Tag Archives: Tech

Scorpion Protein Illuminates Brain Tumors for Surgeons

Glowing-scorpion

Jim Olson, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, was reviewing with his colleagues the case of a 17-year-old girl several years ago who had just undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor. An MRI scan revealed a thumb-size piece of tumor left behind. In the operating room, the tumor tissue had looked just like healthy brain tissue. During the review meeting, the hospitals’ chief of neurosurgery turned to Olson and said: “Jim, you have to come up with a way to light these cells up.”

So Olson and a neurosurgical resident started searching for a way to highlight cancer cells in the operating room. Eventually, they came across a report of a scorpion toxin that binds to brain tumors but not healthy cells. By linking a synthetic version of this protein to a molecule that glows in near-infrared light, the researchers think they may have found what they call “tumor paint.”

In their very first test, the pair injected the compound into the tail vein of a mouse whose body harbored a transplanted human tumor. “Within 15 to 20 minutes, the tumor started to glow, bright and distinct from the rest of the mouse,” says Olson.

A Seattle company called Blaze Bioscience has licensed the technology from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Olson says human trials will begin late in 2013.

The scorpion toxin is special not only because it binds to tumor cells, but because it can cross the blood-brain barrier—a cellular and molecular fortification that lines blood vessels in the brain and prevents most compounds from entering.

“Usually, peptides don’t get into the brain unless they bind to something specific that carries it in there,” says Harald Sontheimer, a neurobiologist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, who first identified the neurological potential of the scorpion protein.

Although derived from venom, the toxin seems to be safe. A biotech company started by Sontheimer showed in early clinical trials that a version of the scorpion toxin tagged with radioactive iodine was safe in patients. However, the company closed before late-stage testing of the iodine-tagged compound, which is now owned by Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai.

The tumor paint developed by Olson may also light up cancer outside of the brain. Animal studies suggest it could also demarcate prostate, colon, breast, and other tumors. The potential the compound has to save healthy brain tissue and improve patients’ lives is told in a short film called Bringing Light, which is in the running for the Sundance Film Festival.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Furryscaly

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/12/17/scorpion-protein-brain-tumor/

How to Double the Power of Solar Panels

How-to-double-the-power-of-solar-panels-aae8a542eb

In an attempt to further drop the cost of solar power, Bandgap Engineering, a startup in Woburn, Mass., is developing a nanowire-based solar cell that could eventually generate twice as much power as conventional solar cells.

That’s a long-term project, but meanwhile the company is about to start selling a simpler version of the technology, using silicon nanowires that can improve the performance and lower the cost of conventional silicon solar cells. Bandgap says its nanowires, which can be built using existing manufacturing tools, boost the power output of solar cells by increasing the amount of light the cells can absorb.

Right now most solar-panel manufacturers aren’t building new factories because the market for their product is glutted. But if market conditions improve and manufacturers do start building, they’ll be able to introduce larger changes to production lines. In that case the Bandgap technology could make it possible to change solar cells more significantly.

For example, by increasing light absorption, it could allow manufacturers to use far thinner wafers of silicon, reducing the largest part of a solar cell’s cost. It could also enable manufacturers to use copper wires instead of more expensive silver wires to collect charge from the solar panels.

These changes could lead to solar panels that convert more than 20% of the energy in sunlight into electricity (compared with about 15% for most solar cells now) yet cost only $1 per watt to produce and install, says Richard Chleboski, Bandgap’s CEO. (Solar installations cost a few dollars per watt now, depending on their size and type.) Over the operating lifetime of the system, costs would come to $0.06-0.10 per kilowatt-hour.

That’s still higher than the current cost of natural-gas power in the United States, which is about $0.04 per kilowatt-hour. But it’s low enough to secure solar power a substantial market in many parts of the world where energy costs can be higher, or in certain niche markets in the United States.

Meanwhile, Bandgap is pursuing technology that could someday improve efficiency enough to allow solar power to compete widely with fossil fuels. Double the efficiency of solar cells without greatly increasing manufacturing costs, and you substantially lower the cost per watt of solar panels and halve the cost of installation — currently the biggest expense in solar power — by making it possible to get the same amount of power out of half as many cells.

