Posts Tagged ‘E&T’

E&T news weekly #54 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

June 12, 2015

Friday June 12 2015

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Magna Carta ‘digital rights’ open to public vote

Safety on the internet, freedom of speech and protecting privacy are the top three recommendations of young people around the world for a mooted ‘digital rights’ Magna Carta. Long championed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the idea of an internet Magna Carta goes to the heart of the original ethos of the internet, making the worldwide web a safer and more democratic place for all. We, the public, can vote now on the 500-strong list of digital rights candidates and the top 10 choices will be revealed on Monday June 15.

Finland could abandon fossil fuels entirely by 2050

Trust one of Europe’s smallest, darkest and coldest countries to lead the way in a permanent move away from fossil fuels. It may still be 35 years away, but the idea that all of Finland’s domestic energy needs could be supplied by solar and wind power could become a reality within the lifetime of many of us.

Tereza Pultarova  Tereza Pultarova, news reporter
Finland could abandon fossil fuels entirely by 2050

One brilliant proposal by researchers from the Scandinavian country known for its progressive attitude towards sustainability. Please, go ahead Finland and show the world that it indeed can be done. If Finland can get enough solar power to wean its energy system off fossil fuels, it must be simple for others in more favourable climates.

Royal Navy to use drones to inspect warships

Everyone’s into drones these days.

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Ofcom to make it easier to quit slow broadband providers

Am I the only person in Britain who’s perfectly happy with their broadband provider? I won’t name them, but the only trouble they’ve given me in the past year was when I was putting up a new fence in the front garden and had to do a bit of extra digging to get around the tube that brings the cable from the pavement junction box to the house. For those of you who aren’t so fortunate, Ofcom is going to make it easier to bail out of a contract that doesn’t deliver what was promised. If you’re not familiar with MGALS, or minimum guaranteed access line speed, check it out now in the small print and see how it compares with the service you’re getting.

Origami-inspired paper battery for developing world

Reading this story I had to check that my childhood memory of a 1970s TV programme which simply involved ten minutes of expert paper folding wasn’t something I’d imagined. Turns out it really happened, and it’s hard to mock when I spent a similar amount of time recently watching a YouTube tutorial on how to clean vinyl records by applying a thin layer of wood glue. (Check it out – there are several and they’re all compelling.) A lot more practical is this technique for generating power from bacteria using a cunningly folded piece of card. About the size of a matchbook and costing only a few pence to manufacture, the batteries could power diagnostic devices in developing countries with limited access to sophisticated tools.

Katia Moskvitch  Katia Moskvitch, technology editor
Black box technology shines light on shark behaviour

Better not to swim at dusk if you know that sharks might be around. Scientists at the University of St Andrews in Scotland have used ‘black box’ technology similar to that used on planes to shed light on when sharks are most likely to forage – and why. Turns out that they prefer to feed in the early evening, thanks to their good night vision. This way, hunting at night may allow them not to be harmed too much by their prey fighting back. So how did ‘black box’ tech help? Simple – like many of us nowadays wear fitness bracelets, several reef sharks at a remote Pacific atoll were fitted with tags that measured activity, swim speed, depth, body temperature and digestion. The researchers then just had to get the tags back and study the data.

Alex Kalinaukas  Alex Kalinauckas, assistant features editor
Formula E battery tech delayed by high R&D costs

There had been rumours circulating that Formula E was going to postpone opening up its battery regulations, which were previously set to allow teams to design their own systems from 2016, and Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag confirmed to E&T that this would indeed be the case. He said the high R&D costs were the primary reason for the decision but also that the technology had not quite developed far enough to justify the teams spending so much cash when the sport is still in its infancy. Formula E has done lots to promote electric vehicles and it’s important that it focuses on surviving long enough to continue that good work – after all, plenty of other ‘new’ motorsport series have died off after a few seasons, let alone ones that are trying to change the way we use our cars and promote sustainable living.

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project granted planning permission

When it’s not under a constant deluge of freezing rain, Swansea Bay is a beautiful place – I lived there for three years so I’m qualified to make a sweeping generalisation or two… Therefore, the idea of building a 6km seawall designed to harness the power of the waves that will also allow people to walk out into the bay and bask in the (rare) sunshine is great idea in my book. Six more of these lagoon power plants are being planned for elsewhere in Wales and England but why stop there? We are an island nation after all; let’s make as much use of our renewable natural resources as we can.

Dickon Ross  Dickon Ross, editor in chief
Andy Murray enters crowdfunding arena in Seedrs deal

World tennis star Andy Murray has joined crowdfunding site Seedrs to advise and invest in new business ideas in the areas of health, sport and wearables technologies?

Finland could abandon fossil fuels entirely by 2050

Renewables are usually seen as part of a future energy mix but Norway reckons it could all be done with solar, wind, biofuels and hydropower.

G7 leaders vow to abandon fossil fuels by mid century

And G7 leaders commit to moving away from fossil fuels entirely by the middle of this century.

Vitali Vitaliev  Vitali Vitaliev, general features editor
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo replaced by co-founder Jack Dorsey

For a number of reasons, I don’t do Twitter (or any other types of private social networking, for that matter), but am nevertheless familiar with the rules. I took time to count the letters in “Twitter CEO Dick Costolo replaced by co-founder Jack Dorsey” and discovered that it is 88 characters short of Twitter’s limit of 140. So, if I were to tweet that headline, I would probably add the following: “As the firm counts its losses of $162 million and sees a 30 percent decline in its share price, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is replaced by co-founder Jack Dorsey”. 129 characters – still not enough. Here are 11 more to end it all on an optimistic note: “As the firm counts its losses of $162 million and sees a 30 percent decline in its share price, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is replaced by co-founder Jack Dorsey. Happy tweets” Sorry, one character short of an exclamation mark…

#AppleMusic streaming service – details announced – an annotated infographic

June 10, 2015

Apple has unveiled its Apple Music streaming service, designed to challenge rivals such as Spotify, Deezer, Soundcloud, Google and Amazon.

The $10-a-month service combines on-demand listening; Beats 1, a 24/7 radio station hosted by live DJs; and Connect, a forum for artists to give fans behind-the-scenes content from upcoming releases.

E&T news covered this Apple Music announcement in comprehensive detail yesterday.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Apple Music: like music, only more expensive

Apple Music: like music, only more expensive

Droning on about #drones at the #ParisAirShow – an annotated infographic

June 5, 2015

Drones, eh? They’re everywhere these days. If they’re not helping to inspect EasyJet planes, they’re analysing the performance of the UK’s Olympic BMX cyclists so they can perfect their mad skillz to grab gold, or helping student code-breakers hone their cyber-craft. And that’s just this week.

These tend to be your portable drones, mind you, the type you could happily fly in your own back garden (but definitely not in London’s St. James’ Park, no sirree bob). On display at the forthcoming Paris Air Show, there’s going to be some whoppers – the type the military love to lob over foreign lands.

Aerospace companies from the United States, Europe and Israel will exhibit some of the latest technological advances in UAVs at the 51st Paris Air Show – the largest and longest-running aerospace trade show in the world, no less. The skies above Le Bourget will be chock-a-block with drones from June 15-21.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Dem drones, dem dry drones

Dem drones, dem dry drones

E&T news weekly #53 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

June 5, 2015

Friday June 5 2015

Alex Kalinaukas  Alex Kalinauckas, assistant features editor
Obama passes Freedom Act to cut back bulk data collection

A victory for privacy – sort of. The Freedom Act does allow the NSA to carry on harvesting data from millions of Americans but it does at least place some restrictions, including the need for a court order to study the data, on what they can access. Can Edward Snowden come home yet? Not very likely…

Drone technology keeps BMX riders on track for gold

Another marginal gain from British Cycling. Many scoff at their innovations and mega budget, but it’s hard to argue with their medal haul in track cycling and Tour de France success with Team Sky, and now they’re turning their attention to BMX riding as well. The LED data loggers that track the riders as they progress around the track will prove very useful in training but hopefully won’t be allowed in races as rider skill should trump technology to keep competition pure.

Rebecca Northfield  Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Tweeting seals help gather polar data

All hail the tweeting seal! They’re better with technology than most human beings. Seals with silly things on their heads recently helped researchers to achieve a comprehensive database of information about the state of polar glaciers and ice sheets in the most inaccessible bits of the world. Good news for the dogs of the sea: they won’t be stuck with the unflattering headgear forever, as when they moult the satellite tag will just drop off. The ten-year project gave researchers from the University of St Andrews a better picture of the state of the world’s oceans. The information from the seals’ tags was immediate, thus it was described like ‘tweeting’ by one of the lecturers. How modern. The small army of seals with sensors produced almost 400,000 environmental profiles. Well done seals. You gave up your beauty – and dignity – to help us. You can go back to being cute now.

Digital music turned into visuals with augmented reality

Researchers from the University of Bristol are using augmented reality displays to let audiences better understand music. Am I the only one who is thinking that’s a little bit ridiculous? Apparently, people will be able to follow digital music performances by using 3D virtual content and mixed reality displays to enhance the audience’s experience; according to the researchers, people have a tough time appreciating digital music performances. Digital instruments can play any sound you want, not that it would help these poor, helpless people. The reality display is called Rouages, and it’s designed to better the perception of musical gestures. It uses reflective transparent surfaces to show the audience the content. I don’t know if it’s for a better understanding of music. People ‘see’ music in many different ways. You listen to the music, and you can appreciate it and interpret it in your own way. Music has the ability to portray emotions, scenery, days, animals, planets, people, chairs, everything…why do we need a visual representation of what is already visceral?

Tereza Pultarova  Tereza Pultarova, news reporter
Tweeting seals help gather polar data

Some researchers have been developing robots and unmanned submarines to gather data about remote polar areas. But what if instead, they could simply recruit the original polar inhabitants, the sea mammals, for the job? In fact St Andrews University researchers together with an international team of experts did exactly that – and compiled what they say is one of the largest databases of environmental data regarding polar areas. The seals look quite cute with GPS tags on their fore-heads, a bit like sea unicorns. And the good thing is the antennas just fall of their furs when they moult.

60 years of atomic time and the future of scientific clocks

60 years ago today…, well not today but on 3 June, British physicist Louis Essen demonstrated the world’s first practical atomic clock. There may have been no fanfares then and there may not have been any now but the invention certainly changed the world and enabled a whole plethora of applications without which the world we know today wouldn’t be possible. Current caesium atomic clocks used for global time-keeping such as the one at the National Physical Laboratory won’t either lose or gain a second in more than a hundred million years. But that doesn’t deter scientific minds around the world to search for even better ways to keep time. It is thus possible that when the 70th anniversary of the caesium atomic clock comes in a decade, the technology will be replaced with another.

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Robots fight it out in the Darpa Robotics Challenge

Without giving too much away, this month’s issue of E&T is going to mark the fact that Isaac Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics made their first appearance in a story published in 1942 but set in the then distant future of 2015. Things haven’t progressed quite as quickly as science-fiction writers expected them to back in the first half of the 20th century, but some pretty impressive technology will be competing for millions of dollars in prizes in this weekend’s Darpa challenge in California. The tasks the robots are being asked to undertake don’t obviously include an ethical dimension. When machines are doing things like helping out in disaster zones though, you can see how their creators have to start thinking about that side of things. Faced with a choice of two or more people to rescue, how is a robot going to decide who gets out first?

