Sunday, 10 February 2013
Holy Cow, James Harden
Holy Cow, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
Notes for Concern and Amusement on Drives
Tim Duncan, a New Kind of Offensive Hub
Notes of Concern and Amusement for Post and Elbow Touches
Alt-week peels back the covers on some of the more curious sci-tech stories from the last seven days.
The lure of gold, the unpredictable weather and the power of invisibility. What do these three things have in common? We'd argue their almost universal appeal to the human race. Science makes headway in all three of these areas in this edition. On top of that there's a really, incredibly, massive prime number. This is alt-week.
The hunt for gold's spun many a tale of rags to riches and even woven its way into our folklore. We bet, however, that (like us) many didn't know that gold production can take place at a microbial level, with much more than just the family farm at stake. Delftia acidovorans is a bacteria that lives in the biofilm environment found atop gold deposits. But, its luxurious choice of habitat also presents a real danger -- as gold ions are also fatally toxic to the bug. No biggie though, as the clever bacteria has turned alchemist, by creating a chemical -- a protein called delftibactin -- that converts the ions into gold nanoparticles. We know what you're thinking, and we're right ahead of you. So are the people behind the team that discovered this activity, with Nathan Magarvey from McMaster University suggesting that this could, indeed, have uses for the discovery and extraction of gold in natural sources. Given the tiny amounts that are being talked about, there'll be no worries about a modern gold rush, but, if harnessed correctly, it's thought the critters could play a role in recovery of, or as a biosensor for the shiny stuff in the future.
What's the biggest prime number you can think of? If like us, it's no bigger than 131 (okay, we even had to wiki that), then don't worry, you're not alone. There are, however, mathmatical minds that dedicate themselves to this very pursuit -- albeit with the use of technology. The largest known such number is 257885161 − 1, is 17 million digits long, and was recently discovered by a bunch of computers in Missouri taking part in the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS). Not sure how big a number like that is? Well, it reportedly took the computer array that discovered it 39 days to double check that it was actually prime. Our heads are hurting just thinking about that. The previous largest prime was apparently "just" 13 million digits long -- still some 12,999,997 longer than our best effort.
Invisibility is possibly the holiest of holy grails for many young (or once young) fertile minds. Sadly, it still seems like the cloak of our dreams is still some way out. Much of the current work in invisibility is concentrating on the visual aspect -- directing photons etc. Recently announced work at the Institut Fresnel in Marseille, France, however, has used a similar idea to create a "seismic invisibility cloak" that could help protect structures against earthquakes and more. The team drilled an array of 200 meter-deep boreholes, filled them with clay silt, and then set up acoustic monitoring of the area. To test their theory, 50 Hz waves with a 14mm displacement were emitted from one side, allowing them to measure what was received on the other. The result? According to the researchers, the waves were diverted away well, with almost nothing making its way past the second round of boreholes. The experiment is only designed to work with waves at a certain frequency, and there is the issue of dealing with where the reflections actually go (potentially other nearby structures?), but, for now, this represents a promising stretch in the right direction.
Dutch researchers at Wageningen UR have published results of their work that repurposed mobile network infrastructure to provide detailed, real-time rainfall maps. By monitoring the water-induced attenuation between mobile transmitters and receivers a surprisingly accurate gauge of rainfall intensity was recorded. The work could benefit the measurement of surface precipitation in areas where radar is either not present, or not viable (assuming a mobile network exists there also). This could help the management of water resources, climate research and, of course, weather prediction. The team's example used just one Dutch national network to demonstrate the method, but are keen to stress that due to the proliferation of these Tx / Rx network links around civilised areas generally, there's a wealth of resource sat there untapped.
Are you and your girlfriend or boyfriend known as the ‘geeky’ couple? Are you also having a hard time picking out aValentine’s Day gift for that special someone? Well, worry no more as I will list presents for the geekiest of technology couples.
1. 8-Bit Rose
Roses are arguably the most romantic flowers, but giving them every year seems a bit boring. This year, give your lover this pixel rose that looks like it has been taken out of a classic Super Mario game.
2. Sushi USB Drive
Instead of treating your date to a dinner, buy some of these instead. No one can resist having at least one of these sushi shaped USB drives in their bag at such a cheap price.
3. Tetris Lamp
This old classic game has now been turned into a multicolored lamp. With removable parts, you can stack this lamp any way you want!
4. The Miniature Book of Miniature Golf
Paper-size your miniature golf experience with this book full of miniature golf! Each page includes a small, dented field carving for a tiny golfing experience!
5. Car Remote Key Spy Camera
Cue the ‘Mission Impossible‘ music. This tiny camera, disguised as a car remote key, will let you live your dream of being a spy. Well, you’ll at least feel like it.
6. Android Plush Robot
Friday, 8 February 2013
New Developments in Solar Panel Technology
As the world begins to transition from fossil fuel energy to more sustainable forms of power, interest in solar panels has grown exponentially. New solar panel technologies currently under development will make it easier and more cost-efficient to use on new homes, as well as for retrofitting older homes to solar power.
Understanding Solar Panels
Solar panels are composed of materials that collect sunlight for conversion into electrical energy. They work by first absorbing the light, after which positive and negative charges are separated into areas of the cell. The separation creates voltage that is then transferred through electrical terminals for use in a variety of applications. In the past, the collection of light energy was done on individual silicon wafers. However, today’s solar panels are constructed much differently, allowing for a more efficient use of the materials and lower cost to the consumer. .
New Multi-Junction Technology
Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are working on a new triple-junction solar cell that could potentially break the 50 percent conversion efficiency barrier that has held back the widespread utilization of solar technology. Until now, the highest conversion efficiency achieved has been 44 percent. This new technology, in which multi-function solar cells within each junction are tuned to a separate wavelength band, promises to increase the efficiency significantly, theoretically to 87 percent at maximum. A combination of high band gap material and lattice matching helps to make this new technology possible.
Stick-On Solar Panels
Another interesting development comes from Stanford University where scientists have created the first peel-and-stick solar panel, an innovation that overcomes one of the drawbacks of traditional solar panels—their rigidity. This thin film material can attach directly to underlying materials, eliminating the need for additional fabrication on the substrate. This new type of panel uses silicon, silicon dioxide and a “sandwich” on a nickel film base layer. A thermal release tape allows the collection cells to be transferred onto the substrate easily.
Nanowire Solar Panels
A new method of producing solar panels uses nanotechnology to grow microscopic wires 180 nanometers thick from chemically altered phosphorus and indium. These wires are then etched with hydrochloric acid. Though these nanowires are used to cover just 12 percent of a panel’s surface, they can convert 14 percent of the incoming light into electricity, boosting efficiency significantly. The cost for this technology is still to high at this time, but further development of production methods will help to make this a useful addition to solar panel options.
More Common Materials
Instead of materials such as indium, gallium and other rare compounds for the cells on solar panels, a scientist at the California Institute of Technology and a chemist from Dow Chemical are working to develop solar panels that use more common materials such as copper oxide and zinc phosphide to create simple roofing shingles that would be able to collect sunlight for conversion into electricity. This advancement would provide a lower cost option and easy installation for both new and existing structures.