Photokina 2014 highlights

Ben Coxworth

The NIST Dragon is a device that creates burning embers, to test how well building materia...

Thousands of people were left homeless this May, when over 40 percent of the town of Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada was destroyed by a wildfire that started in the adjacent forest. This is just one example of the devastation that can result when fires occur in what is known as the wildland-urban interface. While some buildings are destroyed when the wildfire itself reaches them, others can catch fire due to wind-borne embers from that fire. In an effort to test how well wooden decks are able to resist such embers, America's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) created something known as the Dragon - it's a device that sucks in tree mulch, and "breathes" it out as firebrands.  Read More

NASA is planning to demonstrate the largest solar sail ever built, in an upcoming space mi...

NASA's upcoming Technology Demonstration Missions are intended to "transform its space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities." Three project proposals have been selected for these missions, which should be launching in 2015 and 2016. One of those projects, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, we've told you about already. Another, however, will be demonstrating a mission-capable solar sail. While NASA has recently tested a solar sail measuring 100 square feet (9.29 square meters), this one will be the largest ever flown, spanning a whopping 15,543 square feet, or 1,444 square meters.  Read More

Scientists have reversed the aging process in human adult stem cells, which are in turn re...

By now, most people are probably aware of the therapeutic value of stem cells, as they can become any other type of cell in the human body. One of their main duties, in fact, is to replace those other cells as they degrade. Once people reach an advanced age, however, even the stem cells themselves start to get old and nonfunctional - when the cells that are supposed to replace the other cells can't do their job anymore, age-related tissue problems start occurring. A team of researchers from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology, however, may be on the way to solving that problem. They have succeeded in reversing the aging process in human adult stem cells.  Read More

Scientists have successfully replaced a rat's cerebellum with a chip programmed to perform...

Two years ago, the director of Switzerland’s Blue Brain Project predicted that an artificial human brain would be possible within ten years. Since then, we have seen examples of artificial synapses and neural networks. In the latest step towards man-made brains, however, scientists from Israel’s Tel Aviv University have restored brain function to a rat by replacing its disabled cerebellum with one that they created.  Read More

The SeaTwirl's vertical wind turbine (1), torus ring (2), float assembly (3) and generator...

One of the main drawbacks of wind turbines is the fact that for maximum efficiency, the power that they generate must be fed into the grid right as the wind is blowing and their blades are spinning. While that power can be stored in batteries for later use, some of it will always be lost in the process. Sweden's experimental new SeaTwirl system, however, is designed to kinetically store wind energy until it's required - it's basically a seagoing flywheel.  Read More

The Leaf Grip Remote Controller is an experimental device that users twist or bend to cont...

Why change channels by clicking on buttons, when you could do the same thing by twisting your remote? Japan's Murata Manufacturing Company obviously sees advantages in this approach and has created a prototype dubbed the "Leaf Grip Remote Controller" to showcase the idea. Flexing the battery-less device not only changes TV channels, but it also switches inputs, controls the volume, and turns the power on and off.  Read More

A scanning electron microscope image of the nanowire-alginate composite scaffolds, showing...

Around the world, scientists have been working on ways of replacing the heart tissue that dies when a heart attack occurs. These efforts have resulted in heart "patches" that are made from actual cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells), or that encourage surrounding heart cells to grow into them. One problem with some such patches, however, lies in the fact that that they consist of cardiomyocytes set within a scaffolding of poorly-conductive materials. This means that they are insulated from the electrical signals sent out by the heart, so they don't expand and contract as the heart beats. Scientists at MIT, however, may be on the way to a solution.  Read More

The Acoustic Alarm is a one-off alarm clock, that uses a motorized pic to pluck guitar str...

We’ve heard about alarm clocks that jolt you awake with 113 decibels of sound while shaking your bed, that won’t stop ringing until you’ve done your exercises, or that you have to chase across the room. If you want to be woken in a more civilized, serene fashion, however, you might like the Acoustic Alarm – should it ever become commercially available, that is. Instead of an annoying beep, buzz or radio DJ, the one-off design exercise uses a motorized pic to strum four guitar strings, in order to gently rouse its user.  Read More

A Russian tinkerer has created a typewriter that mixes drinks based on the keys that are p...

Hoo boy, you just know Hunter S. Thompson would have loved this. A Russian tinkerer going by the name of morskoiboy has created a typewriter (?) that squirts a different type of syrup or liqueur into a glass with every keystroke. That same liquid is used in a big single-character LCD-like display, that shows users what letter they’re typing. This means that different cocktails can be created, simply by typing in different words.  Read More

Toyota Industries Corporation recently set a speed record for compressed air cars, by send...

Although battery-powered cars may no longer be considered quirky and weird, automobiles propelled by compressed air are still perhaps thoughts of as a little ... fringy. The MDI Air Car looked promising, although development of the vehicle seems to have been at least temporarily suspended. Toyota Industries Corporation, however, recently brought some attention to the technology. On September 9th, its one-off KU:RIN set a new speed record for compressed air cars, at 129.2 km/h (80.3 mph).  Read More

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