John Heylin's Blog Posts

DNA Can Double As Fiber Optic Cables, Self Assemble Themselves

November 14 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Technology   Year: 2009   Rating: 5 Hot

Bo Albinsson at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, has figured out a way to use DNA as a nano fiber optic cable. They accomplish this by combining DNA strands with a chromophore called YO which has a strong attraction to DNA molecules. By wedging itself into areas of DNA, a 3nm diameter fiber optic cable is born (these fibers are self-assembling).

Fiber optic cables have become more commonplace in the world and are expected to take an even bigger step into the solar energy business by improving photo voltaic cells. Optical computers could also benefit greatly from photon-specific nanowires.

via New Scientist

Image: Diego Cantalapiedra (Flickr,CC-Attribution)

Philips iPill Targets Medicine at Specific Areas, Measures Acidity

November 13 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2008   Rating: 5 Hot

Although camera pills have been around since 2001, Philips recently unveiled the next generation of swallowable gadgets. Called the iPill, it is able to deliver medicine to specific areas of the intestinal tract as well as measure the acidity levels of its environment. “In the form of an 11×26 mm capsule, the iPill incorporates a microprocessor, battery, pH sensor, temperature sensor, RF wireless transceiver, fluid pump and drug reservoir.” It’s also small enough to pass through your intestinal tract without causing any issues.

Although it determines its location by measuring PH levels (which is accurate enough already), Philips expects iPills to get more accurate when combined with medical imaging devices such as MRIs or CT scans. The iPill could come in especially handy when Crohn’s disease or colitis is involved — typical medicine for sufferers involve lots of steroids and has many adverse side-effects. The direct delivery of medicine with the iPill means medicine levels can be lower, reducing unpleasant side-effects.

How will this affect me?

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SF Artist Sends Out Plea for Recordable Prosthetic Eye-Camera — Open Source?

November 13 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2009   Rating: 2

Tanya Vlach lost her left eye in a car accident in 2005, now she’s appealing to the online community to build her an eye capable of recording video. “I am attempting to recreate my eye with the help of a miniature camera implant in my prosthetic / artificial eye.” She gives the dimensions of her current prosthetic and what she wants inside of the replacement.

She believes that it’s possible for the technology of today to construct her an eye that can can record video, take pictures, have a small power source and have a remote trigger (check out the full list here). But it’s not the product she wants which caught my eye (I believe it can be built with current technology) it was her plea to the online community instead of through hospitals. Tanya’s is the first case I’ve heard about where an individual has tried to petition the world to make something that is technologically superior to what’s currently on the market.

Can the online community accomplish this?

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US Military Fights Toxic Weapon Labs with Incendiary Fireballs

November 13 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Security   Year: 2010   Rating: 3

The Pentagon is being very hush-hush about it, but a secret weapon we posses in the US military is a solid rocket-fuel incendiary fireball. Meant to take out chemical weapons labs or underground bunkers, these fireballs burn up anything located inside the structure without blowing it up. “These are hollow spheres, made of rubberized rocket fuel; when ignited, they propel themselves around at random at high speed, bouncing off the walls and breaking through doors, turning the entire building into an inferno.” If there’s one thing that could ruin a persons day, it’s a bunch of solid rocket-fuel fireballs bouncing around in a small area.

Due to the secretive nature of the new weapon, not much is being said, but Wired, who initially reported the story, says that it’s quite possible the fireballs (named “CrashPAD” and “Shredder”) have been put into some sort of low-rate production. One wonders if this was the secret military weapon Bob Woodward was talking about a few months ago.

Does this have a future in the US Military?

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Glowbots Learn What You Like, Use It to Overthrow the Human Race

November 12 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Technology   Year: 2009   Rating: 2

If there’s one thing scarier than a robot, it’s a robot that can adapt its design to be more appealing to people. Glowbots do just that.

These little guys go through various random images in order to attract a human to pick them up. When picked up and given a shake, they lock in that image and then spread the likable image to other Glowbots so they too can be attractive. If they run into another Glowbot that has a differing likable image, they meld the two together to create a totally different image that the user will hopefully like.

The scary thing about this is that if robots can learn our likes and dislikes, how will that affect our lives? Will animals give way to a smartphone Furby? Or maybe someone could use the data stored on your robot to know exactly what to get you for your birthday. In fact, you could connect it to your online profile, allowing people to see what restaurants you like, clothes you find attractive, even what you like to do in your spare time. And this is all done through a personal robot.

Do we need to worry about something like this? Probably not. Robots becoming more friendly is the way of the future (even deadly ones will seem friendly) and learning your habits is just part of the whole picture.

via CrunchGear

New Paint Reduces Boat Drag, Developed from Tuna and Dolphins

November 12 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Transportation   Year: 2009   Rating: 11 Hot

Nippon Paint Co. has developed a new gel-like paint to coat ships in order to reduce the drag they face on the water. The substance, developed with tuna and dolphins in mind, promises to improve fuel efficiency by 4%. That’s a considerable amount when you consider how much fuel the average tanker uses in an ocean crossing.

Not only does the gel-like paint reduce drag on the boat, it also fills in small imperfections in the hull that may be small but still have the overall effect of causing drag. Although the paint is three times more expensive than regular paint, the savings made over a year in fuel costs more than offset this investment.

Transportation is trying really hard to save money while saving the environment. One wonders if we’ve gone past the point where companies stop worrying about PR (does a shipping company need PR?) and just want to help out the environment. On top of gel-paint for hulls, you may have read about how the largest shipping company in China (COSCO) has signed a deal to develop solar sails for their tankers in order to reduce fuel usage by 20-40 percent. With Obama and Biden moving into the White House, the hope is that Biden (a huge supporter of trains) will help the train industry here in the US to greater heights as well.

via DigitalWorldTokyo

Image: get directly down (Flickr, CC-Attribution)

"C3 Loops" An Interesting Touchscreen, May Make You Dizzy

November 12 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2010   Rating: 4 Hot


C3 Loops demo at NordiCHI’08 from Peter Bennett on Vimeo.

The C3 Loops touchscreen, developed by “Rikard Lindell”, uses an interesting way to zoom in and out — by using circles. The user draws their fingers around in circles clockwise to zoom in, counterclockwise to zoom out. Much different than the accepted way of zooming in and out by spreading hands apart or pinching them together. In fact, you might say this guy has circles on the brain, especially when you see his website.

Lindell believes that circles are the key to just about any design and bases most of his research around them, calling it ConCentric CRAFT. “From experience we know that users want to work and collaborate content centric in an unbroken activity flow.” For some the idea of a circle being incorporated into the design might give the user a Zen-like feel to their interactive experience. Or it could make you dizzy.

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Hydrogen Fuel Cells — What's Good For Your Car is Good For Your Phone

November 12 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Energy   Year: 2012   Rating: 2

Although there has been much discussion about developing a hydrogen fuel cell for vehicles, a crazy company called MyFC has decided what’s good for the car is great for the cellphone. They went ahead and developed a flexible hydrogen fuel cell only 3mm thick which can fit snugly under your battery cover (pictured above). This means you could potentially power your devices with good clean energy (and who knows how long the charge could last, maybe days).

When can you expect to see this?

Although CrunchGear reports that the fuel cell is “amazingly close to production,” actual support and implementation of such a device could be years away. Here’s why:

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Credit Card Has Touchpad, Three Year Battery Life

November 11 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2010   Rating: 5 Hot

Visa Europe is working hard for your money, and in doing so they have come up with a credit card capable of switching around your security code everytime you enter your PIN on its touchpad. “An alpha-numeric display and keypad is built directly into the card. When making a transaction online, customers type their PIN into the card, which creates a one-time security code.” Visa is working with four major banks, including Bank of America in the UK, to develop this card. Videos of how it works can be found here and here.

This is quite amazing. Having a touchpad on your credit card ensures that the code on the back of your card (that little number, usually three digits, on the back) could never be compromised without a thief knowing your PIN number. I wonder though if the numbers you press would look worn, making it easy for the thief to determine what you PIN is.

Although it’s kind of unnerving to think that your credit card has a battery life, the fact that it can run for three years could help boost confidence. You could possibly even charge it at your local bank every year on a simple flat tray. Of course, someone hacking into it within a few days is possible but by then hopefully you’d have canceled it. All we need now is a credit card that can take your fingerprint.

Check out more at ITPRO

via Gizmodo

Portable Nuclear Reactor to Set Up Shop in Your Neighborhood

November 11 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Energy   Year: 2013   Rating: 2

If the 10-year timeline of building a nuclear reactor has got you worried about clean energy today, a smaller and simpler solution could be only a few years away. Hyperion Power Generation has a great website which professes the practicality and usefulness of their van-sized nuclear reactor.

Given that the population of some areas are too low to warrant a full-sized reactor, Hyperion mobile reactors are more fitted for rough terrain and smaller communities. “Hyperion produces only 25 MWe — enough to provide electricity for about 20,000 average American sized homes or its industrial equivalent.” Reactors can also be teamed together for larger communities or areas with higher energy usage. This could be very useful to third world countries where populations are growing but the availability of power is incredibly limited.

But is it dangerous?

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