Jul 30, 2014

A Squeezable "Glass" Water Bottle That Won't Collect Tastes or Smells

A plastic water bottle can survive the rigors of an active lifestyle, but over time it will collect odd smells and flavors that eventually can't be scrubbed out. A glass bottle is a better option, naturally eschewing mold and odors, but one wrong move and suddenly it's a pile of shards. These Squeezable Glass bottles claim to offer the best of both worlds—but have a bit of a misleading claim to fame.

The bottles aren't actually made from some indestructible self-repairing glass material discovered in a secret lab a decade ago; they're plastic, which is why they can be squeezed without shattering. However, the insides of the bottles are coated with an incredibly thin layer of silicon dioxide—which is what glass is made from—that's just 20 nanometers thick. It acts as barrier preventing smells, flavors, mold, and other bad stuff from sticking to the plastic, but it remains completely flexible.

The Squeezable Glass bottles' inner layer will never rub off, but even if it were to, silicon dioxide is FDA-approved for direct food contact, and it naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables. That added layer of protection also means these bottles can be just tossed in the dishwasher for cleaning, and they start at just $15 with a seventeen-year warranty, which will have you wondering why anyone would ever consider a Nalgene or Camelbak ever again. More here.

Jul 26, 2014

The Pirate Bay Is Now Mobile-Optimized

The Pirate Bay, the infamous peer-to-peer file sharing website, has provided only the finest in illegal torrents for more than a decade, but it's never been known for handsome mobile design. The torrent team has finally come up with a "mobile-friendly" version of its notorious website, in case you've ever wanted to torrent on the go.

Called The Mobile Bay, this new mobile-conscious design provides the same legally dubious amenities, just in a more appealing package. No longer do you have to zoom in just to read the normal Pirate Bay site jammed into your handset. The iconic pirate ship logo is still there, front and center, only now sections are optimized for touching instead of clicking.
"The normal version of the site renders like crap on mobile devices," The Pirate Bay team told TorrentFreak, and they won't hear any arguments from us. The Mobile Bay is the first major design change to the website in its 10-year existence.

However, when it comes to torrenting from your smartphone, not all devices are created equal. Blackberry and Android users can find lots of clients, but if you have an iPhone, you'll need to jailbreak it first to enjoy The Mobile Bay's torrent benefits.

In my few minutes spent navigating The Mobile Bay, I was pushed to a pop-up ad that redirected me to the app store to buy a game called Jelly Splash. I'm not sure if mobile torrenting is my thing. More here.

Jul 22, 2014

This Simple Contraption Lets You Make 100 Water Balloons Every Minute

Like with nuclear war, a water balloon fight isn't about pinpoint accuracy. What's most important is raining down as much soakage on your opponent as quickly as possible. Which means that the Bunch O Balloons, which promises to let you make 100 throw-ready water balloons every minute, could be the most important addition to your summertime arsenal.

The Bunch O Balloons looks like a green 37-armed octopus with tiny empty balloons hanging off of every tentacle. The whole thing attaches to the end of a garden house and when the water's turned on the balloons all automatically fill at the same time. When full they're all easily dislodged with a simple shake, while small black elastics automatically seal them shut.

Bunch O Balloons' creator, Josh Malone, is attempting to raise $10,000 on Kickstarter to put his invention into production. With a pledge of just $15 you can get a single pack which includes three hose attachments and a total of 100 water balloons—just add water.

It's certainly more expensive than buying a bag of normal balloons, until you factor in the hours spent manually filling and tying 100 of them. Suddenly, $15 sounds like a reasonable investment if it keeps your kids occupied for an entire summer afternoon. More here.

Jul 21, 2014

Scientists Can Now Cut HIV Out of Human DNA

HIV is a sneaky virus. Its MO involves integrating its own genes into your DNA, so that even as antiretrovirals hold everything in check, HIV lurks quietly inside your cells. Now scientists have found a way to edit the virus straight out of the human genome—a potential cure for even latent infections.

Genome editing is powerful technique that has really come into its own lately, thanks to aremarkable DNA-cutting protein that easily and precisely cuts out a particular DNA sequence. In fact, genome editing been used to treat HIV before. Earlier this year, another group used genome editing to cut out the DNA sequence of a particular human protein the HIV virus latches onto.

