The SeaKettle Life Raft Makes Its Own Drinking Water
When I think of post-shipwreck situations, I imagine myself clinging to some shard of wood, encircled by sharks, delirious from the sun and saltwater. But the SeaKettle, which can desalinate salt water, sounds more like a floating hotel room.
The luxury life raft is an entry in the James Dyson Award design competition by designer Kim Hoffman, and it looks like a relatively comfortable place to spend a few nights following a ship-capsizing squall.
The SeaKettle's main amenity is a mechanism that pumps seawater into a reservoir covered with Goretex, allowing it to desalinate through evaporation and then trickle into four pockets of drinkable water surrounding the raft.
So, sure, you'll probably still want to try to avoid going overboard, but the SeaKettle's definitely going to be more comfortable than that shard of wood. [Kim Hoffman via James Dyson Award]
Ever since we heard that Nikon was joining the league of mirrorless cameras, the whole world's been waiting for its arch rival to make the next move in the battle of smallerprosumercameras. Today, Canon finally gave away some hints about which camp it'll side with -- probably just sticking with traditional DSLRs, but smaller. Canon's Masaya Maeda didn't share any specific details, but here's how he dodged Reuters' inquiry: "It's not a question of whether or not you have a mirror. There is a consumer need for good-quality cameras to be made smaller. We will meet this need." And to add some icing to that bland statement, Maeda reinforced that it wouldn't be a challenge for his company to retain a mirror (hence a viewfinder, which is essential for obtaining better results and higher shooting rates) in a smaller design, and that they've made very small SLR cameras before (likely in reference to the film era). Whatever happens, here's hoping that Canon's new toy won't be any bigger than the much-loved G11.
Watch the Navy shooting down an airplane over the Pacific ocean using the new LaWS (Laser Weapon System) guided by Raytheon's Phalanx Close-In Weapon sensors. Welcome to the future, where we all die in the hands of angry laser-firing bots.
The LaWS is a six-laser cannon guided by the Phalanx Block 1B—the white structure that you can see here, mounted next to LaWS. Phalanx identifies and tracks the targets using electro-optical systems, measuring the range using radio frequency sensors. With that information, LaWS follows the target, and focuses the energy of its six beams on one point until it takes the airplane down because of the heat:
The plan is to test these systems until they become part of every Navy battleship. [Raytheon]
How crucial have drone strikes become to the CIA? A senior official involved with them just became the agency's new top spy.
CIA Director Leon Panetta named John D. Bennett the next chief of the National Clandestine Service, the operations side of the agency. Bennett, a retired Marine and four-time agency station chief who returned in 2007 CIA after a brief retirement, previously headed the Special Activities Division. That's the CIA's paramilitary wing.
While that division doesn't oversee the drone strikes, it is - and Bennett was - involved with them in ways we haven't yet been able to precisely learn, according to our sources. (This AP story claims that Bennett actually directed the drones while in Pakistan during the Bush administration.) Panetta put it this way in a statement: "He has been at the forefront of the fight against al-Qa'ida and its violent allies."
Bennett's exact role with the drones may not be clear. What isn't in question is that the drones are one of the highest profile (and most controversial) programs that the CIA has operated in years. The Panetta and the agency swears up and down is a hugely effective counterterrorist tool. Continuing a pattern from the end of the Bush administration, the Obama-era CIA has sharply ratcheted up the use of missiles fired from drones to kill terrorist targets in Pakistan. The New America Foundation tallies that there have already been 46 drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan from January 1 to July 15, compared to 53 in 2009, 36 in 2008 and just 9 from the program's 2004 inception to 2007. Check out this GoogleMap and you'll see they're concentrated in a rather compact area. All this has raised questions about whether it's time to admit to ourselves that we're at war in Pakistan.
With the rise of the drones has come a rise in questions about their ethics and legality. Specifically: how many civilians die in drone strikes? The numbers are in dispute and are difficult to determine, considering the difficulty to conduct fieldwork in tribal Pakistan, so most researchers rely on media accounts of civilian deaths that may or may not be accurate. New America says around a third of drone deaths are civilians. A different study, by the University of Massachusetts's Brian Glyn Williams, found a far lower result, claiming that fewer than four percent of drone deaths can be "confirmed as civilian." I was recently told by sources in Pakistan that there are new studies underway.
Then there's the strategic and legal implications. Counterinsurgency theorist-practitioners like David Kilcullen have warned the drones could lead to blowback - hardly surprising, seeing the relationship between even low levels of civilian casualties and radicalization in nearby Afghanistan. As to their legality, the State Department's top lawyer, Harold Koh, gave a speech in March claiming that the congressional Authorization to Use Military Force against al-Qaeda passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks provides all the authority necessary to go after the terrorist group worldwide - even outside of active theaters of war.
Whether or not Bennett is a big cheese in the drones, he's clearly not afraid of "direct action" against militant types. That appears to be the kind of culture Panetta wants his operators to embrace. His statement praises Bennett for understanding "the hardships and benefits of tough jobs." Get ready for some more tough jobs in the months ahead.
A team of Italian engineers is gearing up for a high-tech road rally that should impress even the outside-the-box dreamers over at DARPA: an 8,000-mile journey from Italy to China, with nobody behind the wheel.
The three-month convoy will be the longest test of driverless vehicles ever conducted, taking the cars through twisting mountain passes, Moscow traffic, and harsh Siberian weather before ending up in the sprawling roadways of Shanghai in October.
Of course, when we say there's nobody behind the wheel, that's not entirely accurate. The project includes two electric-powered "driverless" vans, each of which will carry two technicians. One of them will always be in the driver seat ready to press the red "oh sh*t!" button and take control should the car's laser scanners, cameras, and software get into a situation that might turn dangerous.
Each van will work in tandem with a manned leader van that will drive ahead and give its driverless counterpart cues on where it's going next. But the driverless vehicle will be responsible for negotiating traffic and responding to the environment and obstacles around it. Only one driverless van and leader vehicle will operate at a time; the other pair will be hauled behind on a truck. The vans require an eight-hour charge after every few hours on the road, so even traveling at speeds between 30-37 miles per hour — not very fast but not a crawl either — the going will be very slow.
The transcontinental trek is more of a stress test for driverless technology than a demonstration, and the project leaders concede that the cars will likely need quite a bit of help from humans. But the 100 terabytes of information collected en route will go a long way toward helping the driverless technology maker, VisLab, improve its intelligent systems and artificial vision.
The idea is that someday 100 percent driverless technology could be used to freight cargo across continents autonomously or to reduce troop risk by running driverless military supply convoys, goals more or less congruent with those put forth by DARPA when it created the Urban Challenge several years ago. Of course, there's one more immediate challenge facing the team: Where, exactly, does one charge up a next-gen electric vehicle in the middle of Siberia?
Popular Science is your wormhole to the future. Reporting on what's new and what's next in science and technology, we deliver the future now. [NPR]
When you can't keep your computer functioning anymore, this is one way to deal with it: taking it apart and turning it into a piece of furniture. Much more sentimental (and creative) than tossing it in a landfill.
The end product is actually composed of two tables: an inner table that the boards are screwed into, and an outer wooden frame with glass to enclose the recycled computer innards.
This circuit board table is primarily made of components from an Intergraph 6880 with Edge II graphics (never heard of it? It's a model from the late 80s and early 90s, the table owner's first computer) along with 2800 baud modem parts. The boards and drives were carefully placed to fit together like puzzle pieces, and LED lights along the perimeter were wired to automatically illuminate this handiwork once it starts getting dark.
Scientists, using three NASA satellites, have created a first-of-its-kind map that details the height of the world's forests.
The data was collected from NASA's ICESat, Terra and Aqua satellites. The latter two satellites are responsible for most of NASA's Gulf spill imagery. The data collected will help scientists understand how the world's forests both store and process carbon. While there are many local and regional canopy maps, this is the very first global map using a uniform method for measure.
The laser technology called LIDAR was used to capture the data. It is capable of taking vertical slices of surface features. It measured the forest canopy by shooting a pulse of light at the surface and observed the time it took to return in comparison to the time recorded for the tree top.
"LIDAR is unparalleled for this type of measurement," said Michael Lefsky of the Colorado State University, responsible for capturing the data. He explains that it would have taken weeks to capture this data in the field where LIDAR can capture it in seconds.
The map is based on data from more than 250 million laser pulses collected over 7 years.
The new map confirms that the world's tallest forests are clustered in the Pacific Northwest of North America and some parts of Southeast Asia. Temperate conifer forests—which are moist and harbor species such as Douglas fir, western hemlock, redwoods, and sequoias—have the tallest canopies (over 131 feet high). Undisturbed tropical rain forests are about 82 feet high, around the same height as oak and birch trees.
"What we really want is a map of above-ground biomass, and the height map helps get us there," said Richard Houghton, an expert in terrestrial ecosystem science.
But what about the carbon? Humans release over 7 billion tons of carbon every year. The atmosphere gets most of it (3 billion tons) while the ocean gets around 2 billion itself. But scientists have long wondered where the remaining 2 billion tons of carbon goes. They suspect forests capture most of it through photosynthesis, with younger forests absorbing more than older ones.
Surely, we can speculate what this kind of map can tell us about climate change. But as Lefsky points out, "This is a really just a first draft."
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2010.07.22 11:49:09 AM
Re: Google綠能投資 首購風力發電廠
Future Planes Could Land Upright Like Birds By TechNewsDaily Staff
MIT researchers have demonstrated a new control system that allows a foam glider with only a single motor on its tail to land on a perch, just like a pet parakeet.
The work could have important implications for the design of robotic planes, greatly improving their maneuverability and potentially allowing them to recharge their batteries simply by alighting on power lines.
Everyone knows what it's like for an airplane to land: the slow maneuvering into an approach pattern, the long descent, and the brakes slamming on as soon as the plane touches down, which seems to just barely bring it to a rest a mile later.
Birds, however, can switch from barreling forward at full speed to lightly touching down on a target as narrow as a telephone wire. Our feathered friends can land so precisely because they take advantage of a complicated physical phenomenon called "stall."
Even when a commercial airplane is changing altitude or banking, its wings are never more than a few degrees away from level. Within that narrow range of angles, the airflow over the plane's wings is smooth and regular, like the flow of water around a small, smooth stone in a creek bed.
A bird approaching its perch, however, will tilt its wings back at a much sharper angle. The airflow over the wings becomes turbulent and large vortices – whirlwinds – form behind the wings. The effects of the vortices are hard to predict: If a plane tilts its wings back too far, it can fall out of the sky, hence the name "stall."
The smooth airflow over the wings of a normally operating plane is well-understood mathematically; as a consequence, engineers are highly confident that a commercial airliner will respond to the pilot's commands as intended.
But stall is a much more complicated phenomenon, and even the best descriptions of it are time-consuming to compute.
To design their control system, the MIT researchers first developed their own mathematical model of a glider in stall. For a range of launch conditions, they used the model to calculate sequences of instructions intended to guide the glider to its perch.
The researchers also developed a set of error-correction controls that could nudge the glider back onto its trajectory when location sensors determined that it had deviated.
For some time, the United States Air Force has been interested in the possibility of unmanned aerial vehicles that could land in confined spaces and has been funding and monitoring research in the area.
"What [the MIT] team is doing is unique," said Gregory Reich of the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio. "I don't think anyone else is addressing the flight control problem in nearly as much detail."
Reich pointed out, however, that in their experiments, the MIT researchers used data from wall-mounted cameras to gauge the glider's position, and the control algorithms ran on a computer on the ground, which transmitted instructions to the glider. "The computational power that you may have on board a vehicle of this size is really, really limited," Reich says.
In other words, even though the MIT researchers' course correction algorithms are simple, they may not be simple enough.
MIT associate professor Russ Tedrake who worked on the bird-lander believes, however, that computer processors powerful enough to handle the control algorithms are only a few years off. His lab has already begun to address the problem of moving the glider's location sensors onboard.
Meanwhile, Rick Cory, a MIT PhD student who worked with Tedrake on the project, will be moving to California to take a job researching advanced robotics techniques for Disney, and he noted some parallels in the institutions' goals.
"I visited the Air Force, and I visited Disney, and they actually have a lot in common," Cory said. "The Air Force wants an airplane that can land on a power line, and Disney wants a flying Tinker Bell that can land on a lantern. But the technology's similar."
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2010.07.22 11:52:48 AM
Re: Google綠能投資 首購風力發電廠
Next Generation UAVs
Eight years ago, armed Predator drones began patrolling the sky, bombing targets and providing close air support to troops in combat. But as yesterday's unveiling of BAE's Taranis drone highlighted, the Predator looks as retro as beepers and beta-max tapes when compared with the next generation of UAVs coming down the pipe. Disguised with stealth, equipped with new computer brains and armed to the teeth, these seven unmanned vehicles push the limits of robotic military technology.