Tag Archives: Dev & Design

Tiny Satellite Will Grow Mold in Orbit

Dictyostelium-discoideum

University students in Japan are building a slime mold-housing micro-satellite that will orbit the Earth and send back photos of the microorganisms’ growth. The small satellite will transmit the pictures to Earth using amateur radio.

The Microbial Observation Satellite, TeikyoSat-3, is a project of Teikyo University and is a small satellite project of the Space System Society at the university’s Utsunomiya campus.

TeikyoSat-3 weighs 44 pounds (20 kilograms) and is designed to study the impact of space radiation and the microgravity environment on a mold called Dictyostelium discoideum. This species of soil-living amoeba belongs to the phylum Mycetozoa and is often given the less-than-highbrow biological label of “slime mold.”

TeikyoSat-3 is slated for launch on Japan’s H-IIA booster in Japanese Fiscal Year 2013, and will ride along with the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) main satellite, officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) public affairs department told SPACE.com.

JAXA and NASA collaborated on the development of the GPM spacecraft as part of an international network of satellites that provide next-generation global observations of rain and snow.

Amateur Satellites and Biology

TeikyoSat-3 is one of several small satellites set to piggyback on a launch scheduled for January 2014, said Hirotoshi Kubota, professor of a special mission, faculty of science and engineering at Teikyo University. “This satellite is now in the process of testing of [the] engineering model,” he told SPACE.com via email.

The TeikyoSat-3 group proposal stated, “Our micro satellite, TeikyoSat-3, takes a picture of the growth process of the slime mold, Dictyostelium discoideum, in space, and then downlinks the pictures to the ground station. We’ll release the pictures on our website to the public and radio amateurs. We expect the public and radio amateurs to promote their interest of the amateur satellites and biology.”

A ground station at the Teikyo University Utsunomiya campus will keep in contact with TeikyoSat-3. The plan is to actively make details about the tiny satellite available to the public in order to enable radio amateurs to receive images of slime mold directly from the spacecraft.

In building TeikyoSat-3, the university students are plotting out a low-cost “pharmacological mission,” one that makes use of microscope and miniature-camera technology. The students will also have to control the temperature on board the satellite to ensure an environment within which the slime mold can live.

Life of its Own

The value of studying microbial creatures in space has taken on a life of its own over the years.

During its 15 years of space travel, which ended when it deorbited in March 2001, Russia’s Mir space station was found to house colonies of organisms. They were found alive and well — growing on rubber gaskets around windows, space suit hardware and cable insulation and tubing.

Officials from NASA’s Human Research Program plan to gather and analyze biological samples to better investigate the International Space Station’s “microbiome” — the ever-changing microbial environment that can be found on the Earth-orbiting facility and its crew members.

Carrying out this work within the hectic environment of space is expected to give researchers data about whether alterations in the crew’s microbiome are harmful to human health.

Bio-Burden

China isn’t exempt from the bio-burden of protecting human space travelers, either.

Researchers have eyed the “Heavenly Palace” that is China’s Tiangong-1 space module as a microbial haven, too.

Despite an air purifier that cleans the module’s air and the astronauts’ practice of wiping away dust with wet tissues before leaving, there could be unknown risks, said Wang Xiang, chief commander of the space lab system. Microbes can pose a hazard to astronaut health, he told China Daily.

Wang said that mold was not only found on surfaces aboard Russia’s Mir Space Station; it has also been seen on the International Space Station. He spotlighted one “moldie oldie” report stating that fungus grew in cosmonauts’ ears during a mission on the former Soviet Union’s Salyut space station.

Mold also presents a threat to space module components, Wang said. “It is a subject we will keep studying until China builds its own space station,” he said.

Image: Freie Universität Berlin

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/19/space-mold/

Intel’s Tiny Wi-Fi Chip Could Have a Big Impact

Intel-s-tiny-wi-fi-chip-could-have-a-big-impact-2554ce98a0

This month, Intel unveiled a Wi-Fi radio almost completely made of the same sort of transistors that go into one of its microprocessors.

At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Yorgis Palaskas, research lead in radio integration at Intel and the company’s chief technology officer, Justin Rattner, also showed off a system-on-a-chip that sported this digital Wi-Fi radio nestled up next to a couple of its Atom processors for mobile devices.

The announcements make it clear that Intel believes Wi-Fi radios—traditionally relatively large devices that operate mostly outside the chip—will be integrated into the chips in coming years. This could mean three things: more electronic devices will be able to network wirelessly; these devices could be more energy-efficient; and ultimately, multiple digital radios could be combined on a single chip, something that could make gadgets, including mobile phones, cheaper.

