Elon Musk and the International (and Interplanetary) Internet
Jan14

Elon Musk and the International (and Interplanetary) Internet

Elon Musk, the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO of Tesla Motors, and product architect of Tesla Motors, is now entering the field of satellite Internet. He recently submitted a request to the Federal Communications Commission for permission to launch four thousand satellites into the Earth’s atmosphere, in the hopes of providing Internet access to, well, literally everyone in the world. Musk joins several other prominent companies looking to use sometimes-maligned satellite technology to provide quick Internet access to parts of the world starved for connectivity. For Musk, however, the satellite project is part of something much larger. By creating a network of satellites for the Earth, Musk hopes to start a project that will kickstart the process of colonizing Mars (we’re not kidding).   Using the Falcon Rocket to Deploy a Global Satellite System Musk plans to use SpaceX’s Falcon rocket to distribute a network of satellites that will orbit the Earth and enable global, low-latency Internet accessibility. He and  his SpaceX team hope to make each rocket in the Falcon series reusable; to date, most rockets have been destroyed (intentionally) or have crash-landed (unintentionally), which makes each one extremely expensive. Reusable rockets will help save SpaceX and its affiliates a lot of money. Working with Google and Fidelity to Create Global Connectivity Musk’s mission has connected him with partners like Google and Fidelity, who want a piece of the action. The two companies recently contributed $1 billion to SpaceX to help Musk achieve his goals; this means they will own just under 10% of the company. Google has a history of similar projects, like Project Loon, which got off the ground in June 2013. By deploying low-altitude satellites, Musk hopes to solve the “latency” problem of most satellite Internet connections (in other words, he hopes to make satellite Internet fast enough for everyone, regardless of their geographic location). Nowadays, many Internet providers use satellites that are located over twenty-six thousand miles above sea level. Musk’s satellites would be located approximately 750 miles above sea level, greatly reducing any delays in latency. Using a Network to Create “Mars City” As we mentioned, Musk’s endgame is even more ambitious than providing globally accessible satellite Internet (as if that wasn’t ambitious enough). Musk sees the satellite network as the first step toward financing a permanent, fully functioning colony on Mars. Here’s his plan: Once the web of satellites is established and Earth becomes a powerful, Internet-rich planet, SpaceX will link the satellites to another web of satellites orbiting Mars. The interplanetary connection will be funded by the success of Earth’s satellite-Internet program and will eventually be used by “Mars City.” A Bridge...

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Motorcycle Jacket Looks Great and Includes Innovative, Self-Inflating Airbag
Dec10

Motorcycle Jacket Looks Great and Includes Innovative, Self-Inflating Airbag

Keeping motorcyclists safe just became easier. Helmet laws have decreased the frequency and seriousness of head, neck, and spinal injuries in motorcycle accidents, but one Italian company, Dainese, has advanced motorcycle safety in a way we’ve never seen before. Dainese Combats Motorcycle Collision Accidents Lino Dainese, an avid motorcyclist, realized motorcycle jackets needed to be both stylish enough to be wearable and safe enough to prevent injury. Trained as a businessperson, Dainese started designing protective clothing for motorcyclists in 1972 in Molvena, Italy. Dainese partnered with respected, highly trained engineers to research and develop stylish motorcycle jackets with a special feature: self-inflating airbags. To ensure optimal safety, the team turned to pre-existing airbag technology that releases the bag at the moment of impact. These airbags deploy after receiving a signal from the inflation unit contained in the airbag. The signal ignites a chemical reaction that disperses helium and fills the bag to capacity. When developing the airbag, Dainese used a safety prototype of a jacket fitted with an inflatable airbag. They named the prototype the Misano 1000 and have fitted it with sensors that evaluate the condition of its wearer 800 times per second. This enables constant, consistent monitoring of the cyclist wearing it. Dainese has also researched a full-body suit that uses the same technology. Future of Motorcycle Safety Annually, the United States sees an annual average of 4,417 motorcyclist deaths for the past five years. Motorcyclists are also 35 times more likely to die in a road accident than those in passenger cars. We can improve these statistics. The jacket is expected to retail for $2,500. As researchers continue to improve the technology, price drops will hopefully make the jacket more accessible. With more research, and the development of full-body airbag safety and protective gear, companies like Dainese prove their strategic focus on making cycling as safe as it can be. Check out the video of the airbag at work HERE, and let us know what you...

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Prosthetic Limb Restores Amputees’ Sense of Touch
Nov13

Prosthetic Limb Restores Amputees’ Sense of Touch

Thanks to ongoing neurological research at the Revolutionizing Prosthetics department at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), we are seeing incredible breakthroughs in the advancement of prosthetic limbs. The latest development enables amputees to not only control their robotic limbs with their minds, but to feel with them, too. Limbs Need to Communicate Prosthetic limbs have two jobs: to transmit information from a person’s brain to an object (e.g., “Grab the object from the table”), and to transmit information from an object to a person’s brain (e.g., “You now have the object in your hand”). Justin Sanchez, program manager at DARPA, says “Without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain, it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements.” Anatomy of DARPA’s New Robotic Limb Scientists have long been able to create limbs that can be controlled by a person’s brain; communicating data back up to the brain has been a bit more difficult. To enable both lanes of communication, Sanchez and his team placed electrodes on various parts of one patient’s brain; specifically, the parts responsible for recognizing sensations like pressure and for controlling body movement. They then connected those electrodes to the patient’s mechanical hand. The hand DARPA used, developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) at Johns Hopkins University, included state-of-the-art technology that sent electronic signals to the brain when the person touched an object with his prosthetic hand. As part of their study, the research team blindfolded the patient and touched individual fingers on his hand at random; the patient was able to identify which finger they were touching nearly 100% of the time. When researchers touched two fingers at once, he laughed and asked if they were playing a trick on him. At that point, it became clear how well the hand was actually working. Room for Growth: The Future of Prosthetic Technology DARPA’s technology, which essentially builds a network between a person’s brain, their prosthetic limb, and an object, opens up a number of doors for the future. DARPA is presently working on the paper that will document the details of their findings; after peer review and publication, other researches will be able to use it to modify the direction of their own studies. While the DARPA hand is a huge leap in upper-limb prosthetics, there still is room for improvement. Its movement is still more robotic and jumpy; there’s a lot of work to do before we can say we’ve truly recreated the versatility and maneuverability of the human hand. Some have asked about the possibility of adding temperature sensors and focused, nerve-to-nerve sensitivity. Aesthetics...