London Met police force equipped with 20,000 body cameras

The extent to which mobile phones have put good quality video cameras in the hands of so many people has done a lot to change the dynamics of crime. Never mind the CCTV, how confident can a wrong-doer be that someone isn’t standing out of sight behind a curtain, filming what they’re up to? Sometimes though it’s the police that are on camera and we’ve seen some high-profile cases from the USA where public video has put a very different slant on the official version of what’s happened. London is pre-empting the issue by buying tens of thousands of body-worn cameras, enough for the majority of police officers to be wearing one by next year.

Laura Onita  Laura Onita, news reporter
Obama passes Freedom Act to cut back bulk data collection

The Freedom Act is probably the most significant scaling back of national security policy formed after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. The NSA lost its authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk, after a reformed bill was signed into law this week by Obama. For all those quick to negate the effects of Snowden’s revelations in 2013, this move stands as proof that there’s been a paradigm shift in ubiquitous surveillance practices and Obama knew he had to compromise on spy agencies’ powers to address privacy concerns.

Large Hadron Collider restarts at higher power for season two

I’m excited about the restart of the LHC after a two-year pause; so excited I’d quite like to talk about it with Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory over lunch. During its first run the Higgs boson was discovered – the last missing piece from a theory that explains our physical world, at 8 trillion electron volts. Now the machine will run around the clock for the next three years at almost double the collision energy paving the way for the discovery of new scientific phenomena.

Lorna Sharpe  Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Life-saving water filter wins African engineering prize

A Tanzanian chemical engineer has won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s first Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, securing £25,000 to help commercialise his sand-based water filter and deliver safe drinking water in places where that’s still a scarce and expensive commodity. Dr Askwar Hilonga’s trademarked Nanofilter is engineered for a specific body of water to absorb contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, bacteria and viruses. Three runners up have each won £10,000 and eight shortlisted innovators will receive six months’ mentorship and training, so the Prize has the potential to do a great deal of good in sub-Saharan Africa.

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
EU polluters could get 10 years of free carbon credits

Inevitably, money talks and big business wins, regardless of the global environmental consequences. What started out as an eminently sensible EU plan to tackle climate change and target the heaviest polluters has been diluted by the threat of economic withdrawal by those same companies, which have said they’ll simply move to a new geographical location where the climate change regime is less strict unless they’re given certain carbon credit concessions. It’s the big business equivalent of taking their ball home if no one plays the game the way they say.

‘Brainprint’ signals proposed as unique human ID

Forget having to memorise all those pesky passwords: your brain waves could offer a unique biometric key. All you have to do is think. Oh, and submit to electrodes probing your brain. Little bit awkward at the supermarket checkout counter as you verify your card payment, perhaps, but it’s ultra-secure.

Aasha Bodhani  Aasha Bodhani, industry features editor
Online security attacks cost big business at least £1.46m

With nine out of 10 large organisations suffering from an online security breach, it is not surprising the cost of these attacks reached £1.6m this year. The styles of attacks are becoming more sophisticated and whilst staff awareness measures have been put in place, organisations still need a defence plan. The Information Security Breaches Survey 2015 also revealed organisations were keen to protect customer data and its reputation.

Apple recalls Beats Pill speakers due to fire risk

Batteries have a bad rep, either the power is limited or they are too bulky in size. To add to the list of cons, Apple has recalled the Beats Pill XL due to the batteries overheating, leading to a possible fire hazard. This is the second time Apple has had to recall one of its products; in 2011 the company had to recall its first generation iPad Nano. Apple has asked customers to return the speakers for a refund.

