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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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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iSkin Wearable Tech: Putting Control in the Palm of Your Hand
Aug25

iSkin Wearable Tech: Putting Control in the Palm of Your Hand

Wearable technology is everywhere you look these days. Every morning, people strap on their smart glasses, smart watches, wireless bluetooth headsets, and activity trackers to monitor and enhance their daily activities. Wearing a watch or glasses may seem unobtrusive, but imagine if those commands were taken to the next level, where you could turn on a playlist with a snap of your fingers or answer a phone call by simply tapping your ear. A collaborative group of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics; Saarland University in Saarbrucken, Germany; Carnegie Mellon University; CNRS LTCI/Telecom-ParisTech in Paris, France; and Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland, are now aiming to do just that—with a flexible, silicone-based, skin-mounted system called iSkin.   Researchers sought to enhance the human-computer interactions that have become nearly ubiquitous to everyday life by adapting touch-screen technology and integrating it with a soft, flexible, sensor overlay. The patches are created by sandwiching thin layers of conductive carbon and liquid silicone and tracing them into patterns that resemble tattoos. Current models are hardwired to computers; however, researchers are confident microprocessors could be integrated to create entirely wireless systems. Wearable technology is nothing new—Chinese mathematicians in the 17th century wore rings with miniature abacuses for quick calculations. Your great grandfather probably even carried a pocket watch. But as access to multiple devices and functions becomes necessary, making these sensors both flexible and stretchable allows for greater ease of use with minimal restriction to user activity. This innovation in wearable tech stems from research into “electronic skin” initially developed to make prosthetics function more closely to natural limbs by sensing temperature, contact, or pressure. The iSkin prototypes have been used to support single-touch functions or complex inputs such as sliders or click wheels, allowing users to answer phone calls, play music from portable devices, and adjust volume controls. While the devices are still in a prototype stage, the implications of this development are staggering. Medical-device manufacturers could utilize this technology to provide less-invasive or less-cumbersome controls for implanted devices such as insulin pumps or pacemakers. The team also believes the technology could be adapted to harvest energy directly from the human body through sources such as temperature or blood flow. Currently the silicone “stickers” are attached with a skin-safe, medical-grade adhesive, but encasing these touch sensors in silicone could mean further evolution from external, wearable technology to implanted, long-term devices that would react to simple gestures and actions. The iSkin development team has stated that there are no plans to further develop the prototype, but they are encouraging others to pick up where they have left off, leaving the door open for...

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How to Build a Better Off-Roader: Use SCIENCE
Aug20

How to Build a Better Off-Roader: Use SCIENCE

A group of French designers have developed a revolutionary new off-roader vehicle that resembles a mechanical arachnid on wheels. Designed by Pascal Rambaud, Jerome Arsac, and Thierry James, and built by french startup Mecanroc, the Swincar e-Spider uses pure physics to scurry nimbly over the toughest terrain. Off-Roader Designed with Science in Mind In physics, shifting the center of gravity is a simple way of enabling an object to turn a corner; think of a motorcyclist leaning into a curve. When more wheels are added to a vehicle, the ability to lean is traded for an increase in stability. Some vehicles, such as Toyota’s three-wheeled i-Road, use gyroscopes and a complex array of electrical sensors to restore the ability to shift the center of gravity and lean in to tight turns. The Swincar is ingeniously designed to work with the principles of physics to push the limits of off-road driving. The cockpit is suspended between four independent arms at points higher than the driver’s center of gravity. This allows the weight of the driver to swing outward around a curve, while a linkage to the wheels keeps them parallel to the angle of the cockpit. While the Swincar’s wheels will flexibly react to any obstacle, the human driver remains consistently upright throughout the drive.   Putting the “Fun” in Off-Roader “Function” Off-roading is the Swincar’s true calling. Each “arm” of the spider-like vehicle can function on its own, allowing for adaptive maneuvering over obstacles. The Swincar is capable of straddling large gaps and easily treks over separate, uneven tracks. The e-Spider is capable of traveling up and down steep 70% grades, and across grades of up to 50%. Each wheel is powered separately by a 1000w brushless electric motor, which is capable of charging whenever the driver hits the brakes. This energy saving touch can extend driving time up to four hours. Driving the Swincar is easy; the driver still uses a traditional steering wheel that turns the front and rear wheels in opposition to each other. A variant controlled by a joystick is in development. The new off-roader vehicle is electrically powered with a battery pack ranging from 2 to 6 kWh and can travel for approximately four hours on a full charge depending on the chosen battery pack. Max speed is currently 45 kilometers per hour (slightly less than 29 mph). Currently the Swincar carries a single passenger. Mecanroc is looking to develop a two seat off-roader vehicle. Although the designers have been developing the car for the past eight years, it is still a prototype car and not yet in production stages. Mecanroc is seeking for investors...

