Thursday, August 28, 2008

Protection Zones In The Wrong Place To Prevent Coral Reef Collapse

ScienceDaily (Aug. 28, 2008) — Conservation zones are in the wrong place to protect vulnerable coral reefs from the effects of global warming, an international team of scientists warn.

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Man buys fossil on eBay and discovers new species of insect

Richard Harrington, an entomologist in the UK, recently bought an amber fossil on eBay for £20 (about $37) and when it came in the mail he was surprised because he couldn't identify the bug fossil inside. Then he was even more surprised when, after much research and help from experts, he was credited with discovering a new (and unfortunately already extinct) species of aphid.

Harrington says he wanted to name the new bug Mindaris ebayi (ha!), but since that didn't go over well ended up going with Mindaris harringtoni instead.

What an awesome discovery! Except for the part that now we've started to drive species extinct before we even know we have them.
Related Link

It's official: Earthrace boat breaks record - now for sale

After one failed attempt in 2007 and a pretty bumpy start to this year's endeavor, the crew of the Earthrace boat now hold the world record for the world's fastest circumnavigation: 60 days. They not only proved that a carbon-neutral power boat, fueled by reclaimed cooking oil, could merely break the record, they smashed the previous benchmark by almost 14 days. To make it even more impressive, they did a significant portion of the trip without a toilet.

The Earthrace boat is currently making its way in and out of the world's major ports on a sort of victory lap. The tour will take them through the UK, Europe, Caribbean Islands, and Australia to showcase the power of biodiesel -- and of course, to bask in the sweet glow of victory. They're apparently looking for a crew to man the vessel on their PR tour. Check to see if they're coming to a city near you. Also, the boat itself is for sale, starting at a cool $1.5M.

Gallery: Earthrace Victory Tour

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

London considers talking recycling bins with celebrity voices

What if the next time you chunked a plastic bottle in a recycling bin at the park, Captain Planet's voice came over a loudspeaker and thanked you for caring about the environment? Would that be awesome, or make you curl up in the fetal position and vomit uncontrollably? That's the question being asked by London's mayor as the he searches for new ways to boost the city's rate of recycling. Surprisingly, this idea is one of the top contenders.

In fact, the talking bins are currently being tested in Helsinki. Whenever a Finn chunks a Coke can into one of these recycling bins, a sensor activates an internal sound system which blasts a message like: "It's great that you care about the city. Cool isn't it?" London's city council is apparently enthusiastic about the talking bins and their ability to clean up London's streets.

I must say, I think it's one of the most ridiculous, gimmicky recycling schemes that I've ever heard of -- but I guess it could help. Maybe.

[via Ecorazzi]

Pretend You're Actually Venturing Outside With Wii Balance Board and Google Street View [Wii]

PopoutSort of like the hacked Wii Balance Board that'll surf Google Earth, but a little more down to earth, this mod will let you act like you're strolling through town with Google Street View. You walk to move forward or lean on one foot to turn—it actually seems to work pretty well. With a giant display, you could visit New York and walk around without suffering from the gross and smelly summer, or you know, just use it as another excuse to never leave the massive pillow fort you've converted your living room into. [ via Balanceboarding - Thanks Mark!]

Flowerpower F-15 Breaks Mach 2, USAF to Start Painting Planes with Rainbows [Airplanes]

The USAF keeps pushing forward the race towards cleaner skies—and leaner warmachine and potential global mayhem costs—moving from pure oil-derived fuel to a mixture between oil and synthetic fuel. The new benchmark is not a B1 bomber, which they already put through its paces using a similar mix, but a fighter jet: They broke the Mach 2 barrier using the new fuel mix in an F-15, which according to the Air Force is a crucial step:

They are much higher performance and a much more demanding environment. That was just another risk reduction step to prove the aircraft was not leaking fuel and the engines were behaving nominally. We asked them [the pilots] point-blank if they noticed any difference in performance and they said it was a "non-event". In other words, they couldn't tell the difference. The aircraft behaved the same.

The test this time started with a 50-minute ground test, pushing the engines to full afterburner. In the flight, the pilots put the F-15 to Mach 2.2, approximately 1,450mph. Hopefully, this experiments will also change the civilian airline industry, all in the name of costs and a cool looking environmentally-friendly brochure. [Defense Tech]

Intel Explains In What Year We'll Be Cyborgs But Terminators Will Kill Us Anyway [Intel]

2050. That's the year that you'll plug your brain into a toaster. Intel doesn't know how, precisely, but according to Intel CTO Justin Rattner's recent keynote at the Intel Developer Forum, they're working on it. From Intel's summary of the event:

He said Intel's research labs are already looking at human-machine interfaces and examining future implications to computing with some promising changes coming much sooner than expected.

"The industry has taken much greater strides than anyone ever imagined 40 years ago," Rattner said. "There is speculation that we may be approaching an inflection point where the rate of technology advancements is accelerating at an exponential rate, and machines could even overtake humans in their ability to reason, in the not so distant future."

Excellent, Intel, While simple math can show computers crushing our intellect in no time, it's very comforting when the world's leading microprocessor developer confirms it. You'd just better sell me faster chips than the machines. I've been an excellent customer. [Intel via bbGadgets]

AirKick Human Catapult Sends Your Flailing Body 26 Feet Into the Air [Fun]

We've seen before how fun getting launched in the air over a body of water can be. Now we have another way to do it: the AirKick Human Water Catapult.

Powered by air and water, the AirKick launches people over 26 feet in the air and into either a pool or a foam pit. Creator Jochen Schweizer explains it thusly:

It propels participants through the air in a pre-calculated parabolic trajectory using a special combination of air pressure and water recoil technology. Approximately 60 Liters of water are then forced through a rocket nozzle under the seat. This pressurized water (8 to 10 bar of air pressure) propels the participant 8 meters though the air for a cool and refreshing splash down in a swimming pool.

It's available to rent in Germany. There are no words to describe how badly I want to use this thing. Sigh. [AirKick via Baller House]

Mexico's Rich Embedding GPS-Assisted RFID Tags Under Their Skin In Case of Kidnapping [Security]

Mexico has a pretty serious kidnapping problem—so serious that there is now a market for a $4,000 RFID implant procedure (plus a $2,200 annual fee) that promises to help track victims down. The system uses an implanted capsule under the skin that talks to an external GPS transmitter that you'll need to be kidnapped with in order to beam your location to the folks at Xega, who are selling the service. Anyone else see a gigantic hole in this setup?

Yeah, so long as you're kidnapped while wearing your GPS transmitter fanny pack (and your attackers don't mind you keeping it), you'll be fine. I guess it might make sense if you're going to be alone in a seedy neighborhood late at night to go ahead and strap up, but still, at this price, it seems like Xega (who seem to be mysteriously without a website yes, here it is, thanks guys, it's Friday) is just capitalizing on people's fears with a bogus safety net. And successfully, too—the company claims they've sold the service to over 2,000 people. [Reuters, Image: Amal Graafstra's OG RFID implants]

The Skinny on Projection Screens [Projection Screen 101]

If you have been toying with the idea of setting up a home theater with a projector, the guys over at Home Entertainment Mag have put together a handy guide for beginners that can help you maximize performance. They say the key is to match your projector with the right screen—and that means knowing what kinds of screens are out there, what size and shape you need, what to look for in terms of screen gain, whether a perforated screen is the way to go and what the deal is with rear projection. The basics of these issues are covered, and they offer up plenty of suggestions for you to investigate. Hit the link to check out all the details along with some pretty pictures. [Home Entertainment Mag]

Epic Treehouse Comes With Electricity, Cable and a Fire Horn Intruder Alarm [Really Jealous]

Forget about that treehouse bedroom I wrote about yesterday, the new mark to beat comes from superdad Steve Norris who spent 15 months building his kids a treehouse so epic it became newsworthy in Canada. Suspended in a tree 13 feet up, the fort features electricity, cable TV, an intercom system, a makeshift urinal, smoke detectors and a trap door warning signal wired to the main house. He even set up an intruder alarm using old fire horns that sounds like an air raid siren when it goes off.

If that wasn't enough, Norris actually went all eco-friendly with his project by avoiding nailing directly into the maple tree and leaving space around the trunk for growth and shifting. He figures the whole thing cost him around $5000 CAD to build (he insured it for $20,000), and it would have cost a lot more had he not rummaged through scraps tossed out by the nearby University of Waterloo. It almost makes you wish you could be 7 again so you could find these kids and befriend them. [The Record via Fark]

MIT Developing a Battery Half the Size of a Human Cell [Future Tech]

MIT Researchers are working on virus-based microbatteries that are about half the size of a human cell. Using a combination of virus cultivation (which assembles itself) an soft lithography, Paula Hammond and team were able manufacture the battery, which consists of a cathode, anode and electrolyte. They hope the breakthrough will allow for applications like implantable medical sensors and labs that fit on a computer chip. [MIT via Good Clean Tech via PC World]

IOGear's USB to VGA Kit Puts Wireless Gap Between PC and Monitor [Byebye Cables]

Combine this little gizmo with a wireless USB hub and you could almost have your PC in a separate room to you: it's a wireless VGA cable. The USB to VGA kit consists of a transmitter dongle and a receiver with a VGA-socket. It's probably aimed more at swanky PC-projector setups, since it can cope with video of up to 720p quality over a range of 30-feet, and sadly is only compatible with Windows XP and Vista machines. Due in September for around $230. [TFTS]

The Ultimate Speed Bump: There is no Escape [Made In China]

While the city of Philadelphia is content with using 3D images to deter speeders, the authorities in ShanXi province, China are taking a far more drastic approach. They built a 100 foot long, 2 foot high, winding speed block smack dab in the middle of the Jing Zhuang highway. Sure, it scratches up cars, looks hideous and causes massive traffic jams, but hey—by screwing everyone it manages to screw the speeders. Suck on that leadfoot!

[ via Weird Asia News via Neatorama]

The Wrong Door: If Terry Gilliam Directed Transformers as a TV Variety Show [Robots]

PopoutLeave it to the BBC to introduce a show about robots attacking humans and generally making a mess of the landscape that's both funny and tailor-made for the ADHD audience. The Wrong Door is a violent, live-action Robot Chicken prone to the same breezy matter-of-factness that made Terry Gilliam's Python interludes both funny and horrifying. Check out the clip above, where a computer takes revenge on a frustrated user, and after the jump, where the Soldier Spray cannon reveals a new way to deploy troops in times of need. PopoutMaybe I'm rhapsodizing this a bit early, but there are plenty more clips on YouTube, and if you're still into it after that, the first full episode is on BBC Three's video site. (Thanks for keeping it US-friendly, BBC!) Still hungry for more? The show's own site has some crazy 3D animation worth fiddling with—presumably best under the influence of some sort of mushrooms not generally found in my pantry. [The Wrong Door]

Shapeways Allows You to Materialize Any 3D Object, Star Trek Style [On-Demand Star Trek Replicator]

While visiting the Philips research lab here in Amsterdam I came across a company that is getting the Star Trek replicator closer to everyday life. Imagine being able to create any 3D object you want—a World of Warcraft avatar, a chess set, a lamp, a Lego piece you are missing, a house for a train model, or a fully articulated astromech droid—print it remotely, and have it delivered to your house in just 10 days, even without knowing any 3D software. This is exactly what Shapeways does. Not next century, but right now, today.

Shapeways is a spin-off from Philips' Lifestyle Incubator. On one side, it's a website where you can upload your 3D models—which can even have joins—or use an online 3D creator with access to everyday models. The online 3D creator is extremely easy to use, so anyone can modify them without any technical or product design knowledge. With this, anyone can make a candle holder or a fruit bowl out of song lyrics or a personal message by just typing it. Advanced users to access to 3D packages can upload any model they can imagine in a 3D standard format, like STL, Collada or X3D.

On the other side, there are different types of rapid prototyping machines that can create that model using a variety of materials, from nylon to plastic composites, each with different properties. For example, the nylon one results in a semi-flexible object, while a plastic called "Cream Robust" gives you an extremely hard finish. Once you select the material and submit your model to 3D printer, you will get it in your hands in 10 days, with an average cost of $50 to $150, including shipping.


