Archive for the 'Science' Category

A Step Towards the Bionic Eyeball


A few decades ago, the idea of fixing your vision by putting a thin lens on your eyeball was the stuff of sci-fi movies. Today, contact lenses help millions of people to see with near-perfect vision.

The next horizon of contact lens technology might also seem like an episode of the Bionic Woman: scientists have created contact lenses with small integrated electrical circuits and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

What’s the purpose? Eventually, developers want to use LEDs to project artificial images onto the view of your surroundings. This could, in principle, overlay words, pictures, or even a web browser-like interface onto your normal vision.

The technology, created at the University of Washington, is just a small step toward creating a revolutionary new visual interface. The contacts are completely clear despite containing circuits with nanometer-sized components. The one thing the lenses don’t do is correct vision. But eventually, engineers hope to integrate prescription lenses with the LED display capabilities.

Walk On Water? Why Not Drive?


What do you buy for the person who has everything? They have their sports car, they have their speedboat. But do they have everything in one?

Last year Rinspeed Designs introduced their newest vehicle, called the Splash. The name is appropriate since that’s exactly what this vehicle does. Hydrofoil technology allows the sports car to convert into a water vehicle at the push of the button.

It goes something like this: a panel on the back of the car flips up to reveal the vehicle’s propellers. The hydraulic system lifts the front of the car to turn it into a speedboat. The hydrofoils can even be used to lift the entire car slightly off the water!

The Splash’s speed isn’t striking on either terrain. It can reach 125 mph on the road and 45 knots (52 mph) on the water. But how many vehicles do you know that are able to quote both these statistics?

See the Rinspeed Splash cross the English Channel.


Bluetooth Technology Helps Injured Vets


Bluetooth is usually associated with cell phones and laptop computers. But the short range wireless communication provided by Bluetooth technology has been successfully used in another arena: making better prosthetic limbs.

Two injured veterans who underwent double leg amputations above the knee have benefited from the new type of artificial legs. Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Bleill and Army Lt.Col. Gregory Gadson now use the prosthetics fitted with Bluetooth to achieve a greater range of walking motion and better endurance.

The Bluetooth devices, located in each ankle, communicate to coordinate motion between the legs. The system responds to muscle movements in the thigh and works to create a smooth motion with good balance.

Right now, the patients are able to walk on their prosthetic limbs using canes to aid their balance. Doctors hope that this technology will eventually allow double amputees to walk even without a cane.

Don’t Forget to Check for Poison


The more we know about chemistry, nuclear physics, and health care, the more it seems like we are threatened by unseen sources: radon from the ground and lead in paint and plastics are just a couple examples.

But scientific advances also reassure us as we come up with more devices to help us combat these unseen foes. An example is the new small, portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometer, or XRF device. This tabletop device uses x-rays to probe objects for any of the highlighted elements in the photo shown above. This includes potentially toxic chemicals like lead.

The California Department of Toxin Control recently put on a demonstration of the devices. So far, they have been used to find lead and other toxins in consumer products like toys and shopping bags.


What else can you power with solar energy?

Solar powered device 1 Taking advantage of solar energy means dedicating a significant size of your roof space to large, unwieldy solar panels, right?

The answer is, of course, no. You can buy solar panels in all sorts of sizes, ranging from a square foot or less to an entire yard-size. Of course, if you want to get all of your home power from solar energy, you’ll have to invest in a large span of panels. But if you’re looking for a smaller, cheaper place to begin your relationship with the sun, why not start by powering your personal electronics?

Several companies now offer solar power packs that are small, attractive, and portable. They’re meant for powering devices like CD and MP3 players, speakers, and cell phones. While prices can range up into the hundreds for elaborate systems, some companies like Solar Style offer small packs for as little as $27.99.

Portable solar power packs from Solar Style
Solar powered device 2
How do they do it? We start with the most essential item: the photovoltaic cells that capture energy from the sun. In fact, the sun isn’t even necessary; light from any source can be converted into usable energy. Of course, the more intense the light, the more energy you will store.

The next step is to store the energy. Solar packs have an on-board battery that acts as your savings account for the energy you collect. Leave your power pack collecting light whenever you can, and save the energy for later. (But don’t turn on a houselight specifically to shine on the pack – that’s just being silly!)

Now, the only remaining step is getting that power to your electronic devices. All you need for this is the right connector. Most purchase options include some connectors for cell phones and music players. If your device has an unusual power connector, you may have to buy one separately. The point is, you can power any device this way, as long as you have the connector.

At these prices, there is no reason not to purchase a solar power pack. The devices are small and convenient, and can eliminate the need for an outlet – thus allowing us to truly enter the wireless age. In addition to convenience, these gadgets are green. Instead of using expensive electricity from the power grid, which increases carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil, you can tap into a free, renewable energy source that already surrounds you.

Check out the websites of Solar Dyne, Radio Labs, and Solar Style for more on their products.