Vitali Vitaliev  Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
UK surveillance laws challenged by MPs in court

I don’t often talk about it, but this news item brought back some rather painful memories from my last months in the Soviet Union, when as a dissident investigative reporter  I found myself under round the clock (or 24/7 as we say now) surveillance by the KGB. Their “K” measures (that was the code name for the surveillance, conducted in the open, without camouflage to apply psychological pressure to the “object”, i.e. me) were not limited to having a burly agent (or “toptun”, “the one who tramples”) underneath my 1st-floor Moscow flat windows at all times. All my mail was intercepted, steam-opened and forwarded on to me concertina-shaped. The phone conversations of myself and my wife were brutally interrupted with threats and swear words. Those were all aimed at throwing me off balance, making me lose my sang-froid and start playing by THEIR rules. The psychological effect they had on myself and my family (my elder son was just 9 years old then) was truly devastating, but instead of succumbing to the pressure, we chose to defect. The fact that the harassment was conducted in the open was in a way helpful: at least we knew who we were dealing with. The surveillance methods, challenged by two MPs in the High Court (see the news story), however, are clandestine and therefore potentially even more ruinous for the “objects”. As one of the very few UK citizens who had actually been victims of similar “measures”, I whole-heartedly support the MPs’ stance. In a free society, surveillance and intrusion of people’s privacy can only be justified and permitted in the most extreme and pressing cases.

Katia Moskvitch  Katia Moskvitch, technology editor
EasyJet chooses drones for aircraft inspections

Drones are often in the news nowadays: delivering parcels and pizzas, helping farmers and the military. Now, budget airline EasyJet plans to start using them, too, for plane inspections, to speed up maintenance. Passengers are unlikely to see buzzing mechanical creatures out of their cabin windows, but engineers may begin working alongside them as early as next year. Let’s hope they all get along.

Ain’t no sunshine – #SolarImpulse plane forced to land due to bad weather – an annotated infographic

June 2, 2015

For the first time, inclement weather has obliged Solar Impulse 2 to land.

The record-breaking attempt to cross the Pacific Ocean in a solar-powered plane was aborted after bad weather forced the pilot to make an unscheduled stop in the Japanese city of Nagoya.

The crossing was part of the plane’s attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the energy of the Sun. E&T reported on this latest development in the Solar Impulse 2 story in full yesterday.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Hello? Sunshine?

Hello? Sunshine?

E&T news weekly #52 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

May 29, 2015

Friday May 29 2015

Laura Onita  Laura Onita, online news reporter
Snoopers’ charter is here to stay after Queen’s Speech

When Teresa May announced the draft communications data bill in 2012, labelled as a snoopers’ charter, it was subjected to widespread criticism and then blocked by the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives resurrected the snoopers’ charter in the Queen’s Speech this week and with a majority in parliament the bill will pass with flying colours despite mounting criticism. We’re yet to find out the detailed plans for the new laws, but internet providers and mobile operators will be expected to log more data about customers and hand it over when requested.

Chip to analyse blood and send data to your phone

The days when chip implants used to be limited to futuristic sci-fi movies are over. I’d still feel squeamish about having one, but for medical purposes, like the tiny chip developed at the EPFL Laboratory, I’d almost turn a blind eye. The chip would be implanted just under the first layer of the skin, which is not that intrusive, and would measure cholesterol or sugar levels in my blood, sending the data straight to my phone. I wouldn’t recommend it to hypochondriacs though.

Rebecca Northfield  Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Chip to analyse blood and send data to your phone

I’m a little bit of a hypochondriac so this is nothing less than a good thing. I often worry about my aches and pains, but I am more concerned about what goes on under my skin. I’m not a full-blown bundle of anxiety, but I can get a little fretful sometimes. This is why I like this biosensor chip. It’s only one centimetre square and has a circuit with six sensors which measure your pH, temperature, glucose levels, lactate, and cholesterol and drug level. It’s a hypochondriac’s dream! The chip is placed under your skin and results are sent to your mobile phone. If all goes according to plan, it will be nice and easy to access your body’s vital bits and pieces. I think it’s a great idea, not just for people like me, but for people who need to monitor their blood, like diabetics, who must check their sugar levels throughout the day. It’ll save a lot of hassle and pain.

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Drone technology keeps BMX riders on track for gold

The London 2012 Olympics showed how far BMX has moved on from scabby-kneed 1980s kids bombing around shopping precincts. In the run-up to the Brazil games next year we’ve got the Great Britain squad aiming to shave milliseconds off race times with the unlikely help of optical sensor technology originally developed to help unmanned aerial drones avoid mid-air collisions. Investing in state of the art engineering hasn’t done the more conventional arm of the team any harm; let’s hope it can do the same for the BMXers.

Twitter and mobile phone data to gauge how big crowds are

Reports of huge public gatherings have always relied on estimates of numbers from the police and organisers that can be vastly different. Now scientists from Warwick University have tested a more reliable way of estimating crowd size based on data from mobile phones and social media traffic. It’s worked at the San Siro Stadium where the number of people is known; now they’re going to develop it with the aim of doing more useful things like quickly assessing the size of crowds on the move when natural disasters strike.

Tereza Pultarova  Tereza Pultarova, news reporter
Floor energy the next big thing in renewables

Floors converting energy from motion into electricity are a brilliant idea. Imagine how much power a class of hyperactive school kids could produce during a PE lesson or how much money your own lively children could help cut from your energy bill. The technology, pioneered by British firm Pavegen, has already been installed at many places including London’s Heathrow Airport, the White House and a football pitch in Brazil. The first experimental urban installation was unveiled this week at Canary Wharf.

Sleep-monitoring bed-sheets invented

Sleep-monitoring bed-sheets are a new devious invention that could help shrinks in the future better understand how much quality sleep their patients are getting. But do we really want shrinks to know exactly what we’re doing in the bedroom at all times?

Lorna Sharpe  Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Corruption talks take centre stage at the Engineering Symposium for Africa

A conference in Morocco highlighted education and corruption as the top two problems for development in Africa. The shortage of engineers across the continent certainly puts Britain’s situation into perspective, but perhaps some of the solutions are the same: promote engineering as a high-status profession like medicine and the law, and invest in training promising workers to move up the skills ladder. Better education might also encourage people to see that corruption doesn’t have to be a normal part of life (and that applies to more high-profile spheres than engineering, too).

Communication system to improve cerebral palsy in children

Researchers in Spain have been working on a new communication system to help children with cerebral palsy who cannot speak. This is one area where modern technology can make a huge difference to people compared with what was available a couple of generations ago.

Dickon Ross  Dickon Ross, editor in chief
Trial and error advances artificial intelligence in robots

A research robot has used deep learning for the first time to achieve some simple household tasks without specific programming.

Internet users to reach 3.2bn in 2015

This result is surprising not for the proportion of people who are now online but for the number who don’t yet have Internet access.

Snoopers’ charter is here to stay after Queen’s Speech
Government to press ahead with HS2 Bill
Government to cut onshore wind farm support

What will the Conservative election win mean for engineering? This week’s Queen’s Speech provided some early answers.

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Apple names new chief design officer

The fact that Apple appointed a new chief design officer was always going to make the news, given the company’s reputation for immaculate, innovative industrial design. The fact that Apple’s new chief design officer is Sir Jonathan “Jony” Ive was much less surprising and more than a little confusing. Hang on a minute, presumably this is the same Jony Ive who has worked at Apple for over two decades? The London-born designer behind such Apple legends as the Bondi Blue iMac, the G4 Cube, the Power Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch? Wasn’t he already Apple’s chief design officer? As it turns out, no. Up until this week, Ive was labouring under the title of senior vice president of design. What’s in a name? Read our news story to find out.

