Hot news! E&T news weekly #8 – we choose our favourite news stories from the week

Friday June 27 2014

Tereza PultarovaUpcycled smartphones to help fight poaching in Africa

This innovative project of the Zoological Society of London and Californian start-up Rainforest Connection uses old Android smartphones to create a real-time highly sensitive monitoring system to provide immediate warning about illegal logging or poaching in African rain forests. What a great idea! A proof that disused technology could serve the most honourable purposes.

Make controls more intuitive, investigators say to Boeing

I’m not qualified to judge whether Boeing’s controls are intuitive enough or not, but I find really scary that so called experienced pilots could have committed 20 to 30 errors during the final 14 miles of descent. Seems that Asiana Airlines certainly has some serious thinking to do about their training approach.

Tereza Pultarova, online news reporter


Dickon RossHarley Davidson enters electric era

Good, but not loud enough say the bikers. What is it about petrol heads and noise?

Toshiba provides giant battery for energy storage research project

First battery on the UK grid.

Dickon Ross, editor in chief


Aasha BodhaniUpcycled smartphones to help fight poaching in Africa

Tech start-up Rainforest Connection and Zoological Society of London have found an innovative way to use discarded Android smartphones to create an anti-poaching alert system in Africa. Replacing satellite monitoring, each smartphone is embedded with highly sensitive microphones and sensors to monitor rainforests in real-time and to prevent illegal logging and animal poaching.

Face recognition password alternative invented

Weak passwords can easily be exploited by malicious attackers, which in effect can cause companies to suffer loss of personal and financial data. A password alternative, dubbed ‘Facelock’ is based on face recognition, which relies on the user to recognise familiar faces even when the image quality is poor. The inventors say, the system is robust as it is virtually impossible to forget facial features.

Aasha Bodhani, assistant technology features editor


Lorna SharpeSatellite tracking to clamp down on illegal fishing

Overfishing is a serious problem, depleting stocks around the world, but it’s difficult to catch the culprits. This trial of satellite technology has to be good news.

Toshiba provides giant battery for energy storage research project

There’s a lot of work going on to make large-scale energy storage commercially viable in grid systems. This British trial incorporates a 1MWh lithium titanate battery, and will also look at getting a second life out of used batteries from electric cars.

Lorna Sharpe, news and transport editor


Edd GentInternet of Things address book to boost connections

HyperCat is a new open specification that effectively makes the IoT machine-browseable by allowing applications to search for data from connected devices across multiple data hubs regardless of what kind of device or service it has originated from. The project is still in its infancy and faces many challenges, but its backers have likened it to the early standards that helped build the World Wide Web.

Edd Gent, online news reporter


Vitali VitalievFlight MH370: Hypoxia likely cause of disappearance

It’s not often that one learns a new word from a news report, but that was precisely the case with this story. The word in question was ‘hypoxia’, or ‘deficiency of oxygen’, according to my Concise Oxford Dictionary (not a cursory Google search!). The word-for-word translation of this phrase’s Russian equivalent reads a touch more expressively – ‘oxygen hunger’. From the story is in unclear though if that deficiency or hunger, with the resulting disorientation and loss of consciousness, normally caused by sudden de-hermetization of the cabin, befell just the captain, the whole crew or everyone on board the unfortunate Malaysian airliner, including all its passengers. The cause of such hypothetical de-hermetization also remains unknown. In short, in spite of all the latest sporadic and often mutually contradictive reports,  the mystery of the plane’s disappearance keeps deepening.

Google Glass made available in the UK

Walking the busy streets of London yesterday and habitually watching some rush-hour pedestrians mumbling something into the hidden mikes of their smart phones, I couldn’t help imagining the next generation of Google Glass users who will be able to check their emails and browse social networks while talking to you (or to each other), without their interlocutors’ knowledge, or – theoretically at least – while driving too, without being spotted by the police. A very scary image indeed.

Vitali Vitaliev, features editor


dominic-lentonA-levels should be axed for STEM-heavy baccalaureate

The Royal Society admits that its suggestion all young people should have to study maths and science up to the age of 18 is radical. It would at least tackle the fact that being ‘no good at maths’ doesn’t have the same social stigma attached to it as ‘I can’t read and write very well’.

Call for more women in engineering

One thing that making maths and science compulsory beyond 16 might achieve would be to increase the woefully small proportion of young women who continue with the subjects required for a career in engineering. This week’s National Women in Engineering Day highlighted the need to attract more women, who currently make up just 7 per cent of the UK engineering workforce, into the profession.

Dominic Lenton, managing editor

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