This is the personal blog of a science writer and journalist. It's for anyone who loves, wants to love or doesn't know how to love science.

Contact or Follow

Recent tweets

Liked on Tumblr

More liked posts

How scientists turned bubble wrap into test tubes

here is a clever idea: 

image

A team of scientists led by George Whitesides injected liquids into the air-filled pockets of bubble wrap with syringes and sealed the holes with nail hardener. They successfully ran anemia and diabetes tests on the liquids. They also could grow microbes such as E. coli in the blisters, which is important for detecting contamination in water samples. “The bubbles of bubble wrap, therefore, can be used for storing samples and performing analytical assays, a function that has the potential to be especially beneficial in resource-limited regions, and in very cost-sensitive applications,” they conclude.

The bubble wrap is available almost everywhere around the world, is inexpensive, doesn’t generate sharp edges when broken (like glass containers), is easily disposed of by burning and is flexible. The interiors of the bubbles also are sterile, so there’s no need for costly autoclaves that have to be plugged in—a huge plus for the nearly 2 billion people around the world who do not have regular access to electricity.

Tags science tech innovation medicine research product design everyday innovations

 Source acs.org

Pelty ceramic and glass bluetooth speaker is powered by wax candles

This is an interesting idea, but I doubt it will get much traction. Make up your own mind here is the lo-down:

Based on the peltier effect, where thermal energy generated by heat is transformed into electric energy, this wireless speaker is powered exclusively by wax candles. Known as pelty, the device features a minature TEG (thermo electric generator) and is housed within an artisanally-crafted glass and ceramic vase, which are engineered to maximize the power generated by the system. Designed without cables or batteries, the portable unit can also be brought virtually anywhere. To see more click here to get your hands on one as the project is currently seeking funding on indigogo.

 

Tags science tech future music innovation product design

 Source designboom.com

The solar powered smart bench
A new initiative in Boston is bringing Soofas, solar powered benches that can not only charge your gadgets, but also monitor air quality and sound levels, to several city parks in a pilot program 
The Soofas, called “smart urban furniture”, were developed by Changing Environments, a spinoff of MIT Media Lab, and are capable of charging mobile gadgets via two USB ports, thanks to a solar panels and the free energy of the sun. And while they’re charging phones and powering Facebook updates, they’re also gathering environmental data about air quality and noise levels nearby, and uploading them to a public map online.

The solar powered smart bench

A new initiative in Boston is bringing Soofas, solar powered benches that can not only charge your gadgets, but also monitor air quality and sound levels, to several city parks in a pilot program 

The Soofas, called “smart urban furniture”, were developed by Changing Environments, a spinoff of MIT Media Lab, and are capable of charging mobile gadgets via two USB ports, thanks to a solar panels and the free energy of the sun. And while they’re charging phones and powering Facebook updates, they’re also gathering environmental data about air quality and noise levels nearby, and uploading them to a public map online.

Tags MIT tech solar power future

 Source treehugger.com

The robot farmers are here

This is here is a robot farmer called WP5. It is picking sweet peppers and can also test the soil and prune plants. 

It was developed by CROPS a large-scale integrating FP7 EU project aiming to develop automation and robotics for sustainable crop and forestry management.

Farm robots are increasingly capable of autonomously performing complex tasks including plowing, plant and soil surveillance, and even the harvesting of fruit and vegetables.

Thanks to a combination of cheap sensors and computer vision, machines are capable of more freely navigating and performing other complex tasks. The tech uses a combination of infrared sensors and stereoscopic cameras to drive autonomoustelepresence robots in hospitals and allow advanced industrial bots to recognize, differentiate, and pick irregular shapes like haphazardly stacked boxes.

The WP5 is hardly the only robot used in farming. The automation of farming will see a combination of bots such as drones, self-driving tractors and wine-bots. 

Jason Dorrier on Singularity Hub says: "Robots are best suited to tasks that are monotonous, dangerous, and repetitive. Long ago, they invaded the factory floor—it’s high time they made a foray into farm work." I couldn’t agree more. 

Tags robot science future tech robotics farming agriculture

Your day dreaming days are over!

image

A mind wandering detecter could be commercially available for use in a few months time.  

Developed by scientists in University of Notre Dame in Indiana the software tracks a person’s eye movements with a commercial eye tracker. The system figures out if the person’s mind is on the task by observing specific features in the way the eyes move, such as how long they fixate on words, where the eyes move next, their overall movement patterns and other contextual cues.

If it thinks the user is no longer concentrating, the system can pause the session, notify the reader, highlight the content or even display the missed content in a different format. "This can lead to improved learning," says D’Mello. "For high stakes tasks such as military or aviation, this can prevent catastrophic disasters."

Opinion: The aspect of improving cognitive focus and performance certainly are strong selling points. The considered use of this kind of system in offices and schools for example could very well prove to be productive. I would hate however for it to rob us of our day dreams though. It’s part of what makes us who we are - human. 