Both the cells Bandgap is about to introduce and the cells it hopes to produce in the long term are based on the idea of minimizing the energy loss that typically occurs when light passes through a solar cell unabsorbed or when certain wavelengths of light are absorbed but don’t have enough energy to dislodge electrons to create electricity. (That energy is wasted as heat.) In a conventional solar cell, at least two-thirds of the energy in sunlight is wasted — usually much more.

The company’s existing technology makes use of the fact that when light encounters the nanowires, it’s refracted in a way that causes it to bounce around in the solar cell rather than simply moving through it or bouncing off it. That increases its chances of being absorbed.

But what Bandgap ultimately wants to do is to change the way light is converted to electricity inside the cell. If the nanowires can be made uniformly enough, and if they can be formed in such a way that their atoms line up along certain planes, the tiny structures could change the electronic properties of silicon.

These changes could allow solar cells to generate electricity from low-energy light that normally produces only heat, says Marcie Black, the company’s founder and chief technology officer. It does this in part by providing a way to combine energy from more than one photon of low-energy light.

The technology could take many years to develop. For one thing, it requires very precise control over the properties of each of millions of nanowires. Also, the techniques needed to make the solar cells might not be cheap or reliable enough to produce them on a large scale. But such solar cells could theoretically convert 60% of the energy in sunlight into electricity. That will be hard to achieve in practice, so the company is aiming at a more modest 38% efficiency, which is still more than twice that of typical silicon solar cells made now.

Researchers are taking several other approaches to producing very high-efficiency solar cells, such as using quantum dots or combining several kinds of materials.

The nanowire technology could be simpler, however. “In theory, the approach has many potential advantages, but you’ve got to get it to work,” says Andrew Norman, a senior researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

Bandgap hasn’t yet built solar cells using the approach it hopes to pursue in the long term, but it’s made indirect measurements showing that its nanowires can change the electronic properties of silicon. “This is still in the research phase,” Black says. “We’re being very honest with investors — there’s still a lot of work to do.”

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/17/double-power-solar-panels/

Find Out Which Reporter Walks the Walk at CES 2014

CES-Day-5

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, unless you’re wearing a device that tracks your every step.

As the major players in the tech industry debuted new products at CES 2014 in Las Vegas this week, the Mashable team was there on the ground to bring you a firsthand look at the gadgets and speakers that generated buzz.

The jam-packed event tested our reporters mentally, and the spread-out venue tested their fitness levels as they briskly walked to and from the wealth of events. With so much to see and write about, they needed to cover ground faster than winter storm Hercules.

That’s why, for the second year in a row, we presented the Mashable staff with a challenge: Who could log the most activity at CES?

To most accurately measure our reporters’ speed and stamina, we provided them each with a Nike+ FuelBand SE. The activity-logging wristband tracked our reporters’ steps taken and measured their daily activity in “fuel points.”

Last year, Evan Engel finished in first place. This year, however, it was Nina Frazier-Hansen who finished with both the most steps taken (48,344) and fuelpoints (17,423), making her our clear winner of CES 2014. Congratulations, Nina!

Editor’s Note: Evan Engel was not able to log data on Sunday due to travel complications, and Samantha Murphy lost some data on Monday due to technical difficulties.

Who’s going to win the Nike+ Fuelband CES Challenge?

Image: Mashable, Jeff Petriello

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/

Heat-Sensitive Telescope Could Find Aliens

Exoplanet

We might be able find aliens using the heat their civilizations give off, astronomers say, but it will take a megatelescope to do the job. The development of such a telescope is in the works.

The telescope — called Colossus — would be a massive 250-foot (77-meter) telescope, which is more than double the aperture of any telescope yet constructed.

To keep costs down, the proposed $1 billion telescope would use thin mirror technology and few large aperture mirror segments to build Colossus. The sensitivity of the scope could be enough to spot cities or other signs of aliens for planets as far as 60 to 70 light-years from Earth, its backers said.

“If we had an investor come and say, ‘Look, here are the resources you need,’ we could have the telescope built within five years,” said Jeff Kuhn, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, who is on the proposal team.

Building on Dyson Spheres

In searches for extraterrestrial intelligence, astronomers generally focus on seeking out beamed signals from other civilizations. In four decades of searching, nothing definitive has been found. There were, however, a few interesting moments, such as the so-called “Wow!” signal heard in 1977 that was never repeated.

There are limitations with that method, however. Perhaps the aliens might not send out signals themselves. Maybe they broadcast in channels we wouldn’t think of using. Moreover, humans should be cautious about sending out signals and alerting more advanced civilizations to their presence, as Stephen Hawking has said.

This is where Colossus can shine, Kuhn said. The telescope is a passive receiver that allows astronomers to seek out extraterrestrials without alerting them to the search.

Kuhn’s team builds on a concept first proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson in the 1960s. Humans can capture only a fraction of the energy sent out by the sun, but a more advanced civilization would want to grab as much as possible.

Dyson suggested an extraterrestrial civilization would surround their star with a structure — now known as a “Dyson sphere” — that would capture the energy needed and then bleed the rest off into space.

From Earth, a star that is faint optically but very strong in the infrared could be an indication of such a sphere, Dyson mused. Kuhn’s team, rather than focusing on stars, is instead looking at the surfaces of alien planets.

“Similarly, an exoplanet that was optically dark, but thermally bright, would be evidence of extraterrestrial civilization,” Kuhn said.

Seeking the Heat

To date, there are few images obtained of exoplanets; they are only faintly visible, and their parent stars tend to overwhelm their radiated light. That’s why such a large mirror is needed to peer at them, Kuhn explained.

“The biggest telescopes that we’re likely to see in the next 100 years or so will not be able to directly image cities or organized structures on the planet,” he said. Still, he added, local heat sources could be visible.

“We do that by using the fact that the planet has to rotate, and that civilization is clustered either by the formation of continents or the use of land, which is agrarian versus organized into population centers. The assumption we make is that civilizations will cluster their heat use. It won’t be uniform; they distribute it.”

Volcanoes and other natural features also produce heat, Kuhn said, but astronomers would probe heat sources in at least two different wavelengths to obtain the temperature. Natural features are likely to be far above the background heat of the planet. Those heat sources that are slightly above the planet’s natural radiation are more likely to be signs of civilization, he said.

The method does have limitations, he added.

“It is possible to be confused on a planet which is perpetually cloud-covered, and we wouldn’t be able to detect a signal on a planet where somehow the alien society managed to uniformly distribute itself around the planet so it isn’t clustered,” Kuhn said.

There’s no firm location yet for the telescope, but Kuhn suggested it could be built in the San Pedro Martir mountainous area of Baja California in Mexico, close to the location of one partner in the project: the National University of Mexico in Ensenada.

6 Patents Pending

Kuhn’s team is seeking funding from private funders, and will perhaps obtain money from patents as well. The scientists submitted six patent applications relating to optical technologies associated with the telescope design.

“We are not in competition with the astronomy projects,” he said when asked about obtaining federal science or NASA funding for the effort. “This is entirely private funding that we have been supported by.”

The team, however, is open to partnerships with other institutions. One possibility could be the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute itself, but the organization prefers to focus on radio telescopes right now, Kuhn said.

The notion was first thought up by Caisey Harlingten, an entrepreneur and amateur astronomer who sought two years ago to find a team capable of building the telescope, Kuhn said. The group includes a member with experience building Hawaii’s Keck and Suburu telescopes — David Halliday, founder of Canadian-based Dynamic Structures Inc.

Other partners in the project include Germany’s Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics, the National University of Mexico in Ensenada, Tohoku University in Japan, the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, the University of Lyon in France and Harlingten’s company, Innovative Optics.

An overview concept of the project was recently published in Astronomy magazine. The group is now creating a more detailed design and seeking funding. No start date has been set yet for construction.

Image courtesy of Flickr, NASA Blueshift

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/07/alien-heat-telescope/

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/

Super-Realistic Simulator Lands NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Mars

Super-realistic-simulator-lands-nasa-s-curiosity-rover-on-mars-video--1a4d47a9e5

As NASA’s Curiosity rover gets closer to its early Monday morning landing on Mars, the agency has released a spectacular simulator that will take you through every detail of the complicated landing procedure.

If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft, officially called the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), will land on the Red Planet at 1:30 A.M. Eastern Time on August 5.

The remarkable web-based interactive animation lets you see precisely where in space the 1-ton, $2.5 billion Mars rover is located at this moment, or using Preview Mode, you can jump forward and backward in time, speeding up events so you can see each aspect of the flight and landing. That includes the last step, which lowers the unusually heavy rover using an incredible “sky crane.”

