Category: Geek

Electric tuk-tuk from Terra Motors hopes to clean up in Southeast Asia

Auto rickshaws, also known as tuk-tuks, three-wheelers or by numerous other names, are a common sight on the streets of many Asian cities. An evolution of the traditional pulled or cycle rickshaw, the gasoline-powered vehicles, which are used as taxis, are a major source of pollution in many Asian cities. Japan’s Terra Motors hopes to capitalize on efforts to cut tuk-tuk pollution with its new electric three-wheeler aimed at emerging Southeast Asia markets.

Although they are generally powered by high polluting two-stroke engines, a number of governments in Southeast Asia are forcing changes in an effort to improve the air quality in major cities. Some are forcing a switch to CNG or LPG fuel, while others are banning two-stroke engines in favor of four-stroke engines. The Philippines government is embracing locally emission-free electric powered tuk-tuks, with plans to introduce some 100,000 such vehicles by 2016.

Terra Motors is aiming for a slice of this pie with its electric three-wheeler, alongside the wider goal of becoming the world’s biggest seller of electric tuk-tuks within the next two years. Likely strengthening the company’s bid, Terra Motors will produce the vehicles in the Philippines.

I want one.

Actually, the critter I want is designed to be an enclosed tandem for about the same price — $6300. Wouldn’t work as a cab; but, it would surely get me forth and back from town for a lot less than my old pickup truck.

A really big poll about Progressive Proposals

After 1,000,000 votes were cast in the Big Ideas Project, the Progressive Change Institute ran a national poll to see whether these ideas are popular with voters.

The short answer? Yes, they are!


Click to enlarge [really big .pdf]

583 (38.9%) of those interviewed identified themselves as Democrats, 382 (25.5%) as Independents, and 507 (33.8%) as Republicans.

Voters were asked to rate proposals on a scale of zero to ten where zero means they strongly oppose the idea and ten means strong support for the idea and a desire to see it become law. Zero to four represents opposition for a proposal. Five is neutral. Six to ten is supportive.

I love that the reality of modern communications snuck in and 25% of interviews were conducted via cell phoned.

The grass is always redder on the other side…

space1
Kepler-186f is the first Earth-size planet discovered in the potentially ‘habitable zone’ around another star, where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. Its star is much cooler and redder than our Sun. If plant life does exist on a planet like Kepler-186f, its photosynthesis could have been influenced by the star’s red-wavelength photons, making for a color palette that’s very different than the greens on Earth. This discovery was made by Kepler, NASA’s planet hunting telescope.
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Pixel

 
“Pixel” is a live show that combines dance choreography with interactive, 3D projection mapping. The show features 11 dancers and recently debuted at Maison des Arts de Créteil in France. In this highlights video we see excerpts from the 60 minutes performance which was directed and choreographed by Mourad Merzouki.

Wow! Something to watch for if the show travels to your neck of the prairie.

A beautiful new curve: the Harriss spiral

Mathematicians like to come up with new stuff. A theorem, perhaps, a lemma or even just a corollary.

Edmund Harriss discovered a curve.

Harriss teaches maths at the University of Arkansas. He’s also an artist and his intellectual quest began with a shape that famously belongs to both science and art: the golden rectangle:

The golden rectangle divides into a square and a smaller golden rectangle.
A golden rectangle is a rectangle whose sides are proportioned according to the golden ratio, which is 1.618. In other words, the long side is 1.618 times the size of the short side.

What is particularly interesting, however, about a golden rectangle is that if you draw a square inside it…the remaining section…is a smaller golden rectangle…

We can go on for as long as we like subdividing rectangles. And if we draw quarter circles in each square we get a spiral…The golden spiral is a patchwork made up of quarter-circles.

Inspired by the classic construction of the golden spiral, Harriss – who is British – began to play around with the process of subdividing rectangles in the hope that he would be able to generate other aesthetically pleasing curves.

RTFA for more about Harriss’ work, the sociology of it seeping through the world of maths-fans and freaks, info about various blogs – and where to buy a t-shirt. :)

Thanks, Ursarodinia

New plastic recycling process uses half the energy and no water


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A Mexican startup has developed a new method of recycling plastic that does away with water and only consumes half the energy of previous systems. At the same time, it produces plastic pellets of equal or better quality,  resulting in an environmentally friendlier process that also promises to be significantly cheaper.

Plastic recycling can turn discarded bottles and other scrap into a myriad of useful objects, helping produce anything from polyester clothes to 3D printing filaments and even diesel. However, it is a long, laborious affair that consumes plenty of resources  –  especially water. Among other things, the plastic needs to be thoroughly washed to get rid of impurities, carefully dehydrated inside an oven, and then water-cooled once again as the newly-formed plastic filaments are cut into small pellets.

According to Marco Adame, the new method that his startup has come up with can produce pellets of equal or better quality using just half of the energy by getting rid of the need for these temperature extremes, while also doing away with the need for water altogether. The system uses special walls that, on contact, are able to both mold the plastic into the desired pellet shape and cool those pellets at the same time…

Adame says that using his technique, the same machines are able to process styrofoam, polystyrene and ABS, which together make up about 90 percent of all plastics. The improved versatility would mean less space would be needed for operation.

