Category: Technology

Not enough cholesterol, fats, in your diet? – Try a bacon-powered motorcycle!

It’s a well-known fact: bacon makes everything better. From martinis and ice cream to filet mignon and asparagus, there’s pretty much nothing you can include this gift of the swine to that it doesn’t improve. Being that this is an automotive enthusiast site, you may be wondering: How does bacon improve transportation? Clearly it must, if the axiom quoted at the beginning is correct (and we’ve established that it is), but how?

For the answer, we turn to the crew from Hormel, which is a name you might recognize from the chilled meats section of your favorite grocery store. The Austin-based food empire has assembled a motorcycle that runs on bacon grease that would otherwise have been discarded, with the goal in mind of traveling from Austin, MN, to San Diego, CA, in time for the International Bacon Film Festival, which we didn’t know existed, but in retrospect, of course exists.

The machine started life as an EVA Track T800CDI diesel-powered motorcycle, hailing from The Netherlands, and a bacon-grease conversion was performed by the crew from CSE Engineering, who are accompanying the procession as it crosses the western half of the United States as part of a 12-person team that is filming and documenting the adventure…And rest easy this evening with the knowledge that bacon does indeed make the world of transportation a better place to be.

The best thing about diesel engines is that you can run them on just about anything greasy enough.

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Removable tattoo doubles as a battery — Huh? Wha?

Scientists continue to unveil impressive innovations at the American Chemical Society’s annual conference, currently being held in San Francisco. The latest is a removable tattoo that doubles as a miniature battery — turning human sweat into storable electricity.

The device is meant to be worn during a trip to the gym. It can monitor a person’s progress during exercise routines while simultaneously powering a small electronic device, like an iPod.

The mini tattoo tracks athletic performance by measuring levels of lactate in sweat secreted by the exerciser…

Currently, lactate testing is done via blood samples. But by installing a lactate sensor in a temporary tattoo, researchers found a way to track performance in a much less evasive way. They also found a way to produce electricity. As the sensor processes the lactate in the sweat, it strips the lactate of electrons.

Engineers designed the sensor so it could pass the stripped electrons from an anode to a cathode, just like a battery.

UC nanoengineering professor Dr. Joseph Wang said the device is “the first example of a biofuel cell that harvests energy from body fluid.”

There must be some way to make money from sex – using this discovery.

Researchers create 1,000-kilobot swarm — self-assembling collective behavior

Robot swarm
Click to see the swarm in action [no sound]

Scientists have created a swarm of over a thousand coin-sized robots that can assemble themselves into two-dimensional shapes by communicating with their neighbours.

At 1,024 members, this man-made flock — described in the 15 August issue of Science — is the largest yet to demonstrate collective behaviour. The self-organization techniques used by the tiny machines could aid the development of ‘transformer’ robots that reconfigure themselves, researchers say, and they might shed light on how complex swarms form in nature…

The robots communicate using infrared light, but they are only able to transmit and receive information with the robots nearest to them — so they cannot ‘see’ the whole collective. However…seed robots act as the point of origin for a coordinate system; information on their position propagates outward through the swarm like fire signals across the peaks of a mountain range. This allows each bot to determine where it is and whether it is inside the shape programmed by researchers. Over a period of about 12 hours, the programmed configuration — such as the letter ‘K’ or a star — takes form, robot by robot.

RTFA. Use your imagination. What might be accomplished.

FCC is requiring text-to-911 on all carriers – most 911 centers can’t receive them!

By the end of the year, carriers will be required to route all of your emergency texts to 911. The problem is most emergency services agencies aren’t yet equipped to receive them.

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to require all mobile carriers to route text messages sent to 911 to local emergency response centers — just like phone calls — by the end of the year. The decision might not have much of an impact though.

The big four operators have already implemented text-to-911 voluntarily, though many smaller operators have not. But the big issues is that only about 2 percent of 911 response centers are capable of receiving SMS, so most emergency messages just get sent into the ether (though carriers are required to notify such texters that their messages weren’t received).

The FCC also now requires over-the-top messaging apps linked to phone numbers must all support 911. That means an app that works within the phone’s SMS client such as iMessage must be able to send 911 texts, but a social messaging app like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp does not.

Always heartwarming to realize that a government agency chartered to deal with modern communications handles its tasks about as well as Congress.

Million$ in fuel stolen from pipeline running under British official residence

Chevening House Estate

Thieves have siphoned millions of pounds of fuel from a pipeline which runs under Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s official country residence in Kent.

Esso’s South East pipeline runs from Fawley Refinery, in Hampshire, to Purfleet Fuel Terminal, in Essex.

The company said it discovered a section at Chevening, near Sevenoaks, had been tampered with.

The Sun reported 30,000 litres of fuel a day were stolen over seven months, with a value of £8.3m at the pumps.

Kent Police said thieves had used “highly specialist techniques” to siphon the fuel.

Chevening House Estate is shared by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond…

An Esso spokesman said…”We strongly condemn the highly dangerous criminal action by those involved and are working closely with the police in their criminal investigations.”

Har! Can you imagine any gang in paranoid America even succeeding in splicing into Joe Biden’s cable TV at Observatory Circle?

That’s just under $14 million in fuel stolen from ExxonMobil. Half the members of the Texas delegation to Congress would go into cardiac arrest if that happened here.

NASA releases HD footage of Mars landing system

The US space agency released a spectacular video detailing the testing of an interplanetary landing system, which is designed to place more massive payloads on the surface of Mars, as it hurtled toward Earth.

