In Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s 1972 novel Rendezvous with Rama
, the explorers of a seemingly deserted alien spaceship passing through our Solar System encounter a strange three-legged creature that turns out to be an organic robot. In the ‘70s, this seemed so incredible that it could only be the product of an alien civilization thousands of years ahead of us. In 2012, scientists at MIT and the University of Pennsylvania are proving otherwise by starting work on organic robots here on Earth. Using genetically engineered muscle tissue that responds to light, they are blurring the line between animal and machine at the cellular level.
When people have a difficult problem they often talk about “shining a light on it.” Creating and controlling high-temperature superconductors has been a problem for scientists and engineers for over two decades. Now, Yoram Dagan, a professor at Tel Aviv University's (TAU) Department of Physics and Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, has made a breakthrough in superconductors by literally shining a light on them. By doing this, he is able to control their properties.
EcoXPower by EcoXGear is another take on a concept which most Gizmag readers will be familiar with: harnessing the kinetic energy produced while one pedals a bicycle in order to convert it into electricity and charge a smartphone or similar device. Though we’ve covered several products of this nature in the past, such as Nokia's Bicycle Charger Kit
, Dahon's BioLogic ReeCharge
, and the PedalPower+
, the EcoXPower sets itself apart by charging your smartphone or GPS and
providing electricity to front and rear lights at the same time.
It's safe to say that almost anyone who has played a video game has felt the pull of Tetris at some point. There's just something about the simple, yet addictive puzzle game that draws people in for hours and has even prompted MIT students to recreate it with a whole building
. Now, inspired by the classic game, the Tetris Light lets you create your own pixelated lamp out of colored blocks that light up when stacked on top of each other.
Liquid crystal video projectors could be getting smaller, more energy-efficient, and less expensive. Currently, such devices require polarized light for the projection of images. Unfortunately, conventional LEDs only produce un
polarized light. While an optical filter is typically used to polarize it, the polarization process wastes over 50 percent of the original light, converting it into heat instead of allowing it to pass through. That heat, in turn, must be dissipated using a noisy, power-consuming fan. Now, however, researchers have created a new polarizing system that allows almost 90 percent of the LED light to be converted to usable, polarized light.
We’ve seen a number of next-generation display technologies emerge in recent years, such as Sony’s “Crystal LED
,” Uni-Pixel’s time-multiplexed optical shutter
(TMOS) technology, and quantum dot LED
(QLED) display technology from LG and QD Vision, and now there’s another one to add to the mix. While displays based on the new “spintronic” OLED technology invented by physicists at the University of Utah are still some years off, the researchers say they should be brighter, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the LEDs found in the current crop of TVs, computer displays, traffic lights and other electronic devices.
Spectators turned out in the hundreds to witness the light show that marked the climax of the inauguration of Europe's tallest building, the 309.6-m (1016-ft) Shard in London. A dozen emerald-green laser beams emanated from the Shard to pick out iconic landmarks including the London Eye, St. Paul's Cathedral and Tower Bridge. The tower's 95 floors were lit up with color-changing lighting, and 30 search lights flared outwards and upwards from surrounding buildings.
With many of us spending more and more time indoors, it can be a struggle to get the amount of sunlight our bodies crave. Modern heat-insulating, sun-protection glazing doesn’t help, as it reflects a noticeable percentage of the incident sunlight in the part of the spectrum that governs our hormonal balance. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research (ISC) have developed a coating for windows that lets in more light, in particular those wavelengths of light that have a beneficial effect on our sense of well-being.
Thankfully, data transmission speeds have come a long way since the days of dial-up when users would have plenty of time to twiddle their thumbs as they waited for an image or MP3 to make its way to their hard drive. These days, broadband cable currently supports speeds of around 30 megabits per second, which is a hell of an improvement. Now researchers have outdone that by a factor of around 85,000 by using twisted beams of light to transmit data at up to 2.56 terabits per second.
If you're anything like us, you probably spent many an hour in your younger days bouncing up and down on a seesaw (or teeter-totter or teeter board, depending on where you grew up. And, even now, you might fight the desire to relive your childhood and jump on one as you walk past a playground. But Melbourne-based design group ENESS has created a seesaw, which comes complete with hundreds of LEDs and a physics engine to explore the forces at work on the familiar playground staple, that might just prove too difficult to resist.