Godless Geek Blog
Click the notes link beneath each post to get to the like/reblog bttons.
Tactus Technology’s Dynamic Display Creates Physical Buttons And Shapes on Touchscreens
California based Tactus’ Technologies, has developed a material that can instantly deform itself to create physically raised buttons and shapes, to coincide with the display on smart phones and other touch devices. What follows, is the technical explanation on how their new tactile surface works, as explained in the company’s White Paper;
“Made of a thin multi-layer stack, the top-most layer consists of an optically clear polymer. A number of micro-holes connect the top layers of the panel to a series of microchannels that run through the underlying substrate. The micro channels are filled with a fluid whose optical index of refraction matches that of the surrounding material, making it fully and evenly transparent when light from the display passes through.
Increasing the fluid pressure causes the fluid to push up through the holes and against the top polymer layer, making it expand in pre-defined locations. This enables an array of physical and completely transparent buttons to rise out of the surface. A small internal controller that interfaces with the processor of the touchscreen device controls the rise and fall of the buttons. The controller allows a proximity sensor or a software application to control the state of the buttons. For example, the buttons could be triggered to rise whenever the software calls for the virtual QWERTY keyboard”
I think this is amazing. First, because it’s one of those fake looking, sci-fi sounding technologies, that just doesn’t seem like it should be real when you first learn about it. But also, because I realize there are a lot of people who still can’t quite get used to the button-less touchscreen thing, and would really like to get their buttons back. Where as I, am not personally harboring any great longing for the days of raised keys and D-pads. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’ve become pretty anti-button at this point, as far as my user interface goes anyway. And this way, everybody’s happy. Not to mention, the wide array of future applications I can imagine for a self deforming material.
Taking cues from the firefly, a Dutch electronics company has created a product called “Bio-light”—an eco-friendly lighting system that uses glowing, bioluminescent bacteria. They’re not powered by electricity or sunlight, but by methane generated by the company’s Microbial Home bio-digester that processes anything from vegetable scraps to human waste. The living bacteria are fed through silicon tubes, and as long as they’re nutritionally-fulfilled, they can indefinitely generate a soft, heat-free green glow using the enzyme luciferase and its substrate, luciferin. They’re kept in hand-blown glass bulbs clustered together into lamps, but you can’t light up your house with them yet—the glow isn’t nearly bright enough to replace conventional artificial lights. They do, however, get people to think about untapped household energy sources and how to make use of them. The company, Phillips, also envisions the use of these Bio-lights outside the home—for nighttime road markings, signs in theatres and clubs, and even biosensors for monitoring diabetes.
Planetary Resources Announces Plan to Mine Asteroids
Earlier this week Planetary Resources Inc announced it’s intent to become the first asteroid mining company in history. While details on the company’s plan were pretty vague, their list of financial backers, was much easier to find, as they were the focus of most of the articles on the subject. Which isn’t terribly surprising given it’s a list which includes Google’s Larry Page & Eric Schmidt, as well as James Cameron, who’s also apparently famous for some stuff, but I’m not sure what.[/sarcasm]
Though Planetary Resource’s goal is both a fairly straight forward and plausible one: Identify near Earth asteroids worth mining for water and or precious metals, and then do it. Actually achieving this feat, will require the company to first launch it’s own telescopes in order to locate said NEA, find a way to bring them into orbit around the moon, and then develop all of the technology necessary to actually mine them. All of which the company hopes to achieve within the next ten years. It’s a lofty goal, and given that it’s one based largely on technologies that don’t yet exist, I won’t be holding my breath in anticipation.But I do think could very well be an achievable goal for a company ultimately motivated by profit, as founders estimate their new industry could potentially mean the influx of trillions of dollars into the world economy.
The idea of commercial interests in space is undoubtedly one that will make the ardently anti-capitalist amongst you uncomfortable, and to be honest, I share your apprehension. But if successful, Planetary Enterprises endeavor could also be a potential stepping stone towards the goal of interplanetary explorations, as one of the proposed goals of the project is to develop ways of manufacturing and distributing fuel as well as water to ships and crews in space; not to mention its potential for easing the drain on Earth’s own natural resources. Also, at this point it seems all but impossible to me that any government will ever allocate the necessary resources to fund the level of scientific development or space exploration, I so desperately want to see become reality. So even if we never hear from Panetary Resources again. Like it or not, I think the future of space (much like everything else) is largely a commercial one.
Video posted by Youtube user: PlanetaryResources
Researchers Send Message Through Solid Stone on a Beam of Neutrinos
All though they may still be limited to the speed of light like everything else, neutrinos are still very strange, and potentially very useful little bits of matter. These neutrally charged, weakly interacting, sub-atomic particles move through the world virtually unaffected by outside forces, and even other matter, thanks to the neutrino’s near complete lack of mass. It’s this unique ability to pass through other matter unaffected, that makes the concept of using beams of neutrinos to replace the conventional radio wave as a data carrier so attractive.
A recent experiment conducted at the Fermi labs accelerator in Illinois by a group of scientists lead by researchers from the University of Rochester and North Carolina State University, managed to successfully transmit information using a neutrino beam, for the very first time. The message they sent, which was simply the word “neutrino”, was transmitted through over 250 yards of solid stone, and is a promising proof of concept, where the use of neutrinos as an effective, alternative transmission medium is concerned.