“We are now looking at moving a lot of the parts on the periphery, like Wi-Fi, into the chip itself,” says Jan Rabaey, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. “If wireless can move into digital and miniaturize at the same pace as digital, that’s a good thing.”

All radios, technically called transceivers, are made of a number of components. A transceiver is composed of a receiver that brings in a signal from the outside and a transmitter that sends out a signal to the world. Both receiver and transmitter contain components such as a baseband, which dictate the frequency the radio operates on, filters and mixers to fine-tune the signal, and amplifiers to make small signals larger.

Engineers have, for years, been slowly digitizing these components, so there are fewer analog components, which don’t operate well when miniaturized. Basebands, for instance, have long been digital.

There have already been demonstrations of almost completely digital Bluetooth radios. And Intel itself has digitized important radio components for 3G operation. But radios like Wi-Fi that operate across a wide range of frequencies and have been harder to convert from analog to digital.

While there have been no other public announcements from other companies about digital Wi-Fi radios, it’s likely ARM and Qualcomm are also tackling the challenge, says Rabaey. “You can bet those guys are doing digital structures as well,” he says. “It’s a whole industry trend.”

By making radios using the same process used to make microprocessors, Intel is streamlining manufacturing and making it easier and cheaper to add a Wi-Fi radio to any chip.

“Being able to add this functionality digitally means you can add a radio to pretty much anything you want to,” says Peter Cooney, an analyst at ABI Research. This could allow anything with a chip to communicate, from SD cards and dishwashers to television sets and the family car.

And as chips shrink, Wi-Fi radios will experience the same benefit of miniaturized processors, including a reduction in power consumption (see “A New and Improved Moore’s Law“).

Intel’s Palaskas explains that a digital Wi-Fi radio that takes up 1.2 millimeters of chip space will draw 50 milliwatts of power. The same radio design compressed into an area of 0.3 millimeters (manufactured with so-called 32-nanometer processes) will only sip 21 milliwatts. This is comparable to the best radios made mostly out of analog components, says Palaskas.

But battery life for gadgets themselves is a tricky thing to predict, says Rabaey, and the energy efficiency gained from shrinking transistors might not translate directly to fewer charges for your phone. Much depends on standards that dictate the design of radios. For instance, radios that constantly send signals when they’re not being used directly will drain a battery, no matter how many digital components they contain.

Perhaps the most compelling application of the digital Wi-Fi radio, though, is that it points to a future where more radios can be programmed with software, changing their functionality on the fly. A simple software upgrade to a device with a digital radio could potentially improve its performance. “Digital is fundamentally more programmable than analog,” says Palaskas.

Rabaey suggests that in the future, multiple digital radios could be combined into one, which could reduce the cost of making cell phones. Instead of separate components for 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other radios, a single chip could contain all of them. The device would flip between radios via software. “Truly programmable radio could be five or 10 years away,” says Rabaey. “But everyone sees the economic value in it.”

Image courtesy of YouTube

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/21/intel-wi-fi-chip/

Mashable Weekend Recap: 65 Stories You Might Have Missed

Mashable-weekend-recap-65-stories-you-might-have-missed-cab0c8fda5

The weekend started off with a bang, thanks to the dazzling opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. That was spectacular enough to get everyone super-ready for the athletic competition involving our entire planet.

There were plenty of stories about the Olympics, and at the same time, your intrepid Mashable team discovered so much more — happenings in the digital world, tech innovations that felt like they were from a future world, and GIFs, comics and weekend fun that seemed to be from another world entirely.

Best of all, we’ve gathered all those stories here for you, in one big easy-to-peruse package. So take a look at the latest Weekend Recap, where you can catch up with the entire weekend of delightful news and views, right here:

Editor’s Picks

James Bond and the Queen Parachute Into the Olympics [VIDEO]

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Top 10 Twitter Pics of the Week

Mountain Lion Vs. Windows 8: Which One Is Better?

