Jul 03, 2015

Solar Impulse plane lands in Hawaii

posted by Larra Morris

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Solar Impulse, the aeroplane that is powered only by the sun, has landed in Hawaii after making a historic 7,200km flight across the Pacific from Japan.

Pilot Andre Borschberg brought the vehicle gently down on to the runway of Kalaeloa Airport at 05:55 local time (15:55 GMT; 16:55 BST).

The distance covered and the time spent in the air - 118 hours - are records for manned, solar-powered flight.

The duration is also an absolute record for a solo, un-refuelled journey.
via BBC 

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Jul 03, 2015

Amazon could be building a phone that unlocks with your ear

posted by Larra Morris

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Forget TouchID. The next smartphone security code could come from your ear. Amazon has patented an ear recognition technology that can identify a user based just on ear shape, as seen through a phone’s front-facing camera. 

The device, according to the patent, could “determine whether the user is holding the device near the user's right ear or left ear, and adjusts functionality of the device based at least in part upon how the user is likely holding the phone” when making a phone call or listening to an audio file. That means the technology could adjust the volume based on your position. 
via Mental Floss

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Image:U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 

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Jul 03, 2015

Why you should thank a caterpillar for your mustard and wasabi

posted by Larra Morris

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It happened through what's called an evolutionary arms race, explains Chris Pires, a plant evolutionary biologist at the University of Missouri and one of the lead authors of the study. This works a lot like a military arms race — repeated escalations to have better weapons or defenses — but on an epic timescale. In this case, the opposing armies are caterpillars of the cabbage butterfly and plants in the order Brassicales, which today includes cabbage, horseradish, kale and mustard.

So here's what happened: Some 90 million years ago, Pires explains, the ancestors of these vegetables evolved defenses to protect themselves from being eaten by insects: They started making chemicals called glucosinolates. "Most bugs don't like it. It's toxic," Pires says. "It turns their guts inside out."

Glucosinolates are a major component of mustard oil, so for simplicity's sake, let's call the defense, as Pires does, "a mustard oil bomb."
via NPR

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Image: Roger Meissen/Bond LSC

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Jul 02, 2015

Watch a stunt driver break the record for fastest mile on two wheels

posted by Larra Morris

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Take this run made over the weekend by Terry Grant, seen above, for example. The stunt driver made the entire hill climb run — more than a mile long — on two wheels. More impressively, he completed it in a Guinness World Record-setting 2 minutes and 10 seconds, which — considering he had to balance the one-and-a-half-ton car the whole way uphill — doesn't seem that much slower than the hill climb record of 41.6 seconds set by Formula One driver Nick Heidfeld in 1999.
via The Verge

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Jul 02, 2015

What differentiates human drummers from machines? Fractals.

posted by Larra Morris

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A 2011 study led by Holger Hennig, a physicist at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, Germany, looked at the differences between man-made music and computer-generated tunes. First, they found that people prefer man-made music, with all its inherent imperfections, to computer-generated, technically-perfect beats. However, they also determined that when songs were digitally altered to include imperfections, listeners still preferred the organically "flawed" songs.

The so-called "humanizing" aspect available in some professional audio software applications adds random miscues in an attempt to make the sound more organic. But when humans make music, their natural divergence from perfection doesn't occur randomly, the research showed. Rather, these deviations create a fractal—a never-ending, self-similar pattern seen throughout nature, such as in the spirals of a seashell or the veins of a leaf.
via Mental Floss

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Jul 02, 2015

What is the resonant frequency of googly eyes?

posted by Larra Morris

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433 Hz. Now you know.
via Boing Boing


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Jul 01, 2015

Student-designed pill dispenser uses fingerprint scanner to avoid overdosing

posted by Larra Morris

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And you thought that regular pill bottles were hard to open ... a new overdose-proof medication dispenser developed by a team of mechanical engineering students at Johns Hopkins University can't be opened even with the help of a hammer or drill. It does, however, deliver the proper dosage at the proper time, as long as the patient uses its built-in fingerprint scanner.

The prototype device was designed mainly with painkillers in mind. Many people exceed the recommended dosage of such pharmaceuticals, risking both their immediate health and the chance of developing a long-term addiction.
via Gizmag

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Image: Johns Hopkins University

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