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Have Your Cake and Learn about It, Too: The Flavor Museum
Oct28

Have Your Cake and Learn about It, Too: The Flavor Museum

Play with your food. We’re serious. A new museum in Brooklyn, New York, will soon give visitors the chance to spin their own hand-pulled Chinese noodles, watch what happens when a human body digests a sandwich, and explore food and drink in ways we’ve never known before. Peter Kim, the museum’s executive director, says their goal is to use food to “engage the senses.” Our mouths are watering. Bring it on. The Puffing Gun and the MOFAD The museum, called the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD), first hit the streets in 2013 with a mobile public exhibit called “BOOM! The Puffing Gun and the Rise of Cereal.” The exhibit featured an industrial cereal puffing gun that weighed over 3,200 pounds; the machine heated and pressurized ingredients until they burst into pieces of cereal. You can read more about the cereal gun here. People came in droves to see this exciting machine in 2013; it will be featured as one of the installations at the MOFAD. Food Museum’s Humble Beginnings Peter Kim and Dave Arnold (MOFAD’s founder) started churning up ideas for the museum over ten years ago. Kim, as reported by the Times, felt so strongly about MOFAD that he quit his job and began committing himself to it full-time. He said that in 2012 even, he was “doing Google searches for ‘How do you start a museum?’” Food Chefs & Experts Team Up As the word about MOFAD started to spread, Kim and Arnold were able to pull together an all-star advisory board to continue brainstorming Some of the most illustrious food experts in the country joined, including the food-science writer, Harold McGee and the Croc-wearing celebrity chef, Mario Batali. McGee, Batali, and others discussed GMOs, food labeling, and other hotly debated topics to decide which exhibits would be best for the museum. Some of their debates and discussions, as well as links to other readings can be found here. Arnold’s approach to the discussions is similar to his approach to the museum. He opened one of their meetings by saying that, in the interest of “keeping [the meeting] on a more lively basis, we’re going to let people kind of give and take and talk to each other like they’re human beings.” People in the audience were laughing when he said it, but MOFAD hopes to reinvent our concept of “museum.” Its conversational, responsive environment will make it one of the most interactive museums ever. Funding Dilemma From the Food Industry As is the case with many (okay, just about all) start-up projects, MOFAD faced the the ever-daunting challenge of raising money. NPR said in 2014...

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This Brilliant Solar-Powered Cooler Is Your Next Tailgating Must-Have
Oct19

This Brilliant Solar-Powered Cooler Is Your Next Tailgating Must-Have

We’ve heard some people actually like football season for the football, but we’ll be honest—we’re here for the tailgating, the picnics, the burgers, the wings, the nachos, the beers . . . all stuffed into our favorite (and biggest) coolers. Our coolers have it pretty rough. They get beat up, kicked around, left in the sun, used as kicking posts for your angry brother and resting stations for Uncle John’s bigger-than-average behind. Their task of keeping our beers cold for more than a couple hours sometimes seems impossible, and we usually end up bobbing for cans in a pool of lukewarm water that used to be ice. But fear not, thirsty comrades: There is hope in solar-powered coolers. Keeping Your Drinks (and That Klondike Bar You Hid for Later) Ice-Cold The solar-powered coolers invented by nipi can rest on hot pavement, the lawn, or underneath Uncle John on the hottest of days while maintaining a Coors-friendly “Cold as the Rockies” internal temperature. In fact, the nipi can keep ice cold for an astonishing six days. Bring on the overtime. The Brilliant Design and Concept of the Solar-Powered Cooler We’ve gotten used to a high-tech world and demanding high-tech solutions. By utilizing 3D printing, nipi’s solar-powered cooler stands with the best. The cooler’s main body, rigid tires, treads, and handles are all 3D printed using sturdy materials. Additionally, the cooler uses photovoltaic solar panels that can generate six watts of power and store that power in two 14,000-mAh lithium batteries. This technology enables the cooler to keep its contents cold, power its innovative lighting system, and charge electronic devices. Its solar panels are customizable, too, so users can have up to three panels on each cooler. With three panels, it is possible to fully charge a cell phone in about twenty minutes. But Wait . . . There’s More (and You Can Afford It) In addition to its four USB ports, self-draining cup holders, cutting board, and internal and external LED lights, the nipi cooler also features a waterproof storage area perfect for guarding anything you want to keep safe and dry. The initial Kickstarter campaign for nipi made the coolers available for $160. Compare this cost to a YETI Tundra 110 cooler, which holds the same number of beers (about 65), but sells for a staggering $499.99. New Launch Date Unfortunately, nipi announced in September that they’ve decided to cancel their campaign and launch an improved model next year. You can still follow their progress on social media. Do you have any suggestions for the new and improved cooler? Write them in the comments section beneath our...

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