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Ben Coxworth

The I-slate tablet computer, designed for use in impoverished rural schools in developing ...

Last year, a unique new educational device was tested with a group of school children. The device was the I-slate, an ultra-low-cost tablet computer that is being developed by the Institute for Sustainable and Applied Infodynamics (ISAID), a joint venture of Houston's Rice University and Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. The 10 to 13 year-old children were students at a rural school near Hyderabad, India. The tablet is designed for use in such impoverished schools, as each unit is expected to sell for less than US$50, and future models will run on solar power. Now that the field tests are complete and the results have been analyzed, the I-slate is set to go into full production.  Read More

A new 'invisibility cloak' utilizes the same effect that causes mirages to appear (Image: ...

You have no doubt seen mirages on the distant surfaces of hot highways before, looking like pools of water shimmering on the asphalt. Such illusions are caused by hot air above the road, which refracts light waves coming down into it from the cooler air above – in other words, the supposed “water” is actually the sky, its image being bent toward you by the low-lying hot air. Well, scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas have put the same principle to work in the lab, and created an invisibility cloak that can be easily switched on and off.  Read More

The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2011 has been awarded to three scientists, whose research p...

For almost a hundred years, it has been widely accepted that the Universe is expanding, and that it’s been doing so ever since the Big Bang occurred approximately 14 billion years ago. It was initially assumed that the rate of expansion was slowly declining. What came as a surprise to many scientists, however, was the relatively recent announcement that the rate is in fact increasing. That was the remarkable conclusion reached by three physicists located in two countries, and it has just earned them the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2011.  Read More

Professor Roland Winston and his student team, with an array of External Compound Paraboli...

Given that it typically gets hottest outside when the sunlight is most direct, it would make sense to have air conditioners that were powered by the thermal energy from solar rays. Unfortunately, collecting enough of that energy in a cost-effective manner can be challenging. Now, however, a team of University of California, Merced students have created a solar thermal collection system that is said to be significantly simpler, cheaper and more efficient than anything that’s come before.  Read More

The Spynet Laser Trip Wire system uses a laser emitter, reflectors and receiver to create ...

So, where do you keep your valuable pieces of jewelry and works of art? In a cabinet? No, that just won’t do at all. If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that valuable items should be stored out in the middle of a big open room, with a network of laser beams surrounding them. While we may be used to seeing such systems portrayed in places like the Louvre or Blofeld’s mansion, now you can buy your own – for forty bucks! It’s the Spynet Laser Trip Wire system, and it sure is niftier than a “Hands offa my stuff” sticker.  Read More

A life vest incorporating one of the fabric antennas, being tested in Finland

A patch about the size of the leather name tab on a pair of jeans could save your life one day – should you be stranded at sea, that is. In a project overseen by the European Space Agency (ESA), researchers from Finnish company Patria and the Tampere University of Technology have created a flexible fabric antenna, that can be sewn into life vests. Once activated, that antenna transmits its coordinates to earth-orbiting satellites, that can immediately relay the location to rescue personnel.  Read More

The Flipit is a charging device that draws power from electrical outlets that are already ...

Perhaps you’ve encountered a travel scenario like this before ... you arrive at your hotel room and go to plug in your mobile phone, only to discover that the bedside lamp and clock radio are already occupying both plug-ins of the most conveniently-located AC wall outlet. While there might be room on another outlet, it could involve your having to squeeze in behind the TV, or leaving your phone someplace where you might forget it. If you had a Flipit USB charger, however, you could draw power from that first outlet, while still leaving the light and the radio plugged in.  Read More

Thrustmaster's Ferrari F1 Wheel Add-On

When you're playing your favorite car-racing game, are you having trouble getting yourself to believe that you're really behind the wheel of a state-of-the-art race car? Well, perhaps it's because of the actual wheel that you're using ... it could also have something to do with the fact that you're sitting on a couch with a bowl of chips, but we'll leave that one for now. Anyhow, gaming gear company Thrustmaster has just unveiled its new Ferrari F1 Wheel Add-On, which is a full-size replica of the 150° Italia racing wheel used by real Formula 1 drivers.  Read More

Researchers have created an efficient new thermoelectric nanomaterial, that could be used ...

Virtually all electrical devices and industrial processes create heat as they operate, which is typically wasted. In the past several years, various thermoelectric technologies have been developed to address that situation, by converting such heat into electricity. The ideal material for the purpose would be one that has a high electrical conductivity, but a low thermal conductivity – that way, it could carry plenty of electricity without losing efficiency through overheating. Unfortunately, electrical and thermal conductivity usually seem to go hand in hand. With some help from an ordinary microwave oven, however, researchers from New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have created a nanomaterial that appears to fit the bill.  Read More

A newly-developed mathematical model could make the development of new plastics much more ...

When it comes to the development of new plastics, two things have generally happened – a plastic is created and then a use is found for it, or a long trial-and-error process is undertaken in order to create a plastic with specific qualities. In a move that has been described as “comparable to cracking a plastics DNA,” however, scientists at the University of Leeds and Durham University have created a mathematical model that should allow specialty plastics to be created much more quickly and efficiently.  Read More

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