Best Pics Yet: This Could Be the Real iPhone 5

How to Watch the 2012 Summer Olympics Online

Spoilers: Angry Olympics Fans Tweet Their Protests, NBC Responds

Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]

News & Opinion

Marissa Mayer Brings Free Food to Yahoo, Eyes Acquisitions [REPORT]

MTV’s ‘Teen Wolf’ Facebook Game Is Feast for Fans in First 5 Weeks

Where to Get Back-to-School Deals on Tablets, Computers

How Dictation Tools Can Help Speed Up Your Workflow [INFOGRAPHIC]

Russian Cargo Spacecraft Docks With Space Station on 2nd Try

Olympic Check-Ins: Hot Foursquare Deals and Badges for London 2012

Record-Setting Electric Plane Flight Almost Didn’t Make It [VIDEO]

Mysterious Billionaire Commissions World’s Largest Yacht [VIDEO]

Twitter Jokester’s ‘Bomb Threat’ Charges Dropped [VIDEO]

Olympic Popularity: Starcount Reveals Which Olympic Athletes Are Trending

Amazon Sales Tax — What it Means for You

Down to the Millisecond: All About Olympics Timing

Trioh! The Flashlight You Can See When The Power Goes Out

On Reddit, Rapists Say They’re Sorry

Latest Apple Ads Take a Turn for the Worse

Why the London 2012 Olympics Is the First Real-Time Games

The 9 Most Important Tablet Mysteries of 2012

Device Turns Eye Movement Into Handwriting

Apple Considered Investing in Twitter [REPORT]

Hidden Genius Project Provides Tech Mentorship for Young Black Men

What Higher Education Will Look Like in 2020 [STUDY]

Why Do We Keep Going Back to Mars?

This Is What the Olympians From 100 Years Ago Looked Like

Shedding Light on Mitt Romney’s Unexplained Twitter Surge

New Leaked Pics May Hint at iPhone 5 Design

Chick-fil-A PR Chief Dies as Company Battles Controversy

Hacking the Olympics Opening Ceremony

Romney Advisor Tweets ‘Follow Friday’ List of Potential VPs

Facebook’s Not the Only One Struggling With Mobile Advertising

Weekend Leisure

This Cute, Cubed Bamboo Speaker Packs Crazy Sound [VIDEO]

9 Nifty Laptop Feet to Keep Your PC Running Cool

Kickstarter Project Is a ‘Smartwatch’ for Your Smartphone

‘Fund Me Maybe’ Is Tech World’s Parody of ‘Call Me Maybe’ [VIDEO]

10 Stylish Onesies for Baby Geeks

12 Pictures of Animals Being Forced to Marry

It’s Official: This Is the Cutest Picture on the Internet

Twitter Doghouse Lets You Temporarily Dump Annoying Tweeps

Top 10 GIFs of the Week

Boys Will Be Boys In This ‘Girls’ Parody [VIDEO]

10 Brits Snubbed from the Olympic Opening Ceremony

You Have Upset The Tetris God [VIDEO]

Sneak Peek: Justin Bieber Teases ‘As Long As You Love Me’ Video

If ‘A Space Odyssey’ Were Remade as a Hollywood Blockbuster

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Get a Bird’s-Eye View of 25 Olympic Stadiums

Top 6 Comments on Mashable This Week

Helpful Resources

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The Anatomy of a Killer Content Marketing Strategy

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/30/weekend-recap-64/

Ancient Cambodian City Revealed in Laser Scan

Angkor-wat-640x360

Airborne laser scanning has revealed the remnants of a vast urban structure in the vicinity of Angkor Wat, a famous temple in Cambodia. The study, which will be published soon in the journal PNAS, follows earlier research that showed Angkor Wat to have been one of the world’s most complex preindustrial cities.

Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) is making it easier for archaeologists to explore human settlements in tropical vegetation; previous LIDAR work has found evidence of new cities in Central America, in addition to further enhancing the layout of known settlements such as the Mayan city of Caracol.

For the new study, the researchers used a LIDAR setup emitting up to 200,000 laser pulses each second from a helicopter. Amazingly, the entire operation for the data collection spanned just two days in April 2012 for a total 20 hours of flight time, capturing imagery that would have taken many years to assemble from the ground, if at all. The LIDAR analysis also appears to have discovered what could be an older city beside Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat

A digital recreation of Angkor Wat temple site (top) based on raw LIDAR digital terrain data (bottom). Image courtesy of PNAS.

The study has revealed new canals, temples and still unidentified manmade features, confirming a metropolitan area that housed many thousands of people, much as the Giza Plateau Mapping Project is doing for cities surrounding the Pyramids construction in Egypt.

As LIDAR technology gets cheaper, it will accelerate our understanding of early human settlements from the lingering geographic footprints we left, traces which can be almost as shallow as a footprint itself. As the authors write in their PNAS paper:

LIDAR technology has recently matured to the point where it has become cost-effective for archaeologists with sufficient accuracy and precision to identify archaeological features of only a few centimeters in size.

Image courtesy of sam garza/Wikimedia Commons

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/18/lidar-angkor-wat/

How Footprint Recognition Software Can Revolutionize Zoology

Pawprint

New software can now ID an animal’s gender and age based just on a picture of a footprint.

