IBM is developing an air battery for 500-mile range electric cars

One nagging issue with electric vehicles is range. While today’s lithium-ion batteries are much better than yesterday’s nickel-metal hydride batteries, they still don’t offer enough energy storage to take an EV much further than 100 miles without a lengthy recharge. Even if the Li-ion batteries were up to the challenge, there is still the awkward problem of where to pack 1,000 pounds (or more) of bulky storage cells into a vehicle’s chassis.

IBM thinks it has a solution with a promising new lithium-air battery. According to the technology giant, a typical Li-air battery cell has a theoretical energy density more than 1,000 times greater than today’s industry-standard Li-ion battery cell. Even better, Li-air batteries are one-fifth the size and they offer a lifespan at least five times as long.

So, what has been holding IBM back? It appears that there was a problem with the the original Li-air automotive application, as frequent recharging cycles compromised battery life. However, the engineers have recently found alternative electrolyte compounds that look very promising. The team’s goal is to have a full-scale prototype ready by 2013, with commercial batteries on sale by the end of the decade.

Bravo! I’m afraid we’ll have to replace my wife’s decades-old Volvo before an affordable EV is actually available on the car lots of New Mexico. But – I keep watch on projects like this, anyway. Maybe, we’ll get the opportunity to buy one, yet.

Murdoch – “screwed up MySpace in every way possible”

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, has tweeted about how his company “screwed up MySpace in every way possible”…

It is the first time Murdoch has tweeted about the social network and his experience of owning MySpace for six difficult years, since joining the microblogging platform. It was in the context of several technology-related tweets he has written about the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which has been going on all week.

Murdoch tweeted: “CES again. Big three, Apple,Google and Amazon, and maybe Facebook dominant now and growing. Plenty of others good, but not in same league.”

He then wrote: “CES coming to a close. Seems like more innovation than ever, some great, all disruptive. Traditional coys [companies] feeling digital tornado.”

Murdoch has spoken out before about how difficult owning MySpace was, after finally selling it off to advertising company Specific Media and Justin Timberlake last year, for approximately $35m – just six per cent of what News Corporation paid for the business. Murdoch’s business is understood to have retained a small undisclosed stake in the social network, but is not involved in the day to day running of it…

MySpace, which started as a site on which users could share their interest in pop and rock bands, has in the last four years been totally eclipsed by the explosive growth of competitor Facebook.

This was a good example of how to turn $580 million into a lot less virtually overnight,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner, a technology research firm, at the time of the sale to Specific Media last year. “In many ways, it was a failed merger.”

Murdoch proved, once again, that corporate executives with their brain stuck in last century solutions and methods – will run modern Web exterprises as badly as the worst of their existing/declining ventures.

Murdoch proved incapable of innovation, unable to keep up with the crowded field of peers in the world of geek dynamism. And he wasn’t bright enough to hire someone who could.

Pets and their people get to join the same weight-loss program

The world’s biggest food group Nestle has launched an online program inviting pet owners to team up with their furry friends to lose weight.

Nestle’s pet and people weight management units Purina and Jenny Craig worked together on “Project: Pet Slim Down,” an online program available in the United States…Pet owners who sign up can obtain tips for exercising with their pet, record exercise taken, track weight loss and share photos with other users…

On the website, users can follow five overweight cats and three dogs on their weight-loss journey via small movies and before-and-after pictures…

The obesity epidemic is not limited to people,” said Lisa Talamini, Vice President of research and program innovation at Jenny Craig…”Two thirds of adults in the US are overweight or obese, and more than half of all pets in the country are also battling the bulge,” she said…

Nestle’s U.S.-based pet food company Purina makes a range of veterinary diet products for cats and dogs with health problems, while its Jenny Craig brand offers human customers in North America, Oceania, France and Britain a personalized program for weight loss.

Always heartwarming to see a global corporation “stick to the knitting“.

Firm making sleazy breast implants also made sleazy testicles

Redneck version

The breast implant health scare has taken a further twist with a claim the French company at the heart of the scandal also made implants for male patients.

Two former employees of Poly Implant Prothese said the firm manufactured testicle, buttock and chest implants, mainly destined for export, Le Parisien reported…

“Three people were specially trained to work on the machine that made silicone testicles,” a former PIP worker told the newspaper…

The newspaper said it was not clear if silicone used in the testicle implants was sub-standard. But one of the former employees said the gel used in the buttock and chest implants, aimed at male patients, was the same as the industrial quality material used in the breast implants that, it is claimed, have a high risk of rupturing

An investigation has been launched in France into charges of “manslaughter and unintentional injury” against PIP, which supplied 65 countries and was once the world’s third largest manufacturer of breast implants…

So far 2,400 French women given PIP implants have lodged legal complaints.

Given the sensitivity of men who felt compelled to have testicle implants for cosmetic reasons, I expect most would be too embarrassed to file complaints against PIP.

I believe there is no truth to the rumor that the largest batch of artificial testicles was purchased by the Democratic National Committee on behalf of their members of Congress facing re-election.

Need battlefield supplies delivered by robot helicopter? There’s an app for that – or will be, soon

K-Max prototype

We may be closer to the day when United States Marines will, within a matter of minutes, use a handheld app to summon robotic helicopters to deliver battlefield supplies. On Tuesday, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced its five-year, US$98 million Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program, with the specific aim of developing “sensors and control technologies for robotic vertical take-off and landing aircraft.”

ONR’s chief of naval research, Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, describes AACUS as a “leap-ahead technology” which eliminates the need for a skilled operator while maintaining “the central and critical role of the human operator as the supervisor.” If it comes to fruition, AACUS would constitute an evolutionary step beyond the unmanned, remote control variant of the K-MAX helicopter, which flew its first unmanned combat missions in December.

Though sometimes described as semi-autonomous, the unmanned K-MAX requires a skilled operator within light-of-sight to be able to delivery its payload (so it’s not autonomous at all). AACUS, by contrast, would be a robot in the truest sense, taking off, planning, and navigating a flight path “with little to no input from an operator.”

“It’s going to be designed to work with people who have no flight experience,” said AACUS program officer Dr. Mary Cummings. “An operator will pick up his iPad or Android and make an emergency supply request. He’ll request that the helicopter come to him and land as close to him as possible.”

As I noted at the Gizmag site, an equally important use would be battlefield extraction of troops cut-off from any possibility of retreat on foot.

Tsunami tales win Japan’s Imperial poetry contest

Poems about the Japanese tsunami were among the winners at the country’s annual Imperial Palace poetry contest. Emperor Akihito and his family attended a ceremony in Tokyo, where the 10 winning poems were read aloud.

One winner, a 72-year-old tailor, wrote of his relief upon learning his son was safe after three days of uncertainty when an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan last March.

The theme for this year’s traditional five-line tanka contest was “shore”.

A tanka is an older form of poetry than the more well-known haiku, and follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7…

Never able to
Turn it back,
This reality
Feels so heavy on my shoulders,
Along this coastal path.

By Yueko Sawabe

The imperial family also offered their poems for the event. One of Emperor Akihito’s verses expressed his sorrow and horror in watching the dark waves of the rolling tsunami on TV news footage.

Next year’s theme has been announced as “stand up”, which could inspire poems of hope in a recovering Japan.

Bravo. I could see Obama sponsoring a poetry contest.

The next Republican in the White House – hopefully not in my remaining years – will probably have a contest for badges required for dissenters to wear in public. As part of the Patriot [sic] Act.