Bravo! One industry that has always availed itself of recycling capabilities is the plastics industry. A lot of the tech translated over from both the tradition of physical re-use of rubber goods and the comparatively easy chemistry that touched the physical properties of recycling plastic.

Removing water requirements and using less energy in the process is an unexpected twofer.

French post office intends to use drone delivery

Amazon and Google may have some catching up to do. It turns out the mail service of France, La Poste, has already successfully field-tested a service that can fly a package to a remote area, drop it off and return home…

News reports say from France say the test took place near the town of Pourrières, which is in the southern region of Provence. La Poste has not specified when the service will be in full swing, but suggested that it anticipates using Géodrone to provide service to residents in remote mountainous and maritime regions.

The Géodrone project represents another impressive achievement for France’s emerging unmanned aircraft industry. Earlier this year, drone enthusiasts in the Alps conducted a Star Wars-style pod race in a French forest with the permission of the local government. Meanwhile, a researcher in Holland has showed how an ambulance drone can deliver a defibrillator to a heart attack victim in under two minutes.

Such experiments stand in marked contrast to what is occurring in the United States, where a dysfunctional rule-making process at the Federal Aviation Administration has brought drone deployment to a virtual stand-still, even as American companies are clamoring to use them for business purposes. The U.S. approach also differs markedly from Canada, where authorities have issued hundreds of permits to use drones in everything from farming to real estate to TV production.

The FAA has claimed that go-slow approach is essential to ensure the safety of civilization.

OK, I changed that last word. You get the idea.

Kipstr will record the NFL game you’re watching when you fall asleep

If you’ve ever sat down to watch a program on TV only to wake up as the closing credits are rolling, there’s a new wearable device in which you may be interested. Kipstr makes sure you don’t miss your show by dozing off. The wristband recognizes if you fall asleep, and starts recording.

Kipstr was created by Manchester Creative Studio students Ryan Oliver and Jonathan Kingsley, who are 15 and 14 years old respectively. The UK-based pair were taking part in Virgin Media’s Switched on Futures scheme aimed at developing digital skills.

The device uses a pulse-oximeter to monitor the wearer’s heart rate while they are watching TV. When its spark core chip detects that the wearer’s heart rate has fallen, it communicates with their TiVo box to begin recording the remainder of the program that is being watched. The Kipstr can also be used to trigger the program to start playing again when it detects that the wearer has woken up…

 Ryan Oliver [15] and Jonathan Kingsley [14]

Virgin Media suggests that the Kipstr could also be used for monitoring the emotional responses of users to different TV programs, tagging the programs appropriately for future reference. Similarly, it could be used to control other devices in the home when the wearer falls asleep, such as turning off lights or the heating to save money.

Should be no big deal to set this up to communicate with systems other than OTA, e.g., cable boxes, DirecTV DVRs.

Kudos to the kiddos.

My favorite Holiday light show

Featured twice on ABC’s Good Morning America – song is “Christmas Can Can” by Straight No Chaser. This is my first year decorating and this is my first sequence ever. I built almost everything from scratch using wood and acrylic. I am a music/teacher director for a living (COVA Conservatory in Oakland and Centerville Presbyterian Church in Fremont), hence the massive instruments! The guitar is 17′, the piano is 19′ — Tom BetGeorge

12 million routers may not have been patched for Misfortune Cookie

Researchers at the security software company Check Point say they’ve discovered a serious vulnerability lurking inside the routers and modems used to deliver Internet connectivity to 12 million homes and small businesses around the world, and it’s going to be a complicated matter to fix it.

Dubbed the Misfortune Cookie, the weakness is present in cable and DSL modems from well-known manufacturers like D-Link, Huawei and ZTE, and could allow a malicious hacker to hijack them and attack connected computers, phones and tablets. An attacker exploiting Misfortune Cookie could also monitor a vulnerable Internet connection, stealing passwords, business data or other information. Check Point didn’t disclose how an attack might be carried out. Spokespeople for D-Link, Huawei and ZTE had no immediate comment on the vulnerability.

In an interview with Re/code, Shahar Tal, a researcher at Israel-based Check Point, said the company traced the vulnerability to a programming error made in 2002. That error originated with Allegro Software, the Massachusetts-based developer of RomPager, which unwittingly introduced it into the widely used embedded Web server…

The list of devices affected by Misfortune Cookie includes some 200 products from more than 20 companies. All told there are more than 12 million devices with the vulnerability in use today, including some that were manufactured as recently as this year. And yet to date, no real-world attacks using Misfortune Cookie have been detected.

Reached for comment, Allegro Software downplayed the severity of the vulnerability and its responsibility for it. “It’s a 12-year-old bug that was fixed nine years ago,” said CEO Bob Van Andel. He conceded, however, that many of Allegro’s customers haven’t bothered to install the code that protects RomPager against Misfortune Cookie — nor can the company force them to do so.

So, if you suspect your router or modem has the Misfortune Cookie – Tal suggests calling the manufacturer or the company that provided the equipment. See if they’re one of the bright ones that actually keeps up with patches. Of course, if that was true you would have already received notice of the update.

Right?