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The Two Day Battery
Stanford researchers have figured out a way to incorporate silicon nanowires into rechargeable lithium ion batteries and extend their life from 4 to 40 hours. The work, described in a paper in Nature Nanotechnology, could lead to iPods, laptops and camcorders that could be run nearly for an entire weekend without requiring a re-charge. Of course, this is still in the lab stage, and there are undoubtedly quite a few steps and hurdles between the campus and commercialization, but we're optimists. So, here's to the end of the ABC (Always Be Charging) Rule of electronics.—Gregory Mone
The former CTO of the One Laptop Per Child initiative, which builds inexpensive notebook computers for kids in developing countries, now plans to build an even cheaper version. Mary Lou Jensen hopes to succeed where OLPC failed: She wants to produce laptops that sell for under $100. Way under, in fact. She says she should be able to commercialize one with a price tag of only $75. Given that the price of the OLPC version is currently north of $180, this might sound unrealistic.
But that price point may just be a long-term goal for Jensen's new company, Pixel Qi. They'll also be pursuing the idea of bringing sunlight-readable screens to other products, including laptops, cellphones and digital cameras.—Gregory Mone
Earthlink failed. Google's effort didn't work out. But now a startup called Meraki Networks—a company we've been following for some time—hopes to construct a city-wide Wi-Fi network in San Francisco within the next year. To make it work, the company will have to persuade thousands of San Francisco residents to set up radio repeaters in their homes and on rooftops (including versions like the coming-soon solar-powered version pictured here).
While this sounds like a monumental task, it may prove easier than Earthlink's plan, which called for setting up transmitters on public property and, as a result, became bogged down in bureaucracy. In all, Meraki will need to set up more than 10,000 repeaters, according to the company's CEO. Right now, Meraki has installed enough of the devices to give 40,000 people in the city free access. But this isn't just about San Francisco. Meraki will offer the service free there, but it has much bigger plans. The company hopes that the San Francisco project will prove the viability of its technology, which it then hopes to sell to other countries to generate revenue.
From the Department of Obvious But Still Interesting Findings: A new study concludes that drivers chatting away on their mobiles probably slow down the daily commute. Even the hands-free talkers are guilty. On average, drivers carrying on phone conversations drive about two miles per hour slower in commuter traffic conditions, and fail to keep up with the flow. According to one of the authors, David Strayer, a psychology professor at the university of Utah, this could add up to 20 hours per year of travel time.
In the study, three dozen students drove in simulators, and the ones talking on the phone were more likely to stick behind slow drivers, and less likely to change lanes. In the real world, given that 10 percent of commuting drivers, on average, are probably chatting away, this inattention adds up.
What we'd like to know, though, is how, or whether, these findings could explain the fast-talking taxi drivers who spend all day and night jabbering away into their mics, yet still manage to switch lanes more than any group on the planet. Let's get them in the simulator and see what happens.—Gregory Mone
Tennis has the Hawkeye system, hockey tried out that weird streaking puck display, and now golf is going high-tech, too. The Golf Channel is going to start using the TrackMan Tour System, a radar technology that measures golfer's swings and the flight of the ball, for certain tour events.
Trackman records the golfer's swing motion in 3D space, then tracks the launch, flight and spin of the ball with unprecedented precision. The USGA used it this past summer to track and analyze pros's swings, and now Golf Channel viewers will be able to see virtual replays of certain shots.
The first showing will be at the Mercedes-Benz Championship on December 3rd.—Gregory Mone
In a move that would have made Gutenberg's head explode, Israeli scientists have printed the entire Old Testament onto a silicon chip that is only 1/1000th of an inch square—tinier than a pinhead. This "nano-Bible project," developed at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, demonstrated a nanotech building process that might someday be used to store a person's medical history in his DNA.
Scientists wrote the Bible by utilizing a focused ion beam (FIB) generator shooting tiny Gallium ions that etched the manuscript onto a gold surface, guided by a newly developed computer program written at Technion. Developing the program took more than three months, but writing the full text took only 90 minutes.
"The nano-Bible project demonstrates the miniaturization at our disposal," explains Professor Uri Sivan, the head of the University’s Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, who conceived it. "This research could lead to the creation of more advanced miniature structures—and imaging—on a nanometric scale, advances in storing information in very small spaces, and the use of DNA molecules to store information."—Robert E. Calem
Oceanlinx, an Australian company that makes devices capable of converting the juice from ocean swells into electricity, has signed a deal with the state of Rhode Island to produce two separate offshore facilities that could end up powering more than 15,000 homes. One of the facilities will boast a bunch of the devices, each of which will be about 60 feet wide and 30 feet tall. Read more about how they work here. They're big, but they'd sit far enough offshore so they wouldn't be an eyesore.
We wrote about the technology at the beginning of last year—at that point the company was called Energetech—and back then everyone was a bit more optimistic in terms of the timetable. Now it will be at least two years before the devices start generating electricity. But at least things are moving along again.—Gregory Mone
The idea makes sense: You're moving your legs, working your muscles, but since you're in water, you're doing so without the pounding of a regular run, whether that be on a treadmill or the road, with the added benefit of increased resistance from the water. Still, Hydrophysio's aquatic treadmill looks a bit over-the-top. Not to mention that it would give the less dedicated among us too much opportunity to back out and think of something else to do while waiting for the machine to fill up with fluid. Now, if it doubled as a jacuzzi, so you could finish your workout, grab some Gatorade, and then return a few minutes later to find it warm and bubbling, that would be something. One bonus: It works for rehabbing your pets, too. So, you know, you could walk your dog, in the water, without going outside. Because that's what technology's for. —Gregory Mone
Next year should still be the real test, with American Airlines and Virgin America inaugurating service, plus a new entrant called Row 44, but JetBlue is trying to hustle ahead of them all. We've posted about this before, but this latest move is yet another sign that it might actually be happening. The company will be offering limited Internet access on a flight from New York to San Francisco next week. How limited? Well, fliers will be able to check email if they've got one of two Blackberry models, or they can use a laptop to access their Yahoo! mail. General web-surfing, though, will be barred. Still, we're hoping it works. Even an hour off-line is just too much to bear.-Gregory Mone
Several companies are planning to build new nuclear reactors in the United States, and they'd like to speed up the approval process to get these plants online as soon as possible, but that might not be happening. All plant designs have to be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, so if a company wants to construct a new model, or import a proven one from France or Japan, it still has to get the NRC's OK, and this can take a while.
According to the New York Times, three companies have filed applications to build and operate five new reactors - but they've all either substantially modified approved designs or suggested models that haven't gotten NRC approval yet. Which means they're probably not going to be breaking ground as soon as they'd like. For many environmentalists, this is good news, considering the fact that we still haven't figured out what we're going to do with the waste yet. But others insist that we need nuclear, and we need to start planning new plants now, to meet our growing energy needs and assure that fossil fuels don't consume an increasing slice of that budget in the coming decades as today's nuclear power plants are retired. For more on that idea, settle down with this enormous study.-Gregory Mone