Tags science tech future machine intelligence

Smart rooms to track your every move

The MIT Tech review which has reported on this first said this system matters because smarter office buildings could fundamentally change the way we work. I am not so sure I agree with that in this instance. It’s one thing for a building to react to your motions by opening doors and turning on lights for example; and quite another thing for someone else to be privy to your actions. 

Here is the scoop:

A startup from Boston called Robin has developed a system that let’s you track your co-workers in your office or anyone else for that matter. 

image

With Robin’s software, when employees walk into a room, their smartphones alert a wireless transmitter using Bluetooth LE. They can then share certain predefined information with colleagues, which might be different for, say, a conference room than for a kitchen. When someone walks into a meeting, for instance, everyone else at the table could automatically have access to the person’s name, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, and perhaps a shared presentation on Dropbox. The system currently works with iBeacons, wireless network sensors developed by Apple to alert iOS devices when they’re in particular locations, and a few other Bluetooth LE devices.

Already in piloted in a limited number of locations this system predicts its success that people already volunteer so much information about themselves that they might be okay with it. 

Tags science tech privacy future big brother

Cleaning Earth’s breathing with the two most environmentally friendly buildings ever made.

These two towers are intended to be built in the city of Wuhan in China. The taller of the two building is set to be 1 kilometre high and be amongst the tallest buildings in the world.

According to Adele Peters at FastCompany, the pair will be built on an island, and the larger tower will be responsible for ‘feeding’ sustainable power to the smaller tower. It will also be responsible for cleaning its surroundings by pulling water up out of the lake, cleaning it, and then putting it back.

“The water goes up through a series of filters,” said Laurie Chetwood, chairman of UK-based Chetwoods architect firm in charge of the project. “We don’t use power to pull the water up, we’re using passive energy. As it goes through the filters and back, we’re also putting air back into the lake to make it healthier.”

Peters explains the towers’ additional green features:

"The towers also have pollution-absorbing coatings to help clean the air, vertical gardens that filter more pollution, and a chimney in the middle of the larger tower naturally pulls air across the lake for better ventilation. Wind turbines, lightweight solar cladding, and hydrogen fuel cells running on the buildings’ waste will generate all of the power used by the towers, plus a little extra for the rest of the neighbourhood."

Once approved by the city’s mayor, construction is planned to start at the end of the year, with a completion date of 2017 or 2018.

Tags science Architecture design environmentally friendly cool future city planning sustainability

8th June 2014 – The AI Dawn

On this day Eugene Goostman successfully convinced a third of a select committee at London’s Royal Society that he was a 13 year old boy.

Eugene is a computer programme - the first to pass the iconic Turing Test.

The test was devised in 1950 by computer science pioneer and Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing, who said that if a machine was indistinguishable from a human, then it was ”thinking”.

If a computer is mistaken for a human more than 30% of the time during a series of five minute keyboard conversations it passes the test. No computer has ever achieved this, until now. Eugene managed to convince 33% of the human judges that it was human.

A computer that can trick us into thinking that someone or something is a person we can trust presents all sorts of cyber crime traps, but let’s not dampen the mood with fears and enjoy this historic moment. image

Tags eugene goostman AI turing test alan turing computer intelligence

 Source reading.ac.uk

Future of travel: Paris to Moscow in an hour.
Scientists at Southwest Jiaotong University in China have built a prototype testing platform for a near-vacuum high-speed maglev train that is theoretically capable of reaching speeds up to 2900 km/h or about 1,800 mph.
Currently, the fastest commercially operated maglev reaches just 431 km/h and even the world record is just 581 km/hr.
According to project lead Dr. Deng Zigang, this huge increase in speed is achieved through the lack of air resistance in the near-vacuum tunnel.
In his team’s tunnel, they have brought the air pressure to 10 times lower than atmospheric pressure at sea level, drastically reducing the amount of energy needed to overcome air resistance.
Currently, the high speed is limited by the size of the testing platform, but with longer straightaways, Deng thinks 2,900 km/h, or nearly three times the speed of a commercial aircraft, could be achieved.
To give you an idea, a train like that could take you from Paris to Moscow in about an hour, meaning you could breakfast on the Champs-Élysées and be in Red Square in time for lunch.

Future of travel: Paris to Moscow in an hour.

Scientists at Southwest Jiaotong University in China have built a prototype testing platform for a near-vacuum high-speed maglev train that is theoretically capable of reaching speeds up to 2900 km/h or about 1,800 mph.

Currently, the fastest commercially operated maglev reaches just 431 km/h and even the world record is just 581 km/hr.

According to project lead Dr. Deng Zigang, this huge increase in speed is achieved through the lack of air resistance in the near-vacuum tunnel.

In his team’s tunnel, they have brought the air pressure to 10 times lower than atmospheric pressure at sea level, drastically reducing the amount of energy needed to overcome air resistance.

Currently, the high speed is limited by the size of the testing platform, but with longer straightaways, Deng thinks 2,900 km/h, or nearly three times the speed of a commercial aircraft, could be achieved.

To give you an idea, a train like that could take you from Paris to Moscow in about an hour, meaning you could breakfast on the Champs-Élysées and be in Red Square in time for lunch.

Tags tech future travel trains highspeed rail

 Source businessinsider.com.au