This is how it works: Key elements uniquely identifying a footprint are marked on an image, as shown above with an Amur tiger print, prior to algorithmic classification.

Studying animal behavior in the wild usually starts with figuring out just where the wild animals are hiding. Field biologists can use a combination of methods for this, such as radio collars, aerial surveys, and camera traps to remotely monitor animal movement. However, to an expert eye, a well-preserved footprint can also reveal a surprising amount about an animal: its species, gender, age, even its individual identity.

The trick is being able to do the identifying accurately and quickly. Over the last decade, WildTrack, an organization founded by zoologist and veterinarian Zoe Jewell and her husband, Sky Alibhai, has been developing image processing software to detect physical footprint characteristics that are hard for an untrained eye to recognize. The organization’s software is being used to track a variety of animals in different habitats, including Amur tigers in Russia, tapirs in South America, and polar bears in the Canadian province of Nunavut.

Jewell and Alibhai call their method footprint identification technique, or FIT. Professional trackers photograph footprints (with a ruler for scale) and add GPS coordinates. The footprints are then loaded into software that allows WildTrack to match them to a large number of known footprints from captive animals of the same species. Algorithms compare elements of the photographed footprint against those in a database of animals whose age and gender are known.

Jewell and Alibhai got the idea for WildTrack while working with black rhinos in Zimbabwe in the late 1990s. It has taken years of tweaking and tinkering to develop algorithms that reliably recognize footprints of a given species.

An ongoing challenge will be FIT’s reliability (it is currently 90 percent accurate at correctly determining the sex, age, and species). Nonetheless the technique is low cost, relatively easy to use, and noninvasive compared to radio collaring, which requires darting an animal. But FIT doesn’t work well with all animals yet, and is still very much in an experimental stage.

“The zebra hoof is a big challenge because it’s hard to mark different shapes. On the other hand, a cheetah or lion footprint, where you have four toes and a heel pad, there’s lots of complexity there, making it easier to identify individuals,” Jewell says.

Image: Jiayin Gu; Jennifer C.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/08/19/footprint-recognition-software/

Why NASA Redesigned Its Website

Nasawebsite

The new NASA.gov has a light blue color palette, one you may not immediately associate with deep space. The agency rolled out a website redesign over the weekend, which included tossing out the black background that shadowed NASA‘s website for years.

“The common complaint about our design was that there was too much going on,” NASA Internet Services Manager Brian Dunbar told Mashable via email. “The lighter color palette seemed to open things up without us having to remove too much content. So far the reaction has been mixed, as is often the case.”

Heavy text and a column of navigational buttons made NASA.gov — which had not been updated since 2007 — feel cluttered. Dunbar fixed this by grouping all those icons into one drop-down menu.

Before

NASA.gov Website 2012
NASA.gov homepage on May 13, 2012.

After

NASA Website July 2013
NASA.gov homepage on July 1, 2013.

NASA also asked the public what they wanted in a redesign, and one of the top responses was a dedicated area on the homepage for live events.

“We were able to increase the emphasis on live events on the homepage. We did an Ideascale implementation late last year to solicit input on changes to the site, and people told us more than anything they wanted to know more about what’s happening ‘right now’ at NASA,” Dunbar said. “We had it on the site, but apparently it wasn’t that visible to a lot of users.”

While the aesthetic switches may be the most obvious change to NASA’s website, the design team completely overhauled NASA.gov’s infrastructure. According to Dunbar, NASA switched from an old proprietary CMS to a customized Drupal implementation and replaced NASA’s commercial on-demand video service with a YouTube-based approach.

The most impressive figure of the redesign, however, is hidden from the eye. The redesign only took 13 weeks to complete — a highly efficient timeline for a government agency.

“We started that whole effort in earnest in late March,” Dunbar said. “We had been experimenting with the graphical changes for a few weeks before that.”

The short timeline had a catch-22, though. The team wasn’t able to optimize the website for discovering and sharing content on social media, which took a backseat in this initial rollout.

“Those considerations will be part of the upcoming redesign,” Dunbar said. “We want to be able to share our content across platforms, but we’ve also got user data that clearly shows we have a web audience that doesn’t really use social media and is distinct from our social media audience.”

As with most trickle-down redesigns, NASA.gov — which logs about 12 million visits per month — still has a long way to go. Expect to see a few 404 errors while browsing around as the team makes piecemeal changes through September.

Dunbar noted that this first transition is only a small part the massive changes to NASA.gov coming early next year. “When we’re done, we expect to have a vastly improved site, both for users and editors,” he said.

