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Automotive

New bonsai 100 bhp Hybrid Synergy Drive for Toyota Yaris

The littlest Toyota, the Yaris, is about to become hybridized too, and the engineering job to reduce the size of its Hybrid Synergy Drive system for the diminutive car is worth a look. The system uses a new 1.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine that weighs 16.5kg less and is 10 per cent more compact than the 1.8-litre unit used in the Prius and Auris. Likewise, other major components such as the electric motor, power control unit and transaxle were also made lighter and smaller, but the power has remained robust at 99 bhp (74 kW) - most importantly, the hybrid Yaris will go on sale mid-year with very low fuel consumption, emissions, and ownership costs.Read More

Good Thinking

Spring-loaded Recoil Winder aims to end cable management misery

A new Kickstarter product to address that First Worldiest of First World problems, errant electronics cables, is off to a flying start. Since launching the project page, the Recoil Winder family of spring-loaded, self-winding cable holders has attracted five times the starting goal of US$10,000, and with 19 days to go. Seeing a Winder in action, it isn't hard to see why. The spring-loaded mechanism appears to be very quick and easy to use, and the result is so neat it's hard to watch one in action without imagining a future free of boxes, drawers and cupboards full of entwined masses of seemingly self-tangling cables.Read More

Motorcycles

Honda's 1000cc MotoGP contender unveiled

Honda's much-awaited 1000cc MotoGP contender, the RC213V, was unveiled at a Repsol Honda news conference last week prior to three days of official testing at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia. The RC213V replaces its 800cc predecessor, the 2011 championship-winning RC212V, with much riding on the shoulders of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa for the new season.Read More

Good Thinking

Cryoscope gives users a feel for tomorrow's weather

Given that touch is generally the best way to determine how hot or cold something is - as long as it's not too hot or cold - Rob Godshaw has come up with a device that could provide a more immediately understandable representation of tomorrow's weather than the traditional abstract number coupled with simplified symbols seen on the nightly news. His invention is an aluminum cube called the Cryoscope that adds some haptic feedback to the daily weather forecast by letting users physically feel tomorrow's temperature - at least in their fingertips.Read More

Space

New "Super-Earth" discovered only 22 light years away

An international team of scientists led by Professors Guillem Anglada-Escudé and Paul Butler from the Carnegie Institution for Science in the U.S. has discovered a potentially habitable Super-Earth that's "just" 22 light years away. The new Super-Earth has a mass that is 4.5 times larger than that of our planet and it revolves around its parent star in 28 days - a star that is significantly smaller than ours. This remarkable new discovery suggests that habitable planets could exist in a wider variety of environments than previously believed. Read More

Aircraft Feature

SpaceX Dragon's ultimate mission is Mars colonization

The private spaceflight company SpaceX declared that 2012 would be the "Year of the Dragon" - a play on the current cycle of the Chinese calendar and the upcoming tests of SpaceX's Dragon space capsule. For a time, it seemed as if SpaceX was regretting that slogan. Dragon was chosen as one of five competitors for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contest to develop a cargo/passenger craft to service the International Space Station. The Dragon program had enjoyed considerable success and was scheduled to be the first private spacecraft to visit and, if all went well, dock with the International Space Station (ISS). Unfortunately, with the need for more testing of the Dragon capsule delaying the launch from its original February 7, 2012 date to late March or even into April, it looked as though the Year of the Dragon was starting a bit late. Read More

Science

MIT envisions DIY solar cells made from grass clippings

Research scientist Andreas Mershin has a dream to bring inexpensive solar power to the masses, especially those in developing countries. After years of research, he and his team at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, along with University of Tennessee biochemist Barry Bruce, have worked out a process that extracts functional photosynthetic molecules from common yard and agricultural waste. If all goes well, in a few years it should be possible to gather up a pile of grass clippings, mix it with a blend of cheap chemicals, paint it on your roof and begin producing electricity. Talk about redefining green power plants!Read More

Music

Universal Earphones detect left and right ear placement

The L and R labels on your headphones serve a purpose, and it isn't just about fit. The audio source - whether it's a receiver, PC or MP3 player - sends left- and right-channel sounds to the appropriate earbud. While it might seem minor, this can be a difference between a disjointed experience listening to music, movies and other video, to a fuller experience that connects sight (in the case of video) and sound - with sound coming from the direction it's intended. There's no chance of a mix-up with the Universal Earphones being developed by Igarashi Design Interfaces Project in Tokyo - the headphones decide for themselves which ear they are in, and send sound to the each channel accordingly.Read More

Digital Cameras

MicroOLED introduces 5.4 million pixel camera display

Digital camera technology has just taken a huge leap forward with the development of a microdisplay panel that's millions of pixels beyond what is currently used in the highly detailed electronic viewfinders of Fujifilm's most recent X-series cameras (X-S1/X-Pro1), and more than double the panels in Sony's latest alpha and NEX cameras. MicroOLED's new bright and detailed, low power OLED panel has been viewed by a number of industry pundits as the final nail in the coffin of the optical viewfinder.Read More

Mercedes new commercial van - the Citan

Mercedes-Benz is to launch a new urban delivery van later this year named the Citan (“city” and “titan”) - the little brother to the Sprinter and Vito. The Citan will be first seen at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover in September. The new van will be available with petrol, diesel and electric drivetrains, and with panelvan, crewbus and mixed use bodies, and in a variety of lengths and weights. My bet is that there's an ideal base for a small campervan there too. Read More

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