Glow-in-the-dark pee

Next Generation: Souped-up Probiotics Pinpoint Cancer
Genetically engineered commensal bacteria help researchers detect cancer metastases in mouse livers.
http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/43100/title/Next-Generation–Souped-up-Probiotics-Pinpoint-Cancer/

This is a cool kind of biotechnology where you can actually see changes with your own eyes. Most of the experiments I did, in school as well as a professional researcher, required some sort of visualization tool (chemical reagent, spectrophotometer, scintillation detector, etc.) so each fraction of the sample had to be analyzed. However, since this glows in the dark, all you got to do is turn out the lights and you will know what has happened.

Oh, it might also save lives also…

Liquid metal antenna…

Team Designs Liquid Metal Antenna Twice as Powerful than a Regular One
http://www.wallstreetotc.com/team-designs-liquid-metal-antenna-twice-as-powerful-than-a-regular-one/218388/

Interesting idea. I was intrigued to note this passage: “NCSU researchers have long shown a special interest in liquid metal devices…”. I guess they just think the subject is cool and keep playing with it until they find something useful. I have to imagine that they will need someone else to take it from concept to product, an attitude like they must have to keep at this for so long indicates they lack what is necessary to productize it.

Terahertz detector

Light Detector has Unprecedented Performance
http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/light-detector-has-unprecedented-performance

Really interesting concept, being able to cheaply detect terahertz rays (below heat but above microwaves). These rays tend to pass through the surface of most materials and are reflected from deeper within, so once this is worked out in detail we can probably use it to take pictures of people’s insides without exposing them to X-rays. Of course, it may also allow people to see right through cloths, so the good-old ‘XRay’ glasses might finally become a reality.

Eavesdropping with a camera and potted plants

Eavesdropping with a camera and potted plants
http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/06/tech/innovation/visual-microphone-research/index.html?hpt=hp_t4

A really interesting idea that seems related to my earlier post on clear air turbulence. I like the idea that it is totally passive, nothing to give away that it is happening.

Guard your bag of chips!

Finally a better battery?

Self-Healing Battery Electrode Shows Promise for Smartphones, EVs
http://www.dailytech.com/SelfHealing+Battery+Electrode+Shows+Promise+for+Smartphones+EVs/article33767c.htm

I didn’t get the impression that this design had higher density, just that it lasted longer. Sure, that is nice, instead of replacing your PV/wind turbine batteries every 5 years you can do it every 10 years, but if they cost twice as much that isn’t terribly valuable.

Still, any improvement in batteries is something to be happy about.

Smart dust

Devices Connect with Borrowed TV Signals, and Need No Power Source
Devices that can make wireless connections even without an onboard battery could spread computing power into everything you own.
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/518111/devices-connect-with-borrowed-tv-signals-and-need-no-power-source/

It has been a while, sorry to my regular reader(s). Nothing has really grabbed me until this…

One of the reasons for the phenomenal increase in wireless gadgets has been the phenomenal _decrease_ in energy consumption to operate them (remember the initial cell phones? They weren’t nicknamed ‘bricks’ for nothing! My parent’s was practically hard-wired into their car and while in principle portable, it was too heavy to move regularly, and that was just a couple of decades ago). Our current environment is awash in electromagnetic radiation (of radio/microwave origin, it is also awash in sun light half of every day and light is electromagnetic radiation) and I have often wondered about extracting that energy for some sort of use (see rectenna). This article is interesting because they have demonstrated that it is indeed feasible, now someone just has to develop a compelling use case and produce the product for less than what it is worth…

Hybrid planes?

Once a Joke, Battery-Powered Airplanes Are Nearing Reality
Aerospace companies are working on hybrid electric airplanes, and the earliest versions will likely arrive before the end of the decade.
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/516576/once-a-joke-battery-powered-airplanes-are-nearing-reality/

To get a 25% decrease in fuel usage is quite amazing, the article indicates that up to 50% might be feasible which goes beyond amazing to incredible. Fuel is by far the greatest expense in air travel so the idea of cutting fuel costs in half could have a dramatic impact on the cost of travel. If they could only produce the super capacitors they keep talking about we could do away with the limitations of batteries and all sorts of alternatives start to make a lot of sense.

Solar Shingles

Flexible Glass Could Make Tablets Lighter and Solar Power Cheaper
NREL shows that Corning’s Willow glass can be used to make flexible solar cells that could be installed in place of roofing shingles.
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/516471/flexible-glass-could-make-tablets-lighter-and-solar-power-cheaper/

Not quite ready for prime time, but interesting to me because I have read about solar shingles for years but have yet to see them in any sort of mainstream applications. I am not sure how they would work in practical reality, when I do roofing I walk all over the shingles I have just laid (and I have yet to work on anything more steep than 4 in 12, much steeper and you need to nail in supports to keep you from sliding off the roof) and those shingles are very rough and therefor keep me from slipping. I have to imagine that glass covered shingles would be incredibly slick and difficult to walk on (if you have to avoid walking on them it makes shingling really a challenge!). However, if they manage to solve all those issues and can drop the price to where it is competitive with regular roofing I can see this becoming something significant quite easily and rapidly. However, as I have said, I have been hearing about this sort of concept for well over a decade with little to show for it.

Self shooting gun?

$27,500 gun hits targets at 1,000 yards
http://money.cnn.com/2013/06/11/news/companies/trackingpoint-gun/index.html?hpt=hp_t5

I am not totally sure that this is as revolutionary as made out to be. Sure, it is hard for ordinary people (i.e., not snipers) to hit targets at that range, but really, how many ‘real world’ targets are at that range? Besides, with a good rifle with an excellent scope and a moderate amount of training (and practice, of course, lots of practice) most people on most days could indeed hit a man-sized target at 1K yards. Heck, I was able, after a mere week of training, to hit a man-sized target at 500 yards 8 out of 10 times with plain old iron sights, I feel quite sure with a decent scope (on a rifle that is accurate at that range, of course; don’t forget the critical importance of the rifle!) most anyone could learn the basic skills. What sets a sniper apart, though, isn’t just the ability to accurately hit a target at extreme ranges (not to belittle that skill, it is quite formidable), it is their ability to do so under fire, tired, late at night, after being awake 36 hours and not eating for 18, that sort of thing. Without the skills to accomplish these manifold other tasks, the mere act of taking someone out at a half mile is rather inconsequential and having a super accurate shoot-by-itself gun isn’t going to change that.

Besides, the biggest problem with shooting at extreme ranges is controlling your breathing and heart rate. Decouple the gun from your body via the use of video aiming and all the sudden accuracy for anyone is going to skyrocket. I suspect, after reading the article, that what they have is an automated trigger pull system that chooses the instant the person is actually pointing at the appropriate location to actuate and release the firing pin. You really are no longer in command, more of an advisory role. You suggest to the gun you would like to take a shot, only when you have ‘accidentally’ lined up with the target will it actually execute the suggestion. Fail to line up the target and you get no shot.

I doubt this will be any form of game changer and will only serve to extract dollars from the pockets of rich people itching to empty their pockets.

On the cusp of greatness

Printing Electronics Just Got Easier
A new technique developed by researchers in China allows easier printing of electronic components onto paper.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130509-paper-printed-circuits-electronics-technology-science/

I think the next decade is going to be as eye popping as the last quarter century (in retrospect; I doubt anyone actually sat around the last two and a half decade each day marveling at things). I have talked about the looming technological singularity a time or twain before, this article is just showing how looming it really is. Still, I can’t help but get excited. Though I have been focusing much of my reading research (and bench research from two decades ago) on tiny, ‘nano’ scale objects and molecules, I am impressed with the idea of working at the macro level as well, when it can be done so quickly, independently and inexpensively (well, that last part is probably not quite there yet). Star Trek replicators might still be centuries away, but it is easy for me to see the trail of bread crumbs leading from hither to yon.

This one I really can’t wait for:

Televisions

LG Electronics put the world’s first curved OLED television on the South Korean market this month.

Printed with organic light-emitting diodes, the television is just 0.17 inches (4.3 millimeters) thick.

The new model retails for more than US$13,000, but competition may soon bring sticker prices down. DuPont, for example, has previously announced the ability to print its own 50-inch (1.3-meter) set in just two minutes.

I would love to have a whole wall be a light emitting HD screen. I bet Avatar would be even more amazing on a screen that huge!