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Facebook and Google in a Race to Extend Global Internet Access
Aug19

Facebook and Google in a Race to Extend Global Internet Access

While most of us depend on the Internet to provide us with communication, information, and entertainment, much of the world’s population does not have Internet access. In some areas, there is insufficient infrastructure to provide such access. In others, potential users can afford neither Internet service nor the devices on which to access it. Up to 10% of the world’s population exists in these technological gaps, limiting entire community’s access to communication and information. This digital divide between the “haves” and “have nots” becomes more pronounced as Internet use continues to proliferate in the consumer and business world. Two giants of the Internet, Google and Facebook, are taking steps to make global Internet access a reality. Google Launches Project Loon Google is spreading Internet access through Project Loon, which entails launching huge, super pressure balloons, known as Nighthawks, approximately 20 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. Using software algorithms, Project Loon is able to steer balloons to particular wind currents in order to create a comprehensive communications network. The balloons, developed by Raven Aerostar, are long-duration, high altitude balloons that have been designed to maintain consistent pressure despite temperature fluctuations. In March 2015, the Google team succeeded in keeping one Nighthawk balloon aloft for a record-breaking 187 days. The balloon circled the globe 9 times before being recovered in Argentina, and successfully endured temperatures as low as -75c (-103 F). The government of Sri Lanka announced that it was partnering with Google to have Project Loon provide comprehensive Internet coverage for the entire nation. Sri Lanka is a prominent example of a country under served by the Internet: the country has a population of 22 million but only approximately 2.8 million mobile Internet connections and 606,000 wired connections. Although there is no definite timetable for a launch of Project Loon in Sri Lanka, the country’s foreign minister estimates that the country will be covered in a few months. Facebook Takes to The Air With Aquila Meanwhile, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced via Facebook post that the company intends to deliver wireless signals from the skies using Aquila, a solar powered drone aircraft. The project will use lasers to beam wireless Internet access down to areas that currently lack service. Aquila boasts a wingspan of 42 meters, approximately the same as a Boeing 737, but weighs less than an automobile. The massive drone is capable of sending data at 10 gigabits per second from a distance of over 10 miles to “a point the size of a dime.” Perhaps the flashiest part of the Facebook project Internet.org, Aquila is designed to provide affordable Internet access to more communities around the world....

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High Storage Capacitors That Rival Batteries
Aug17

High Storage Capacitors That Rival Batteries

The race to build a better battery has been ongoing for decades. The advent of high functioning mobile phones and portable computers that require more power to perform their functions for any prolonged period of time has added a whole new level of intensity to the search for a battery with a longer charge life. Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology may have reached a breakthrough in the development of energy storage devices. Contrary to what you might assume, the new device is not a better battery. Rather, it is a new capacitor dielectric material. The material is composed of a thin, hybrid silica so-gel film and self-assembled monolayers of octylphosphonic acid. The result is a capacitor with an electrical storage density that rivals some batteries. Batteries and capacitors work differently, and are usually used in tandem. Basically, batteries are energy sources that release energy into a device at a relatively constant rate. Capacitors, on the other hand, are passive devices that capture energy from a circuit, then release it. Capacitors can provide fast charge and discharge response, high energy storage, and power conditioning, but are generally not used for energy storage for any significant length of time. The silica so-gel material contains polar groups which are linked to the silicon atoms and the self-assembled monolayer of octylphosphonic acid on the nanoscale. The structure of the layers blocks the injection of electrons into the sol-gel material, thereby preventing excess current leakage. This allows for high breakdown strength and high energy extraction efficiency. The performance of the new dielectric material exceeds that of conventional electrolytic capacitors and thin-film lithium ion batteries. Professor Joseph Perry, one of the leaders of the research team, states that, although researches have been aware of these materials for some time, it is the first time he has seen them used together. He states it is also the first time he has witnessed a capacitor outperform a battery with respect to energy density. Said Perry, “The combination of high energy density and high power density is uncommon in the capacitor world.” The researchers will now see if they can replicate their work on a larger scale that works outside the laboratory and can be mass produced. If the researchers are successful, then the technology promises to have significant commercial use for products requiring more energy, such as electric cars, medical devices such as defibrillators, and smartphones. The research has been funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. It was initially reported on July 14th, 2015 in the journal Advanced Energy...

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