recognizing Arthur C. Clarke’s third law

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I spy for you and me

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Rock WerchterFans who attended Rock Werchter, the Belgian music festival that ended Sunday, were being tracked by Bluetooth scanners as they enjoyed the music of  Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails, Fleet Foxes, Metallica, Oasis and numerous other bands.

Researchers from the University of Ghent set up a network of 36 Bluetooth scanners at the festival site as well as on a few surrounding roads and bus stops that noted each of the 80,000 daily attendees as he or she came within 30 meters (approximately 100 feet).

The resulting data is the first time a large crowd has been tracked in a live situation, according to the researchers. They added that privacy wasn’t a concern since they only tracked MAC addresses (the unique identifier assigned by the manufacturer) and therefore cannot be linked to an individual user.

Some fans who attended the UK’s Download Festival last month encountered a different unexpected Bluetooth application. Local police and the Leicestershire Drug and Alcohol Action Team asked if they wanted to opt in to receive free informational animated messages. Among those that were sent out were friendly advisories on alcohol and drug use.

(Title lyric from the Dead Kennedys.)


Written by chris

July 6, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Your true colors start to show

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totalrecallDr. Yadong Yin has figured out a way to mimic nature’s iridescent colors in a controlled manner using magnetochromatic microspheres. Butterfly wings, bird’s feathers and other naturally occurring iridescence is caused by light waves cancelling each other out in some places and reinforcing them in others, as the Economist explains. Dr. Yin does it by using a magnetic field to rearrange the microstructures of incredibly tiny iron oxide polymer beads suspended in oil.

Earlier reports noted that the bead goo was liquid, so its practical applications were limited. But now Dr. Yin has progressed to where the bead goo only has to be liquid when it’s actively changing color. This opens up possibilities for ink, textiles, environmentally safer paint, and posters that can be updated in situ – just heat it up, change the colors however you like, then let it cool and solidify again.

Personally I’m thinking of fun with nail polish and lipstick, like the receptionist in Total Recall.

(Title lyric is from A.F.I..)

Written by chris

June 25, 2009 at 9:14 pm

High on a windy hill, the turbine did whine.

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bat infraredWind turbines, like those used to generate electricity in wind farms, are killing bats without even touching them. The primary theory for this tragic reality is that the change in atmospheric pressure is enough to cause hemorrhaging in the bats’ lungs.

A Boston University study in the Journal of Wildlife Management used infrared video (pictured) in its research. You can read the entire report here [pdf link].

(Title lyric by Neil Young/Crazy Horse.)

Written by chris

June 23, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Posted in Hardware, Uncategorized

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I believe it’s time for me to fly

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Virgin inflightDomestic air carriers are ramping up their in-flight entertainment systems, according to the mildly obsessed Seat-back LCD screens and complete in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems are becoming more widespread.

The theory is that passengers will be less cranky if they’re not as bored, in addition to which these systems offer new opportunities for incremental revenue.

The article is well worth checking out before booking your next flight. It gives a fairly detailed breakdown of what is available on each airline (Virgin’s is pictured),  and concludes with an informative comparison chart.

(Title lyric is from Dolly Parton.)

Written by chris

June 18, 2009 at 10:57 pm

We got a lotta electricity

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Electrical_meterBritish supermarket Sainsbury’s is trying out a kinetic energy system at its store in Gloucester. It’s based on a series of plates embedded in the surface of the parking lot that generate power whenever a car drives over them. The system is expected to provide enough electricity to power all of the store’s registers – 30 kW an hour – without disturbing cyclists or drivers.

The parking lot generator is from UK company Highway Energy Systems. Sainsbury’s has contracted for a similar system from California-based AEST to be installed at its truck depot in Pinehurst.

Sainsbury’s said the company estimates it will recoup its costs in two years.

(Title lyric from Suede.)

Written by chris

June 18, 2009 at 9:54 pm

It’s electric, magnetic electric

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nokia-n97Nokia let it be known that it is working on a wireless technology for recharging phones and other devices. The Palm Pre already has its Touchstone cordless dock, but Nokia takes that magnetic connection to a whole new level by eliminating the dock entirely.

The Nokia Research Centre project uses ambient electromagnetic radiation (AER), the radio wave-based technology that makes RFID tags work, and is expected to become available in 2013.

Phones would last longer between charges as well, since they could be receiving a constant trickle of power.

(Title lyric from Kylie Minogue.)

Written by chris

June 10, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Hardware, Mobile, Uncategorized

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Written by chris

June 5, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized