Monday, August 17, 2015

The book of life

Drinking bad water causes millions of deaths around the world each year. But now some creative types have invented The Drinkable Book.

Each page is impregnated with anti-bacterial silver and copper nanoparticles with killing capabilities--killing of bad flora and fauna, not people.

They tested it at the Univ of Virginia on simulated "bad water" and then on "real" contaminated water in Africa.

Even with the worst contamination, the "pages" of the book, with their silver and copper-nanoparticle paper, filtered out 99.9% of the dangerous stuff.

Each page of the book is printed with water safety instructions, both in English and in the target country's language.

A page cleans 26 gallons--and the whole book would last an individual 4 years.

Cool, huh?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Spooky guilt-provoking

Have you ever parked in a handicapped space?

For shame!

Or maybe you just thought about it...

Now you won't even do that--if this little wrinkle spreads beyond Russia.

This system checks your car for a disabled sticker--if you don't have one, a hologram of a disabled person appears in the space. The image is thrown on a thin, water mist screen.

As the image appears, a voice says, "STOP..don't pretend I don't exist."

Well, you sort of don't exist. Kidding, kidding--this is weird but interesting.

For more info--www.dislife.ru.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Biomimicry robot

The insect-vision stalker robot.
Do we want robots who can "track" the way insects stalk their prey? Too late--we're getting them!

In a paper published in the J of the Royal Society Interface, researchers at the Univ of Adelaide describe how things learned from both humans and insects can be applied to make an artificial intelligence system "pursue" an object.

Detecting and tracking small objects against complex backgrounds is challenging, they say--but bugs can do it.

Especially good at it are dragonflies, who can chase prey or mates even in a swarm of bees.

They can catch prey flying up to 60 mph--and do it 97% of the time. Their brain is only the size of a grain of rice, though. Nevertheless, the researchers could track how it worked.

Roughly explained, the scientists developed an algorithm that locks onto the background and lets the target move against it.

So far, they have put this concept into a robot quite a bit larger than a dragonfly--perfect for going after larger prey? I mean, goals?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Seeds of knowledge

Tree Book Tree is a book made of recycle materials and studded with seeds. When a child finishes it--an Argentinian child--he or she plants it in the ground and it grows back into a jacaranda tree.

Slick?

In Argentina, 6 million books are pubished each month--45 million pages a day--that's a lot of trees!

As it is, areas of forest are being lost everyday...so...voila!

Of course, these are twee books, custom written, hand stitched.

But once the idea is there--and I have seen paper cups and greeting cards like this---it can be refined.

Try that with a Kindle!

Actually--you can try it yourself--get seed-implanted paper (Google) and write a booklet for a gift for a child.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Curious

That's Brian Grazer, 63, gelled hair and all--and partner to Ron Howard in the movie production company Imagine.

He has produced blockbusters such as Splash, Apollo 13, and many others.

He credits his "people" skills and success to good listening, being in the right place at the right time, and being curious.

Curious is his favorite word--his book, written with Charles Fishman, is called A CURIOUS MIND. He thinks being curious trumps both creativity and innovation and in fact, leads to those.

He got started in the movie business after overhearing two guys talking outside his dorm window after graduating from college--one had quit an easy job in a movie studio--Grazer's ears perked up. He got right on the horn and somehow got the guy's former boss on the line and got an interview. Bam! He was in.

His entry-level gig was to deliver papers to famous people. Quickly he got the idea that meeting these people would be more informative and fun--so he said, Sorry, have to give this to him or her) in person. It worked. Often the agent or movie star would offer him a soda or something and they would talk.

He set about meeting one movie person a day--this went on for some time. Then he put his curious self to use trying to get short interviews with various people--including Edward Teller, father of the A-bomb, Lew Wasserman, inventor of movies, etc. He would call and call, get through gatekeepers, and finally get an audience and ask questions.

But I don't want to tell you the whole book. He insists that even when these little encounters did not work out as planned, he got a lot out of each and it helped him understand people and put oomph in his movies.

For one thing, I am not sure curious is the right word. Sure, he has wide interests and dedication, but seemed more to me to an interest in human motivations and backgrounds. The word curious--way overused in the book--somehow did not fit.

But I quibble.

I also found it ironic that Imagine will not let others--say unagented screenwriters like me--in the door--fear of lawsuits, they say. So how curious are they?

But no on can deny that Grazer is tireless, and self-confident. Creativity takes both of these.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Coming soon? Part veggie man?

What will those scientists think of next? I mean--really--what will they?

Researchers at National Taiwan University published a paper outlining how they gold-plated some onion flesh and made it into "muscles."

At first (stay with me here) they wanted to develop an engineered microstructure in artificial muscles for increasing the actuation deformation (the amt a muscle can bend or stretch when triggered).

Low and behold an onion's cell structure and dimensions were similar to what they were making.

Was this found out during lunch--never mind, just wondering.

The onion epidermis--fragile skin beneath the surface--was blocky cells arranged in a tightly packed lattice.

They researchers treated the cells with acid to remove the protein that makes the cell walls rigid and then coated both sides of the layer with gold. When current flowed through the gold, the onion cells bent and stretched--like a muscle!

 By making the top and bottom electrodes of different thicknesses, they could control whether the muscle went upwards or downwards.

For fun, they formed two onion muscles into a pair of tweezers and made it pick up a cotton ball!

Now on to seeing what else this talented salad topping can do.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Bam! Product I saw on SHARK TANK won award

Everyone in listening distance of me knows I love the show SHARK TANK. Yes, I know the one or more hour meetings are boiled down to three or four in an hour. Sometimes deals are made--but then "severed." There is even a website where you can watch shows and podcasts about shows--google it.

Anyway, I do remember seeing the show where Drexel University student Christopher Gray got a deal for his phone app called Scholly, an app to put available scholarships, including tiny obscure ones, as near as your phone.

Now Scholly won the Cupid's Cup Business Competition hosted by the Univ of Maryland's Dingman Center for Innovation. He aced out 200 others and won $75K in cash.

In second place was GudNeSsBar, a startup out of Duke Univ that produces a nutrition bar to fight anemia in India.

Third place went to Cornell's SnappyScreen, a touchless sunscreen application system.

There was also an audience choice award--which went to Gym Supreme, a startup behind the Mega Bar home gym started by UMD students. A thousand people in the audience voted for it by text.

So keep thinking, smarties!