During the “seven minutes of terror,” NASA‘s way of explaining the Rube-Goldbergian process of landing the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars, it won’t be possible to watch the Mars landing live because of the 14-minute communications delay between Mars and Earth. But an interactive animation of the landing will be viewable in real time in this simulator as it happens early Monday morning.

In the meantime, we’ve been having lots of fun playing with this simulator, going forward and backward in time, dragging the mouse to change camera angles, and even looking back at a tiny Earth, way off in the distance.

Try it yourself — and pay close attention to those “seven minutes of terror,” the most complicated landing sequence ever attempted. While you’re at it, keep your fingers crossed at 1:30 A.M. Eastern time on Monday morning, because key NASA officials are saying there’s a lot riding on this landing. Doug McQuiston, director of NASA’s Mars exploration program calls it “the most significant event in the history of planetary exploration.”

Lead scientist for the mission, John Grotzinger, told Space.com, “I think if we are fatal on landing, that will have a very negative influence.” He added, “It’s going to force people to look back and ask if it’s possible to achieve these very complex, more demanding missions from a technological perspective. How can you talk about sample-return if you can’t do MSL [Mars Science Laboratory] first?”

Good luck, NASA. Do you think the spacecraft will land on Mars successfully?

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/04/simulator-mars-curiosity-rover/

Microgrid Keeps the Power Local, Cheap, and Reliable

Microgrid-keeps-the-power-local-cheap-and-reliable-5883933249

A recently completed distributed energy project at the large, 4,000-inmate Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, California, ties together power from fuel cells, solar panels, wind turbines, and diesel generators—all located at the jail—to form a microgrid that can operate independently of large, centralized power plants. The system keeps the power on when storms take down the grid, which is essential for safety at the maximum security facility, and it’s saving the jail about $100,000 a year.

The jail microgrid is one of the largest and most advanced in the United States. It’s the latest example of an emerging smart-grid technology that’s providing a cleaner, more reliable, and, in some parts of the country, significantly cheaper alternative to the conventional grid. “In many cases, it has a very nice payback, with our without subsidies,” says Michael Clark, president of Fort Collins, Colorado-based Encorp, which recently installed the software and equipment needed to manage the jail’s microgrid. Microgrids also provide new ways to use solar and wind power. Ordinarily, the intermittent nature of such power sources makes them a challenge for utilities. By integrating them with batteries and other sources of power, they can provide a reliable boost to conventional power supplies to help utilities meet peaks in demand.

Microgrids are a step beyond either emergency backup systems or stand-alone solar-panel arrays. They use special software and power electronics to integrate multiple sources of power and energy storage to provide electricity around the clock, even when the sun isn’t shining or regulations limit the use of diesel generators. In the case of the system at the jail, Encorp has installed networked controllers—the size of large computers—at each source of electricity, including a large array of thousands of batteries, as well as at the point where the jail connects to the grid. Coordinating power from diesel generators, solar panels, and other sources of power also requires equipment that can adjust the frequency and voltage of the power they produce.

Clark says Encorp has developed algorithms to help the system get the most out of each power source. At the jail, where the system is connected to the grid, this includes responding to the needs of a utility. If the utility experiences a large spike in demand, the microgrid can respond by selling excess power to the utility.

At certain times, it makes sense to use the system’s ability to temporarily decrease power consumption at the jail for things like the air-conditioning or lighting to create more excess power to sell to the grid.

The first customers for microgrids are businesses and organizations that can’t afford even short power outages—such as jails, hospitals, data centers, and military bases—or remote areas that don’t have access to the grid. They make economic sense in places such as California, where electricity costs are high and regulations on backup generators are strict. But they could soon make sense in more places as the cost of renewable energy and large-scale batteries decreases, and as advanced controls and power electronics make them more efficient. (See “New Solar Panel Designs Make Installation Cheaper,” “GE’s Novel Battery to Bolster the Grid,” and “Battery to Take on Diesel and Natural Gas.”)

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/23/microgrid/

Mars Landing Broadcast on Ustream Outperforms Cable TV, Company Says

Mars-landing-broadcast-on-ustream-outperforms-cable-tv-company-says-bae2e39b6d

New stats from Ustream suggest that more people are forgoing television for online sources when it comes to getting news, the company says.

More than 3.2 million people tuned in to the live streaming platform to see Sunday night’s landing of the Mars Curiosity rover, according to spokesman Tony Riggins.

“More people tuned in to watch the NASA Mars landing coverage on Ustream than many of the top cable news networks during Sunday primetime,” he told Mashable in an email.

