, I might actually read classified ads again. More here.

Apr 6, 2014

Tomorrow's Cancer-Blasting Wonder Drug Could Come From a Tobacco Plant

Australian researchers published findings this week on a newly-discovered plant compound that destroys cancer cells, but leaves healthy cells unharmed. They found it in possibly the last place you'd look for a cancer cure: the family of plants that brings us cancer's number-one culprit, tobacco.

The research team at Australia's La Trobe University discovered the cancer-blasting protein in the flowers of Nicotiana alata, a relative of cigarette tobacco that's usually planted as an ornamental (though it's sometimes smoked in hookah pipes). A protein called NaD1 helps the plant fight off fungi and bacteria—and, it turns out, that same protein is like a sniper for cancerous cells.

On the cellular level, NaD1 works by plunging sharp pincers into fat molecules present in the outer membranes of cancerous cells. This action rips the cells open, spilling their guts and destroying them before they can spread their cancerous mutations to other cells.

"There is some irony in the fact that a powerful defense mechanism against cancer is found in the flower of a species of ornamental tobacco plant, but this is a welcome discovery, whatever the origin," said Dr. Mark Hulett, lead investigator in the study.

The most promising aspect of NaD1 is how it specifically targets cancerous cells. Many of the most vicious, lifestyle-limiting side effects of current chemotherapy stems from the fact that the drugs tend to kill healthy cells as well as cancerous cells.

Now that the researchers have an idea how the mechanism works, they're laboring to see how it can be put to use. Preclinical trials are underway at a Melbourne biotech company, though Dr. Hulett predicts it will take a decade before the substance finds its way to hospitals.

In the meantime, stay away from those tobacco products. The good cousin in the family may work out to be very good, but the bad cousin is still undeniably bad. More here.

Apr 3, 2014

Scientists Cured Paralysis in Mice with Stem Cells and Lasers

This is wild. Chasing the elusive dream of curing paralysis, a team of scientists used stem cells and optogenetics to circumvent the central motor system of lab mice whose nerves had been cut. This enabled them to blast individual motor neurons with a laser, triggering movement in the legs of the mice.
Okay, so it's a little bit complicated, if you're not familiar with how optogenetics work (and honestly, why would you be?). The cutting-edge technique enables neuroscientists to modify specific neurons so that they're light sensitive. Shining light on the neuron then makes it fire, telling the brain to move a muscle or stop feeling pain.

In the case of the paralyzed mice, researchers modified the animals' stem cells so they'd produce a light-sensitive protein. The stem cells were then programmed to turn into motor neurons and engrafted onto the sciatic nerves of the mice. All the reserachers had to do then was shine a light on the light sensitive motor neurons and—boom—the mice weren't paralyzed any more. To be specific, the neurons fired and caused the once-paralyzed leg muscles to move. "We were surprised at how well this worked," says Linda Greensmith of University College London who led the team.

There's obviously a lot of work to be done before we start implanting stem cells and lasers into human legs, but this is an encouraging start. At the very least, it will help researchers better understand crippling neurological conditions like epilepsy. It's also a perfect entry in the annals of mad science. More here.

Apr 2, 2014

The Windows Start Menu Is Coming Back

Miss the Start Menu? Well it is coming back. Yes it still has live tiles, but it is back in a way you can recognize, and it roll out to users as an update. Oh and those universal apps Microsoft is going to start peddling? They'll be available in windows.

Mar 31, 2014

Why California's Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

Having found a gold lining to the West's otherwise devastating drought, prospectors are flocking to the record-low rivers of the Sierra Nevada foothills. A mini gold rush has kicked off in previously inaccessible riverbeds, not far from the site of California's original gold rush.

"The word is definitely out," one prospector told the Associated Press. "We've seen more people prospecting than usual." The drought has brought a good many first-time prospectors to Pioneer Mining Suppliers in Auburn, where they can buy equipment, maps, and mining books. The basic technique involves a lot of patience sifting through dirt and mud. More advanced equipment, like sluicers, make the job a little easier, although it's still not much different from gold panning of days yore.

As unfortunate as this historic drought is, it does pull back the watery curtain on the past. A once-flooded ghost town has reemerged in the drought—as have old cars, locomotives, railroad tracks, tunnels, and Indian villages at various lakes around California. The reappearance of all this old manmade infrastructure is a reminder that many of these lakes and reservoirs themselves are part of an artificial water system that brings water to our thirsty cities and crop fields.

In the Sierra Nevada foothills, the drought is also turning back the clock—to the gold rush days of the 19th century. But there is a price to be paid for this gold. The owner of Pioneer Mining Supplies tells the AP he's worried about fire: "It's great for business, but I'd rather see no drought and a lot of rain." More here.

How Dropbox Knows When You're Sharing Copyrighted Files

You might have seen over the weekend that Dropbox is capable of telling whether you're sharing copyrighted files over its cloud service—without even actually looking at your stuff. But in fact, it's been able to do that for years.

A tweet this weekend from Darrell Whitelaw spoke of a DMCA takedown in his personal folders on Dropbox, sparking outrage. But the takedown is a result of software that the cloud service has been using for at last two years.

The site uses a technique known as "file hashing against a blacklist" to block pre-selected files from being shared person-to-person over its servers. In many ways, it's kinda neat; it avoids Dropbox getting in trouble with the Feds, and never actually interrogates your files, so it doesn't fall foul of violating its anti-infringement policy either.

How does it work? Well, Dropbox uses hashing—a simple algorithmic tool which maps data of arbitrary length to data of a fixed length—to produce a unique identifier for every file you upload (it also then encrypts your file so others can't read them). The hash is unique to that particular file.

But when DMCA complaints are sent Dropbox's way—by record labels or content producers or whoever else—the files to which they relate are also hashed. If you've been uploading the exact same files that Dropbox has received a complaint about, Dropbox will match its hash to one on its list, and stop your sharing it. Like Dropbox explains on its site:
"There have been some questions around how we handle copyright notices. We sometimes receive DMCA notices to remove links on copyright grounds. When we receive these, we process them according to the law and disable the identified link. We have an automated system that then prevents other users from sharing the identical material using another Dropbox link. This is done by comparing file hashes. We don't look at the files in your private folders and are committed to keeping your stuff safe."
Simple, legal, and all done without looking at a single one of your files. Not ideal if you happen to dabble in the occasional illicit download, but at least Dropbox isn't rifling through all of your other stuff to find it. More here.