While the system is not perfect yet, there's no color yet and you can get different textures for the surfaces, the start is very promising and the possibilities are endless. As a consumer, the customization of objects is attractive enough, but the ability to upload any object and receive it in 10 days is even more exciting (and I don't mean printing dildos, which—apparently/sadly/fortunately for Benny—is not allowed). Model makers, Lego aficionados, product designers, and toy lovers of any kind, will absolutely love this one. [Shapeways and Philips Research Labs Tour]

$15,000 Gran Turismo Pod: Still Cheaper Than Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche [Video Games]

We're not sure where every dollar went in this $15,000 Gran Turismo Prologue Pod, but we can appreciate the integrated PS3, 40" screen, surround sound, racing seat, Logitech G25 wheel (which includes those fancy pedals) and stylish Plexiglas window. It's just a shame that the full version of Gran Turismo 5 isn't actually out yet, making this ubercabinet the world's most advanced demo kiosk. Still, here's another shot from the tech-fantastical cockpit:

It's easy to forget that dudes who are into racing games are really into racing games. [GTPlanet via BornRich]

135 Ways to Ruin the Olympics Using Technology [Photoshop Contest]

I received a downright insane number of entries for this week's Photoshop Contest. Apparently, you folks really had an itching to bastardize the precious Olympic Games. Nearly every event got its due, and we have some pretty amazing images. Hit the jump for your top three winners and then marvel at the humungous Gallery of Champions.

First Place — Stretta
Second Place — Jim Festante
Third Place — Mark FX
If your entry didn't make it into the following gallery, it's probably because you included a lightsaber in there somehow. I got about 30 entries of fencing with lightsabers, so don't feel bad that yours didn't make it in. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Six Ton Walking Spider Takes Passengers on Giant Robot Rides [Walking Beast]

Martin Montesano's giant "Walking Beast" isn't the first robot spider ever made, but it is the only one I can recall that is this enormous and has the ability to take on passengers. His 12,000-pound, 23-foot-long creation was built over the course of three years at an expense of $50,000—and it can carry up to six passengers in its steel belly and two (including the driver) in the head.

PopoutIf you are fortunate enough to actually ride in the Walking Beast, don't expect heart-pounding, edge of your seat thrills. Its Chevy V8 engine only musters up enough power to move the steel behemoth along at around 5 mph—although it does shake the ground up to 500 feet away with each step. Montesano is planning on making some upgrades to the Walking Beast in the near future, including an elevator system to load passengers. Perhaps he should start touring the country offering rides at $10 a pop—sort of like a nerdy adult version of pony rides at a state fair. [Pop Sci]

'89 Batmobile Now on eBay: Hurry, Grab Your Wallet! [Batmobile]

If you are impulsive enough to drop over $100,000 on a whim for a nerdy automobile, here is your chance to score one of the five Batmobiles made for the original Michael Keaton movie. Unfortunately, you only have until 5PM PDT today to put in a bid on this baby, so you had better hurry (I know you guys are all frantically searching for your wallets). [eBay via CNet]

Draganfly X6 UAV: UFO Thingy Packed With Carbon Fiber, HD/Night Cameras and GPS [Helicopter]

The Draganfly series of heli cams have been impressive, but the just announced X6 is freaking amazing. The triple-tipped carbon fiber body has two carbon rotors on each end. The design allows it to move in all directions rapidly, provide enough control to zip around indoors yet resist up to 18 miles per hour of wind.

The oil-dampening vibration-killing mount can be loaded with an HD camera, night vision camera, still camera, low light camera or thermal imaging camera. The machine also has GPS, which feeds positioning data into the remote control's LCD. The X6 can even maintain flight if one of its 6 motors stops working. The battery can be charged in 30 minutes, yet can supply the device with 450 watts of power, which allows the machine to climb 23 feet per second, turn 90 degrees in the same time or do fly-bys at 30 MPH. I don't know how much these cost, but I'm getting enough enjoyment out of watching the videos at Dragonfly's site. [Draganfly]

Homemade Experiments with Aerogel, the World's Lightest Solid [Aerogel]

Jason Wells got to toy around with a few blocks of Aerogel, the fantastically light (and fantastically expensive) material made famous by its use as insulation in NASA spacecraft like the Mars Rover. Using just everyday materials from his house, he managed to test the futuristic product's strength, optical properties, reaction to different liquids and temperatures, and electrical conductivity.