The latest study, from Kamel Khalili at Temple University, uses a similar technique but to different ends. Rather than editing human genes, it goes straight for HIV. Khalili's team showed that the protein could excise copies of the HIV genome from immune cells such as microglia and T cells. It also seemed to prevent any new HIV infection.

The research is still very new, so of course there are challenges to getting something that worked in a petri dish to work in a human. On the whole, very few cells in the human body are latently infected by HIV; how to you make sure the genome editing gets to those cells? And how do you make sure the protein never goes excising where it shouldn't?

But if those challenges are solved, genome editing could be a big step toward an actual cure for HIV. Except for a couple cases involving bone marrow transplants, a cure has been notoriously elusive. HIV hides itself by basically editing your genome—it makes sense that a cure could involve editing your genome, too. More here.

Jul 19, 2014

After 150 Years, Scientists Finally Know How Barnacle Glue Works

Over a century and a half ago, Charles Darwin first described the remarkable adhesive capabilities of barnacles. He couldn't figure out how their natural superglue worked, though. And it took until now to finally unlock the barnacle glue's mysteries.

It's actually surprisingly simple. The key to the super sticky cement barnacles create is actually the tiny drop of oil that their larvae release before attaching to a surface. This droplet clears the water from the surface, enabling them to lay down a phosphoprotein adhesive. Previously, scientists thought that the two substances mixed together to create a bond, but now it's clear that the oil and the adhesive serve two very distinct roles.

"It's an incredibly clever natural solution to this problem of how to deal with a water barrier on a surface," said Dr. Nick Aldred, who authored a paper on the breakthrough that was published in Nature Communications this week. "It will change the way we think about developing bio-inspired adhesives that are safe and already optimized to work in conditions similar to those in the human body, as well as marine paints that stop barnacles from sticking."

Medical applications for nature's strongest superglue are exciting, but they're also a ways off. At the very least, the shipping industry can use the new knowledge to figure out how to get all those damned barnacles off the bottom of boats. The increased drag the arthropods createcosts an estimated $7.5 billion in wasted fuel every year. More here.

Jul 7, 2014

Scientists Have Located the Brain's On/Off Switch for Consciousness

Every one of us loses consciousness on a daily basis: it's called sleep. But scientists have never understood which part of the brain controls when you're conscious and when you're not. Now, researchers seem to have found it by coincidence while studying an epileptic patient—and used electronic brain stimulation to flip the switch on and off.

As New Scientist reports, researchers at George Washington University were using deep brain electrodes to monitor brain signals and try to pinpoint the area of a patient's brain that was causing her seizures. One of the electrodes was placed on the claustrum, a thin sheet of neurons running between major structures of the brain—and a region that's never been studied with deep brain electrodes before.

Unexpectedly, when the researchers sent high frequency electrical signals to the claustrum, the patient lost consciousness: unlike a seizure, where a person's activity immediately stops, the patient seemed to "slow down," speaking more quietly and moving more slowly until she was silent and still, unresponsive to voice or visual stimulation. She was, by definition, unconscious, regaining full consciousness with no memory of the event as soon as the electrical stimulation was turned off.

The discovery has huge potential implications for patients with epilepsy or in semi-conscious states, but this is a very early stage: so far, this on/off switch has only been tested in one patient. But pinpointing where consciousness is located in the brain will be crucial to deeper understanding of how the brain works, as researcher Christof Koch told New Scientist:
Ultimately, if we know how consciousness is created and which parts of the brain are involved then we can understand who has it and who doesn't. Do robots have it? Do fetuses? Does a cat or dog or worm? This study is incredibly intriguing but it is one brick in a large edifice of consciousness that we're trying to build.
Maybe someday, we'll fall asleep by flipping the OFF switch located deep within our brains. More here.

Jun 8, 2014

New Android Feature Wakes You Up For Your Bus or Subway Stop

Android Police just discovered a cool new Google Now feature: when you're taking public transportation, you can set an alarm to make sure you don't sleep through your stop. No more waking up stranded at the end of the line!

Apparently, you just open Google Now while you're on the train or bus, and it'll offer to activate an alarm when you get near a saved location, like your home or work. Sounds handy—at least if Google Now includes transit info for your town.

Have you seen this update yet? More here.

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.