E&T news weekly #51 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

May 22, 2015

Friday May 22 2015

Rebecca Northfield  Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Human attention span lags behind that of goldfish

Are you reading this, humans? Are you? Hello? Are you paying attention to me? I guessed not. If only the goldfish could read… Our attention span has decreased by four seconds in the last 15 years to only eight seconds, meaning a goldfish beats us by managing nine seconds. We have three types of human attention which are sustained, selective and alternating. And we are failing at all of them. This is because of modern technology. By adapting to it, our focus is dwindling. At least there’s a bright side…our ability to multitask has improved. But the goldfish still kicks our butts.

Google cars win permit to drive on public roads

Driverless cars, invented by Google, will be able to drive in California on public roads. They drive pretty slow, only 40km/h, but have been involved in 11 accidents over the years. It’s like an old blind man driving the car. I think it’s a bit lazy in my opinion to get a car to drive for you. But then again, if it reduces road traffic accidents like it said it would, it’s a pretty good idea. I wonder if they will develop minds of their own, as they are self-learning, and start racing each other like lunatics. What a drive that would be! Pass me the sick bag.

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Watching 3D films ‘response to slow brain decline’

The idea that watching films in three rather than two dimensions gives your brain a workout sounds like it should come from the marketing arm of a cinema chain looking to justify higher prices for 3D screenings. It actually comes from neuroscientists who got test subjects to carry out cognitive tests before and after watching the same movie in different formats. They reckon they found 3D was associated with responses that were more than 20 per cent better. So next time you turn up and find they’re not showing the film you want to see in boring old 2D and have to shell out for an extra dimension, just think of it as an investment in brain power.

Cyber-security to be part of GCSEs

A bit surprising that the idea of cybersecurity being added to the GCSE computer science syllabus is a novel thing. I’d have hoped that all teenagers would have some element of the importance of online security in their education, even if they don’t opt for a formal qualification. The aim is to address the growing demand for digital skills, but everybody’s going to need those whatever job they’re working in, and criminals don’t respect what you did at school.

Lorna Sharpe  Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Ship management firm trials GPS back-up system

London-based EuroShip Services is equipping its fleet with eLoran technology based on long-wave radio signals as a backup positioning system for when GPS is unavailable. The UK is the first country in the world to have rolled out the technology for use by commercial cargo and passenger vessels, after installing eLoran stations at the country’s busiest ports last year.

Lights beam ads to phones in supermarkets

This is location technology on a rather different scale from the eLoran system described above. Philips Lighting has teamed up with French supermarket chain Carrefour to beam signals from the LED lights to customers’ smartphones, delivering ‘contextual adverts’ and discount coupons based on which section or aisle they are walking through. Clever – but a bit spooky, all the same.

Aasha Bodhani  Aasha Bodhani, industry features editor
Cyber-security to be part of GCSEs

The ICT curriculum is continuing with its shake-up and is now introducing modules covering cyber-security issues, such as malware, firewalls and the legal side to computer technology. With advancements in technology facing cyber threats, the OCR examination board say students must have these skills to help with the growing demand of digital skills.

Spotify is turning Starbucks baristas into DJs in new deal

Starbucks is transforming its customers into DJs! Teaming up with Spotify, customers in the US who have a premium account with the music streaming company can suggest songs for the Starbucks playlist. In return, customers will earn stars for currency which will go towards the Starbucks’ loyalty program. A win-win all round.

Self-driving truck heads out across America – an annotated infographic

May 21, 2015

Look, no hands! The first self-driving truck to be licensed for highway use has hit the roads in the USA. Autonomous vehicles are meant to improve safety and efficiency and cut congestion. There’s still a driver in the cab, just in case.

Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration autonomous truck is licensed to drive on public roads in the U.S. State of Nevada. Its Highway Pilot links camera and radar systems with lane stability, collision avoidance, braking, speed control and steering.

E&T magazine has a photo gallery of the Freightliner Inspiration in the latest Jurassic World issue.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Get the truck outta here

Get the truck outta here

New issue of E&T magazine now online – the #JurassicWorld issue

May 20, 2015

The new issue of E&T magazine is now available online: the Jurassic World issue.

