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LED light bulbs may be more energy-efficient and longer-lived than their incandescent equivalents, but they’re also considerably more expensive to purchase. This is largely because rare earth elements (REEs) are used in their phosphors. There are hazards involved in the mining and processing of REEs, plus China is responsible for almost the entire world’s supply, so they’re becoming increasingly pricey. Now, however, scientists have come up with a plentiful alternative material that they say is much more environmentally friendly, and that should drive down the price of LEDs. Read More
Not long ago we reviewed Photojojo’s Pocket Spotlight, a compact LED light source for use with smartphone cameras – or even with stand-alone cameras, for that matter. While the Spotlight just provides a single intensity of “white” light, the company’s new Kick is considerably fancier. It can be remotely-controlled via an iPhone app, and set to any color under the rainbow. Read More
For many people, the word “robot” is likely to conjure up images of metal, mechanical men not unlike Cygan. But instead of creating robots in our own image, the relatively new field of “soft robotics” takes inspiration from creatures such as octopuses, squids, starfish and caterpillars for soft, flexible robots that could squeeze through small spaces. Such robots could benefit from a new hydrogel developed at the University of California, Berkeley that flexes in response to light. Read More

At last, those agonizing about what to do with all that spare seaweed they have lying around the place can take a leaf (or perhaps frond) out of Nir Meiri's book. The Tel Aviv-based designer's Marine Light amply demonstrates that dried seaweed can make rather a natty lampshade. Read More

Architecture studio 3Gatti has taken inspiration from colorful parasols carried during Shanghai’s hot summer months to design a new facade for the 2010 Shanghai Expo’s Madrid Pavilion. The new screen for the re-purposed office and retail block will feature steel umbrellas that can be individually opened and closed and used to manage interior light levels. Read More
Never before have I so wished that I could use a device for taking photos of that device. That was certainly the case with Photojojo’s US$30 Pocket Spotlight, however. It’s simply a tiny battery-powered array of 32 LED bulbs, that provide a source of soft, even light as an alternative to the harsh light of a flash. While serious photographers will already have proper lighting systems of their own, it’s a nice tool for all the point-and-shooters out there. Read More
Bulgarian-born artist Christo has unveiled his latest work, dubbed “Big Air Package,” which is billed as the largest indoor sculpture created to date. Whether the claim is true or not, the installation is most certainly a significant feat of engineering in its own right. Big Air Package is installed in Germany’s Gasometer Oberhausen, and almost fills the cavernous space of an empty gas tank, the inflated envelope being 90 meters (295 feet) high, and 50 meters (164 feet) in diameter. Read More
Imagine if new cars didn’t come with their own headlights, and buyers were expected to supply their own. It would be kind of silly, right? Well, that’s what the situation is with most commuting bicycles. While a few bikes have built-in lights, consumers are generally expected to purchase one separately, then attach it to the bike. Of course many people simply don’t bother, while others buy a light but then get caught in the dark without it. That’s why California-based cyclists Nick Sweeney and James Voshell have created the StemLite. Read More
A research team from the Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria has developed an image capturing device using a single sheet of polymer that is flat, flexible and transparent. The researchers say the new image sensor could eventually find its way into devices like digital cameras and medical scanners, and that it may help to usher in a new generation of gesture-controlled smartphones, tablets and TVs. Read More
While stand-alone compact cameras are increasingly at risk of being made obsolete by smartphone cameras, they do still have their advantages. One of those advantages is the fact that, in most cases, their flashes are considerably more powerful. Smartphones may soon be catching up in that area, however, thanks to a new small-but-mighty capacitor paired with a dedicated xenon flash. Read More
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