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Colin Jeffrey

Colin Jeffrey
Colin discovered technology at an early age, pulling apart clocks, radios, and the family TV. Despite his father's remonstrations that he never put anything back together, Colin went on to become an electronics engineer. Later he decided to get a degree in anthropology, and used that to do all manner of interesting things masquerading as work. Even later he took up sculpting, moved to the coast, and never learned to surf.

Magnets are at the heart of much of our technology, and their properties are exploited in a myriad ways across a vast range of devices, from simple relays to enormously complex particle accelerators. A new class of magnets discovered by scientists at the University of Maryland (UMD) and Temple University may lead to other types of magnets that expand in different ways, with multiple, cellular magnetic fields, and possibly give rise to a host of new devices. The team also believes that these new magnets could replace expensive, rare-earth magnets with ones made of abundant metal alloys.

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Not so long ago the only things that came in a bottle of alcohol (beside the alcohol itself) were the occasional odds and ends that fell in as it was being made, or some fruit that was deliberately shoehorned in to make it look decorative. Today there seems to be a craze for all sorts of objects jammed into bottles of spirit – scorpions, worms, and other creepy crawlies being particularly common. Actually distilling the essence of an insect to make an alcoholic beverage rather than just pickling it in a bottle, however, is a different prospect altogether. But now a company in the UK has done just that, by using an extract from ants to create a special type of gin. Read More

In a bid to attract more tourists to the region, Hunan Province in China has commissioned the architectural firm of Haim Dotan to produce a completely transparent glass bridge spanning 370 m (1,214 ft) across the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon. Dizzyingly high at about 400 m (1,312 ft) above the canyon floor, the span is claimed to be capable of holding up to 800 people at a time.

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Looking somewhat like a giant reed gently swaying in the wind, the new Vortex bladeless wind-driven generator prototype produces electricity with very few moving parts, on a very small footprint, and in almost complete silence. Designed to reduce the visual and aural impact of traditional spinning-blade turbines, this new device takes advantage of the power contained in swirling vortices of air. Read More

Silicon photonics is an emerging technology that incorporates electronic circuits using photons of laser light rather than electrons to transmit, receive, and manipulate information. As such, a silicon photonic CPU could potentially process information at the speed of light – millions of times faster than computers available today. In a step towards this goal, engineers working at the University of Utah have developed an ultra-compact photonic beam-splitter so small that millions of these devices could fit on a single silicon chip.

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Speaking at the 2015 TED conference in Vancouver, Canada, MIT professor Neri Oxman has displayed what is claimed to be the world’s first 3D-printed photosynthetic wearable prototype embedded with living matter. Dubbed "Mushtari," the wearable is constructed from 58 meters (190 ft) of 3D-printed tubes coiled into a mass that emulates the construction of the human gastrointestinal tract. Filled with living bacteria designed to fluoresce and produce sugars or bio-fuel when exposed to light, Mushtari is a vision of a possible future where symbiotic human/microorganism relationships may help us explore other worlds in space. Read More

An international team of researchers claim to have uncovered how human immune cells remember previously encountered strains of influenza. This discovery may pave the way to the development of a single universal flu shot to immunize people against all strains of the infectious disease for their entire lives.

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If you’re into electronics as a hobbyist, technician, or professional engineer, you know that you can spend many hours designing circuits, sourcing components, and breadboarding or soldering a project all together before you find out if your creation actually works. Wouldn’t it make life simpler if you could just start with a basic, multi-function controller and a few plug and play peripherals to get something – anything – up and running straight away and then which you could tweak and add to as you go? The makers of a new electronic design tool thought that this would be a good idea too and have created Cubit, a make anything platform that allows drag and drop software control over snap together hardware. Join Gizmag as we try a few builds to test out it out.

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Using a matrix of nano-sized memristors, researchers working at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and the University of California, Santa Barbara claim to have constructed the world’s first electronic memory cell that effectively mimics the analog process of the human brain. By storing memories as multiple threads of varying information, rather than a collection of ones and zeroes, scientists believe that this device may prove to be the first step towards creating a completely artificial, bionic brain.

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Microscopes can be expensive pieces of gear, making access difficult – or non-existent – for students and medical staff in isolated and poorer locales. To help address this, researchers at the University of Houston (UH) have fashioned a lens designed to fit on almost any smartphone. It has the ability to magnify images up to 120 times their original size, and at an estimated production cost of just three cents per lens.

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