Riggins said that at its peak, Ustream had 500,000 concurrent viewers across all streams watching live. The platform had broadcasts spanning NASA HDTV, NASA JPL and NASA JPL 2

While there’s no specific statistics for network coverage of the landing, Nielsen television ratings for Sunday’s primetime slot shows that among viewers over age 2, CNN had an audience of 426,000. Other major networks such as MSNBC had 365,000 viewers, while CNBC received 109,000. Only Fox had higher numbers, clocking in at 803,000.

“This speaks to how much more sophisticated social media tools are getting on the web, even from just a year ago, and how consumers are adapting technologies to get news now from sources like Ustream,” Riggins said.

Ustream also lets viewers interact in real-time over its “social stream,” via mobile phones, tablets, streaming players and smart TV. Aggregating multiple social networks, this feature integrates audiences across Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. More than 102,000 social stream messages were sent on Sunday, according to Ustream.

The New York Times reported on television’s downward trend in April.

“Across the television landscape, network and cable, public television and Spanish, viewing for all sorts of prime-time programming is down this spring — chiefly among the most important audience for the business, younger adults,” said reporter Bill Carter.

In contrast, Ustream’s viewership has soared in recent years. From a reported 10 million unique viewers in June 2008, the platform said it now has 51 million viewers “every month” (though it’s unclear whether this number refers to unique viewers).

Do you watch news online or on television more often? Tell us in the comments below.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/07/mars-curiosity-ustream/

This New Hover Vehicle Looks Like ‘Star Wars’ Bike

This-new-hover-vehicle-looks-like-star-wars-bike-eea5e65f31

A resurrected hover vehicle won’t fly through dense forests as effortlessly as the speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi, but its intuitive controls could someday allow anyone to fly it without pilot training.

The aerial vehicle resembles a science fiction flying bike with two ducted rotors instead of wheels, but originates from a design abandoned in the 1960s because of stability and rollover problems.

Aerofex, a California-based firm, fixed the stability issue by creating a mechanical system — controlled by two control bars at knee-level — that allows the vehicle to respond to a human pilot’s leaning movements and natural sense of balance.

“Think of it as lowering the threshold of flight, down to the domain of ATV’s (all-terrain vehicles),” said Mark De Roche, an aerospace engineer and founder of Aerofex.

Such intuitive controls could allow physicians to fly future versions of the vehicle to visit rural patients in places without roads, or enable border patrol officers to go about their duties without pilot training. All of it happens mechanically without the need for electronics, let alone complicated artificial intelligence or flight software.

(InnovationNewsDaily)

“It essentially captures the translations between the two in three axis (pitch, roll and yaw), and activates the aerodynamic controls required to counter the movement — which lines the vehicle back up with the pilot,” De Roche told InnovationNewsDaily. “Since [the pilot’s] balancing movements are instinctive and constant, it plays out quite effortlessly to him.”

But Aerofex does not plan to immediately develop and sell a manned version. Instead, the aerospace firm sees the aerial vehicle as a test platform for new unmanned drones — heavy-lift robotic workhorses that could use the same hover technology to work in agricultural fields, or swiftly deliver supplies to search-and-rescue teams in rough terrain.

Even the soldiers or Special Forces might use such hover drones to carry or deliver heavy supplies in the tight spaces between buildings in cities. U.S. Marines have already begun testing robotic helicopters to deliver supplies in Afghanistan.

The hovering drones would not fly as efficiently as helicopters because of their shorter rotor blades, but their enclosed rotors have the advantage of a much smaller size and safety near humans.

“They are less efficient than a helicopter, which has the benefit of larger diameter rotors,” De Roche explained. “They do have unique performance advantages, though, as they have demonstrated flight within trees, close to walls and under bridges.”

Aerofex has currently limited human flight testing to a height of 15 feet and speeds of about 30 mph, but more out of caution rather than because of any technological limits. Older versions of the hover vehicles could fly about as fast as helicopters, De Roche said.

Flight testing in California’s Mojave Desert led to the presentation of a technical paper regarding Aerofex’s achievements at the Future Vertical Lift Conference in January 2012. The company plans to fly a second version of its vehicle in October, and also prepare an unmanned drone version for flight testing by the end of 2013.

This article originally published at InnovationNewsDaily
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Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/20/aerofex-hover-vehicle/