In the cosmic quest to explore the surface of Mars, NASA is attempting to devise technologies that will allow it to deliver heavy payloads to the mysterious red planet. In June, NASA engineers, with the help of a massive balloon, lifted the 7,000-pound saucer-shaped test vehicle to an altitude of 190,000 feet before it was released.

The strenuous trial, which tested the so-called Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), was designed to create conditions similar to that of a Mars landing.

At this point, with rockets firing to keep the vehicle stabilized, video from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed the ‘flying saucer’ traveling at a speed of Mach 4.3 – or more than four times the speed of sound. Engineers then released an inflatable, life-preserver shaped device around the perimeter of the vehicle, officially known as a Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, or SIAD, which slowed the craft to Mach 2.

However, while the inflatable device proved tough enough to endure the rigors of such intense force, the 100-foot-wide parachute proved less successful, and nearly disintegrated as it attempted to slow the bulky, fast moving object on its descent toward Earth…

Project manager Mark Adler said that the videos will help his team as they continue to study how to improve the LDSD’s performance for a mission to Mars.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth about a million,” Adler said…

Gotcha!

I have to thank Ursarodinia for early prompts about this test – which didn’t have this level of video available. Thanks, Mike, for catching this new release.

Art Deco motoring


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The motorcycling world loves a ‘barn find’—an old, obscure machine wheeled out of the woodwork for the first time. And this is one of the biggest revelations of recent months. It’s a 1930 Henderson that was customized before WW2 by a fellow called O. Ray Courtney and fitted with ‘streamliner’ bodywork.

Thanks, Mike

Knowing me, you know I want a companion Art Deco automobile, as well. My current favorite hasn’t been built – yet – but, the essential design has been readied by the Icon firm in Los Angeles. The HELIOS. Tesla-powered.


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Square getting ready for chipped credit cards

Square announced it was developing a new credit card reader that would allow businesses to begin accepting a more secure type of credit card being rolled out in the U.S. over the next 15 months.

The announcement comes as credit cards embedded with microchips finally begin to reach American consumers. The cards, which have been common for a decade in many other parts of the world, are believed to be harder to clone than traditional stripe cards.

Hustlers in Europe will agree.

Beginning in October 2015, liability for credit card fraud will sit with whichever entity — the issuer or the merchant — is using the less secure equipment. So a merchant would be penalized if it doesn’t have the equipment to accept chip cards and suffers an unauthorized purchase with a card that had a chip in it. On the other hand, the bank would be liable if it doesn’t issue chip cards and one of its customers makes an unauthorized transaction with a traditional card at a store that accepts chip cards…

Square makes the point this will enable expansion into other markets.

I’m not certain how that statement fits into Square’s growth plans. Are they taking advantage of opportunities opening up because they have to make this change, anyway – or is this around the time when they planned on moving into Europe.

Either way, I admit to liking the usability and design of their hardware/software packages.

Impressive construction projects — 2014


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The Dutch have a complex relationship with water – living in a country that floods a lot will do that to you. So one of the most unique new residential buildings in the Netherlands takes a particularly interesting approach to the problem. The Citadel is the world’s first floating apartment complex, consisting of 60 units atop a floating platform on a lake in the “New Water” development in Naaldwijk. Each apartment has a unique floor plan created from modular elements, and when completed the complex will float in water that’s 12 feet deep. It will be connected to the mainland by a floating bridge.

And here’s a link to the site showing all ten of the construction projects.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Reviving the recently dead

David Casarett is enthusiastic about the emerging technologies that are allowing doctors to save patients who would have been a lost cause in the very recent past. But these technologies come at a cost, he writes. They may restore life, but whether it’s a life worth living is another matter.

Casarett has…seen heartbreaking cases in which patients were revived with heroic efforts—only to languish, unresponsive, in an ICU for weeks while their families agonize over how long to maintain life support. Those cases caused Casarett to abandon his plans to become an ER doc. He now focuses on easing the suffering of patients near the end of life as a palliative care and hospice doctor

If you want to die and live to tell about it, go somewhere cold

Casarett recounts several remarkable tales of people who defied the odds by coming back to life after an hour or more without breathing and without a pulse. A young Swedish woman, for example, survived 80 minutes trapped under the ice in a frozen stream. In all these cases, the person was somewhere cold…

Otherwise, try Pittsburgh

Indeed, a clinical trial underway at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will put this idea to the test in trauma patients. Only in dire cases where massive blood loss has caused cardiac arrest, doctors will replace the patient’s blood with ice-cold saline solution in hopes of buying time to repair the wounds before cells and organs begin to break down. There’s been some ethical discussion about the trial because the patients will be unconscious and therefore unable to give informed consent (people can request a bracelet that would let doctors know they wish to opt out).

Casarett says he’s not familiar enough with the details of the trial to comment on the ethical issues, but he’s fascinated by the science behind it. In Shocked, he describes some of the experiments with dogs and pigs that laid the foundation for the trial. “This isn’t just a half-baked idea, it has a pretty strong basis in molecular biology,” he said.

“If you’re going to get in an accident anywhere in the U.S. in the next few years, I would try to have it happen in Pittsburgh,” Casarett said. “You’d have a chance of getting what may become the standard of care in the next five or ten years.”

RTFA for lots more information – including secrets from squirrels.

Too bad he didn’t include a section about folks who may already be near death since that is his primary area of work. I have a few elderly friends who had DO NOT RESUSCITATE! tattooed across their abdomen to stop enthusiastic ER staff from practicing every technique known to humankind – and the hospital’s accounting department – to bring them back from the dead.

Thanks, Mike