He concludes from the experiments that it should work really well as a fire retardant or insulation, as well as pulling moisture out of pretty much anything (including his finger!). Aerogel weighs only three times as much as air, but is even more effective than your everyday pink insulation. It may only be the world's coolest insulation material, but are you the world's coolest anything? Didn't think so. [Jason Wells via Crunchgear]

Guy Builds Full Lego Boba Fett Costume, Somehow Manages to Keep Marriage Intact [Star Wars]

Our friend Andrew Becraft at Brothers Brick have spotted the most useless, silly, awkward looking, yet absolutely irresistible Lego job ever: a full Boba Fett costume made out of bricks, including helmet, bracelets, utility belt, armor plates, rocket pack, and his laser rifle with obligatory LED light. The picture gallery leaves no doubt to the amazing dorkiness of Simon, its creator. Simon, we love you. And we love you even more after seeing that you also did a full Darth Vader Lego suit:

Talking about Lego, remember our Giz's Lego Go Miniman Go video contest with thousands of dollars in prizes, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Lego minifig. Brothers Brick is also running the Go Miniman Go Photo Contest, so remember to visit them and participate. [Simon via BrothersBrick]

Men Defy Stereotypes In Defining Masculinity

ScienceDaily (Aug. 27, 2008) — Contrary to stereotypes about sexual performance and masculinity, men interviewed in a large international study reported that being seen as honorable, self-reliant and respected was more important to their idea of masculinity than being seen as attractive, sexually active or successful with women.

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Java Gives Caffeine-naive A Boost, Too

ScienceDaily (Aug. 27, 2008) — New research from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, shows that—for women—the caffeine advantage is indeed everything it's cracked up to be. Females who don't drink coffee can get just as much of a caffeine boost as those who sip it regularly, according to a study in the latest edition of Nutrition Research.

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Caesarean Babies More Likely To Develop Diabetes

ScienceDaily (Aug. 27, 2008) — Babies delivered by Caesarean section have a 20 per cent higher risk than normal deliveries of developing the most common type of diabetes in childhood, according to a study led by Queen’s University Belfast.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Shimmer Vision" Scopes See Better Using Heat

Posted by kdawson on Wednesday August 27, @01:06AM
from the coco-bop dept.
holy_calamity writes "New Scientist reports on a neat DARPA idea that uses the shimmer of heat haze to allow binoculars to see further. It works by exploiting the fact that some distortions from heat haze actually magnify objects behind them. The binoculars collect a series of frames when that is occurring to boost magnification by 3 times. The design goal is to be able to present one image a second, and to enable facial recognition at 90% accuracy at a distance of 1 km. The scopes could be on the battlefield inside of 3 years."

California's Wireless Road Tolls Easily Hackable

Posted by timothy on Tuesday August 26, @09:54AM
from the no-sir-I-was-in-seattle-at-the-time dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Nate Lawson, a researcher at RootLabs, has found a way to clone the wireless transponders used by the Bay Area FasTrak road toll system. This means you can copy the ID of another driver onto your own device and, as a result, travel for free while others foot the bill. Lawson also raises the interesting point of using the FasTrak system to create false alibis, by overwriting one's own ID onto another driver's device before committing a crime. Luckily, Lawson wasn't sued before he could reveal his research, unlike those pesky MIT students."

Fuel-Cell Car Racing Series Aims To Spur Green Motoring

Posted by timothy on Tuesday August 26, @09:01AM
from the li-ion-batteries-of-course dept.
Anonymous Cow writes "The world's first international fuel-cell powered motor racing series kicked off in Rotterdam over the weekend. The organisers hope that 'Formula Zero,' like Formula 1, can become a forum for competing technology as much as anything else, helping green consumer cars to become better."