Inspired by the science of the movies – the Jurassic Park franchise, X-Men, Terminator and Fantastic Voyage – we check out bio-tech dinosaurs injecting medical nanobots; computer-brain interfaces; swarms of miniature robots that can cooperate; sci-fi inspired Raspberry Pi projects; spy gadgets and much more.

Refreshments are available in the lobby.

E&T magazine: boo!

E&T magazine: boo!

BTPT: Bizarre theories and pointless technologies. #Air conditioned #shoes, exhaust #grill and caffeinated #apples

May 19, 2015

By Rebecca Northfield

Summer is on its way, and that means the sun will have its hat on, more or less. Here are a couple of technologies that have been inspired by great things designed to make the summer heat easier, and more enjoyable.

Happy happy sunshine.

When I say inspired, I mean thinking of the stupidest thing you can do with the technology available to you.

Air conditioned shoes

The Hydro-Tech Cool Breeze shoes from the Far East are designed to keep your feet cool whilst you’re at work on a hot day. Because everybody worries how hot their feet are at work. As long as they don’t whiff, I don’t see how it could be a problem. You rarely hear anyone say: “My feet are unbearably hot! It’s so uncomfortable. I can’t work like this.”

11 Nov 2006, Berkeley, California, USA --- Jogger Splashing Through Mud While Trail Running --- Image by © Corey Rich/Aurora Photos/Corbis

Because cool feet are important.

The shoe system works by a patented filter technology, which extracts the hot air your tootsies create and fills your shoes with smell-free fresh air, using a micro-fan system. This ensures your feet are constantly conditioned, regardless of the length of time your shoes are on. Breezy.

However, what if it rained? English summers are notorious for changing at the flick of a switch. Are your feet going to get wet if the weather decides to not play nice? That would be the worst on a humid summer day. Warm, wet feet.

If this product reaches us, it’ll be another thing to complain about. The sweltering heat, the sun shining in your eyes, how hot your feet are without your cooling shoes.

Give me strength.

You can get a pair here, if you can read Japanese. Enjoy!

Exhaust grills that cooks burgers with smoke heat

The Exhaust Burger was a concept back in 2008, and has resurfaced on the internet recently. For no good reason.

pork steak

The right sort of grill.

Why would you ever trust a mechanism that is in very close proximity to carbon monoxide fumes and general nastiness from your car exhaust?

A team in Iran designed the Exhaust Burger for a competition, and described it as a way to ‘prove how concerned you are about the environment.’

If this ever becomes a consumer product, I will give up on the human race.

Caffeinated apple

Have you ever been at work and are so tired you don’t know which way is up? Why not grab an apple? No, not your ordinary apple. A caffeinated apple? It will certainly boost your day, that’s for sure.

Start-up biotechnology company Taxa thinks that British supermarkets will be stocking caffeinated apples in the near future.

Bursting with caffeine goodness.

Bursting with caffeine goodness.

Does anyone have any ideas on what the thing will taste like? I know caffeine doesn’t really have a flavour, but wouldn’t it be weird to get your coffee alternative from an uber GM fruit?

I wouldn’t say this up and coming technology is pointless, but it is rather bizarre.

What would the names be? The Buzzing Gala? The Energetic Granny?

What if you got addicted to these apples? What if you got so addicted that you’d eat every part of the super fruit, including the poisonous pips? Mind you, you’d have to eat about sixty apples with seeds included to get the lethal dosage of cyanide, but what if you did? You would die, that’s what!

To be honest, I am warming up to the idea of a new, healthier way to get my caffeine fix. I am not a hot beverage kind of gal, so my only option for a pick-me-up is energy drinks, which is no help to anyone. Consuming the sugar and chemicals and the downright disgusting ingredients (bull semen) on a regular basis would not do me any good at all.

I think this bizarre innovation will do pretty well, if all goes according to plan.

Bring on the Buzzing Granny.


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