However, even sending a simple, binary message consisting of a single word took over two hours and the power of massive particle detector pull off. Which clearly demonstrates that the same property which makes the neutrino a suitable medium for unobstructed data transmission, also makes it difficult to detect and collect on the receiving end.
Story and Image VIA: University of Rochester
NASA’s Implantable Biocapsule Can Automatically Diagnose and Treat Disease
Designed by Dr. David Loftus, NASA’s new Biocapsule is a tiny device built from carbonnanotubes that would be surgically inserted just beneath the patients skin. These Biocapsules would be filled with cells primed to to detect and cure specific ailments, and would do so automatically, by releasing therapeutic molecules (proteins, peptides), via diffusion across the capsule wall. Though designed to treat astronauts during long-term missions -specifically for radiation exposure- these devices could obviously also be adapted to treat any number of illnesses right here on Earth. They could even be used to administer targeted chemotherapy treatments or perhaps take the place of insulin injections.
Though it will still likely be another 15-20 years before we can realistically hope to see these capsules put to use on human patients. Unlike so many other speculative advances in technology and medicine, the implants in question actually already exist, and are set to move on to the animal testing phase sometime in the near future. So while it’s tempting to dismiss headlines promising them to be set to ” change the future of medicine”, as just another bit of wishful thinking that’s just too good to be true. From time to time, some amazing thing comes along that isn’t based solely on hopeful speculation, and really could have world changing implications. And this -seems anyway- like it might actually be one of those things.
IBM researchers store one bit of magnetic information in just 12 atoms
Thanks to the adoption of what is today known as Moore’s law as the industry standard for development, computer processing power doubles around once every 18 months. This rate of development is primarily maintained through the gradual miniaturization of various components within modern computers. But simply shrinking components down to create denser storage and faster processors, though obviously a highly successful model for development up to this point, has it’s limits. Simply put, once this gradual miniaturization reaches the atomic level, it’s game over. Which is why researchers at IBM, recently decided to try a different approach. Rather than shrinking the components themselves, developers found a way of storing the data itself in smaller spaces, 1 bit in just 12 atoms, to be specific.
“Living Nanowire” Could Lead to Better Batteries
Batteries suck. Sure, like any other technology, batteries have improved vastly over the years. But there’s just no getting around the fact that the lingering inefficiencies in the ability of batteries to both generate and store energy remains a major defect in all of our favorite portable devices, as well as would be alternative energy technologies like solar power. So as you might imagine, the quest for better batteries is a popular one, and one with many potential solutions. One such solution, to at least some of our battery woes anyway, could be the merging of biology and technology to create organic super-batteries or biological superconductors, using a newly developed living transistor made from bacteria.
A group of biologists and physicists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, recently teamed up to create what they have dubbed “living nanowire”, using a strain of bacteria called Geobacter sulfurreducens, which grows long stringy filaments called pili along its body, which it uses to expel electrons generated as a byproduct of it’s digestive process. By running current through a small electrode covered in a thin film of the bacteria, researchers were able to measure the conductivity of these filaments, and found that they could conduct electrons better than some metals.
“These nanowire networks showed the same properties of metal networks,” Mark Tuominen, professor of physics at UMass and lead author of the paper detailing the findings of the team’s research said, “We didn’t think nature could make something similar to metal. This is the first time this has been discovered and this is very exciting for us.”
Like any new discovery, the potential application of this research is speculative, and no specific details were given as to how or when it could lead to the development of these biological super-batteries; which would also be environmentally-sustainable, as well as cheaper to produce. But given the need for new developments in the world of power storage and generation, there is at least a hope that this discovery might not join the long list of potentially cool new technologies that we never hear from again.
Michio Kaku on The Future of Quantum Computers and A.I.
For more about the potential application of, and the mechaisms behind quantum computing, here’s Michio Kaku’s response to the question; Will quantum computing make self-aware AI more likely?
Lockheed Martin’s New Quantum Computer
An extended version of this post is available on: Blogspot
last week, Lockheed Martin became the proud owner of the world’s first first commercially sold quantum computer. The system, known as D-Wave One, uses a superconducting 128-qubit chip, called Rainier, has an approximate footprint of about 100 feet, has a power requirement of 15 kilowatts, and, along with maintenance and tech-support of course, cost the company a rumored 10-million dollars.
Unlike digital processors, which are limited to a two state, binary value system of ones and zeros, quantum processors perform their computations by measuring the position, or spin, of individual atoms and interpreting that position as a value, or “qubit”. Because atoms can exist in a state of superposition, multiple states simultaneously, this means a single quantum processor could potentially possess the ability to perform millions of tasks at a time, as oppose to the single task to which modern processors are limited.
Cornell’s Thumbnail-Sized Satellites Are Headed to Space, Could Soon be Bound for Saturn
Cornell researchers are sending a tiny bundle to the International Space Station aboard the space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission, and if all goes well their fingernail-sized satellites could be coasting through Saturn’s atmosphere within a decade.
The one-inch-square “chip sats” have been in development for three years at Cornell, and they are small and light enough to behave like space dust, meaning they could sail on solar winds deep into space with no onboard fuel supply. Their size is limiting however, and the Cornell team wants to see just how small they can go while still maintaining communication with Earth.