NASA.gov in 1997

NASA Website 1997
NASA.gov homepage on Jan. 5, 1997.

In 1999

NASA Website 1999
NASA.gov homepage on April 17, 1999.

In 2007

NASA Website 2007
NASA.gov homepage on Jan. 3, 2007.

Mashable composite; images courtesy of NASA/JPL

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/01/nasa-website-redesign/

9 Captivating Data Visualization Projects

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Can You 3D Print Your Dream Home?

Barbie-dream-cottage

If you love LEGOs, you might have imagined building a real house from them. And with the surging popularity of 3D printers, such a dream seems well within reach. Nick Johnson, a spokesman for real estate blog Movoto, decided to find out what it would take to build a 3D-printed house.

“Given that we’re due to get our own 3D printer here in the Movoto office soon, I pretty much couldn’t be more excited by the possibilities the technology introduces,” Johnson wrote in a company blog post. “So, with that, I thought I’d look into exactly how realistic it would be to print the components needed to build a house using one of these devices.”

As it turns out, if you were to use today’s 3D printing technology, you would be long dead by the time your pieces were printed. In fact, it would take 220 years, four months and 11 days for a single machine to print the 27,735 bricks required to construct a 2,500-square-foot (232 square meters), two-story house. And if you think the endeavor sounds time-costly, you should read the price tag: $332,820 in plastic alone.

Johnson based his calculations on a MakerBot Replicator 2 printer and jumbo-size bricks measuring 8 in by 3.5 in by 2.75 in (20.3 cm by 8.9 cm by 7 cm). It would take nearly three days to print a single brick, and each brick would cost about $12 in ABS material. (ABS plastic filament is a must for this project, as the alternative — PLA — would begin to melt under the heat of the sun.) You can try Johnson’s calculator for yourself:

By Movoto

But industrial 3D printing experts tell a different story.

Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at the University of Southern California who heads the Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program, stunned a TED Talk audience earlier this year by showing it’s possible to 3D print a 2,500-square-foot house in about 20 hours. Khoshnevis called the process “Contour Crafting,” which would use a gigantic 3D printer erected over the footprint of where a building will stand. The 3D printer extrudes a concrete mixture, building a house layer by layer, the same way a desktop 3D printer makes a plastic figurine.

Khoshnevis said it’s the cheapest form of construction — less expensive than prefabricated housing and infinitely customizable. “Every building can be very different just by changing the design,” he said. “You could execute really exotic architectural features without incurring additional costs.”

Once the basic structure was completed, finish work, tiling and even painting could also be done automatically with the kind of printers used for rendering billboards, he said.

Khoshnevis is currently working with NASA to design structures suitable for living on the moon. But long before Moon colonization becomes a reality, you may be able to print your own custom home here on Earth — imagine leasing a Contour Crafting machine at your local Home Depot.

Image courtesy of Simon Farnworth

This article originally published at TechNewsDaily
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/20/3d-print-dream-home/

Lighter-Than-Air Material Could Drastically Change Tech

Lighter-than-air-material-could-drastically-change-tech-fd4e4daa3d

German scientists have developed a sturdy material called Aerographite made mostly of air, opening up huge implications for the future development of electronics.

The jet-black, non-transparent porous carbon material — which was created by scientists at Kiel University and Hamburg University of Technology — was detailed in the July edition of scientific journal Advanced Materials.

Since Aerographite is electrically conductive and so lightweight, the scientists hope it could be used in the future as lightweight batteries. They believe these small batteries could be used in green transportation such as electronic cars and e-bikes in the future.

It weighs in at 0.2 milligrams for each cubic centimeter, making it the lightest material in the world. It’s lighter than a nickel material that was presented to the public about six months ago.

The news comes as researchers last year at the University of California Irvine developed a material as strong as metal while 100 times lighter than Styrofoam.

“Our work is causing great discussions in the scientific community. Aerographite weights four times less than world-record-holder up to now,” Matthias Mecklenburg, co-author and Ph.D. student at the TUHH, said on Kiel University’s website.

Made by developing a linked chain of carbon nanotubes onto a zinc-oxide template, it is extremely resilient. If you were to compress Aerographite, it would bounce back to its natural state without any damage. Most other materials weaken when they undergo such stress.

“It is able to be compressed up to 95% and be pulled back to its original form without any damage,” said Professor Rainer Adelung of Kiel University. “Up to a certain point, the Aerographite will become even more solid and therefore stronger than before. Also, the newly constructed material absorbs light rays almost completely. One could say it creates the blackest black.”

How do you think this new material will impact the tech world? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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