President Obama likely faces a tough crowd when he attempts to articulate his vision for NASA in Florida next month, but in the meantime the private space industry he's thrown his support behind continues to make strides. Private space tech company SpaceX just completed its first successful test-fire of its Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad, meeting a critical benchmark in its mission to launch cargo and astronauts into orbit.
This week, we heard 24 cadets at the Air Force Academy received the first wings awarded in the institution's history for pilots specializing in unmanned aerial systems and other remotely piloted aircraft. Seeing as how this year the Pentagon will buy more unmanned aircraft than manned, we thought it quite significant that the first class of undergrads had hit this milestone, but—geeks that we are—what really piqued our interests were the unique wings themselves.
A bright idea coming out of Germany's Fraunhofer Institute could change the way we connect to the Internet in the future, as well as drive the nascent market for interior LED lighting. Researchers there have found a way to encode a visible-frequency wireless signal in the light coming from lamps and fixtures, turning the light that surrounds us into a high-speed broadband source.
Chalk up another technological victory for Big Brother. Japanese phone maker KDDI has developed a mobile phone that analyzes users' movements, beaming that information back to the corporate office/Party headquarters/the Ministry of Love for review. Specialized software can identify several distinct movements, including walking, stair-climbing, and even cleaning. On-the-job slackers, the jig is up.
Never content to let a paradigm remain a paradigm, DARPA has issued a broad agency announcement seeking the development of super-low-power, non-volatile logic integrated circuits that retain their computational states as well as their data even after their power supplies have been removed. Focusing on magnetic-moment-based approaches, the agency wants a new breed of portable electronics, sensors and UAVs that can compute even when the lights go out.
It seems like every week there's a new scheme for making electric vehicles a reliable transportation option for the masses, but a team of South Koreans at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) today launched what may be one of the most feasible plans we've seen. The Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV) gathers power magnetically from electric strips buried below the road's surface as it travels, eliminating the need for long-term recharging.
How fast is too fast? According to the laws of physics, the speed of light is a good boundary, as going beyond it opens you up to all sorts of paradoxes and space-time phenomena that are usually the stuff of sci-fi. But a couple of researchers in Austria have come up with a way to compute information faster than the speed of light.
Light is essential to vision, at least the kind we perform with our naked eyes. This is why we can see through a glass lens but not through a brick wall (though we're working on that). But what about materials that let some light pass while scattering it in seemingly chaotic ways?
They don't exactly look like the saviors of our energy economy, but that's exactly what some researchers think they could be. Gribbles -- tiny crustacean pests with a knack for digesting wood -- have long been considered a marine parasite for the destruction they cause to wooden hulls and piers. But the enzymes gribbles use in to break wood fibers down into sugars could make them the next biofuels breakthrough.
Polymers are generally put to work as insulators, but a team of researchers at MIT has devised a way to turn polyethylene -- the most commonly used polymer -- into a conductor that transfers heat better than many pure metals. But the conversion of insulator to conductor is only half of the breakthrough; by coaxing all the polymer molecules into precise alignment, the researchers have created a polyethylene that conducts heat in only one direction.
The world's first commercial effort at a patient-ready brain computer interface is on display over at CeBIT 2010, but don't go throwing out your keyboard and mouse just yet. Intended for patients suffering from locked-in syndrome and other communication-impairing conditions, the Intendix from Guger Technologies allows users to input text using only their brains.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are seen as a key component in America's carbon-free energy diet of the future, and Ford is ready to step into the role of supplier. But before you putter down to the dealership in your gas guzzler with down payment in hand, take note: Ford's first mass-market foray into all-electric vehicles is the Transit Connect EV, a delivery van available later this year -- to large fleet customers only.
Leave it to Japanese designers to turn technology into something both stylish and functional -- and then keep it all to themselves. The SolarFold and SolarFan portable solar chargers unfold into surface-area-utilizing solar collectors when needed, supplying enough power to make a three-minute iPhone call after just ten minutes in the sun.
Good news for anyone out there straining to read this text: Pixel Qi plans to ship its 3Qi technology in an easy-to-install DIY kit sometime toward the end of the second quarter of this year.
Pixel Qi’s dual-mode 3Qi displays function as both full-color LCD monitors and e-ink-like, low-power black and white displays, giving laptops and netbooks the ability to toggle between vibrant, video-playing LCD color and an energy-efficient, eye-strain-saving e-reader mode.
There's something cold and impersonal about the telephone -- like the inability to get in a coworker's face and tell him exactly how little you think of him. But MIT's MeBot ensures your icy-cold stares, interested nods and quizzical glances will never fall on deaf ears again.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.