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Measuring Carbon Dioxide With Lasers

Measuring Carbon Dioxide With Lasers

The Plane with the systemA-SCOPE (Advanced Space Carbon and climate Observation of Planet Earth) has just ended its first study. This tool is one of six that are being investigated by the ESA (European Space Agency) in order to measure the current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The mission concept, along with the other five, will be presented to the science community at a User Consultation Meeting in January 2009. Up to three missions will subsequently be selected for the next step of the implementation cycle (feasibility study), leading to the selection of ESA’s seventh Earth Explorer mission – envisaged to launch in the 2016 timeframe.

How does it work?

The Laser system The A-SCOPE mission would employ an innovative method of measuring total atmospheric column carbon dioxide from space to improve our understanding of the carbon cycle. The proposed measuring technique involves two short laser pulses being emitted at two adjacent wavelengths. This results in carbon dioxide being absorbed at one of the wavelengths but not by the other, which serves as a reference. The comparison of the reflected signals from both wavelengths yields the total column concentration of carbon dioxide. This novel approach implies that the return signal depends on the reflectance properties of the area of ground illuminated by the laser. However, current knowledge about how much ground reflectance varies is insufficient to accurately assess margins of error.

Two major exercises were carried out; one over northern Europe and another over southern Europe. In total more than 5000 km were flown and about 500,000 readings were acquired. Laser reflectivity measurements were taken over a wide range of terrains, including forest, agricultural land, olive groves, mountains, dry land, lakes as well over the open sea. Unexpectedly, the flights over the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas retrieved particularly strong signals. This is very encouraging since it demonstrates that the required precision of the measurements could even be met above the ocean, which was thought to be the most problematic of areas.

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Powered by Light

Powered by Light

Can light move things?

Current solar cells are too weak to have the sun power our cars, unless you plan on putting panels on a whole semi truck that is.

What about without the specialized cells — can things be moved then?

Yale thinks that you can.

Researchers who hale from the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science have shown that the force of light indeed can be harnessed to drive machines. For now there is just one catch: it only works when the process is scaled to nano-proportions.

The devices all run on semiconductors that harness the weak force of light and translate it into energy for motion.

The Semiconductor

So, how far are we from having the dream of many a science fiction writer come true? Well, it could be a while.

“While the force of light is far too weak for us to feel in everyday life, we have found that it can be harnessed and used at the nanoscale,” said team leader Hong Tang, assistant professor at Yale. “Our work demonstrates the advantage of using nano-objects as “targets” for the force of light — using devices that are a billion-billion times smaller than a space sail, and that match the size of today’s typical transistors.”

So, what could this technology be used to do once it grows up a bit?

Well the current target categories include devices that are designed for information processing and sensing devices, as well as telecommunications that run at ultra-high speed and consume little power.

I bet you are wondering how this is different than current solar technologies. Well, lets go back to the expert for that answer.

“When researchers talk about optical forces, they are generally referring to the radiation pressure light applies in the direction of the flow of light,” said Tang. “The new force we have investigated actually kicks out to the side of that light flow.” The researchers showed that when the concentrated light was guided through a nanoscale mechanical device, significant light force could be generated — enough, in fact, to operate nanoscale machinery on a silicon chip.

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Five Things For A Pimped-Out Future Kitchen

Five Things For A Pimped-Out Future Kitchen

Pimp your kitchen (or your mom’s or wife’s kitchen) with the following five futuristic kitchen appliances:

1. Multi Function Refrigerator

Conceived by Whirlpool, the fridge is complete with style and functionality. But it’s more than just a cold storage machine and ice dispenser. It’s complete with cell phone charger, digital picture frame, interactive message board, satellite radio, CD/DVD player, and more.

2. Transparent Glass Toaster

Yes, now you can watch with fascination as your slice of bread slowly crispens and browns. Conceived by yankodesign.com, the futuristic toaster still hasn’t solved the problem of making the glass heat hot enough to be able to toast the bread quickly.

3. Floating Salt and Pepper Shakers

The salt shaking cases are suspended in mid-air, above the base plate, utilizing strong Neodymium magnetic repulsion. Add to your table landscape and make your dinner guests say ooh and ahh.

 4. Wall Mounted Kettle

This futuristic steam iron-looking kettle called Diamantine can be hung on the mounting rack on any wall, allowing to save space and just look pure cool. Although we aren’t quite sure if it’s electric powered or you still have to heat it on the stove, it still is an attractive, space-saving wall piece for the kitchen.

5. Microwave TV

Damn right. We’re going to kill two birds with one stone by incorporating an LCD TV into a microwave oven. This puts a whole new spin on the term “TV dinner.” The Holland Electro Wave TV is a 900 watt microwave with a built in card reader and DVD player that even supports DivX. Drool. Now.

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Woman To Replace Eyeball With a Webcam

Woman To Replace Eyeball With a Webcam

Tanya VlachSan Francisco artist Tanya Vlach lost her eye in 2005 in a car accident and had to wear an acrylic prosthetic eye. Now she wants to do something that has attracted the attention of engineers — to build a mini video camera into her prosthetic eye.

“There have been all sorts of cyborgs in science fiction for a long time, and I’m sort of a sci-fi geek,” said 35 year old Vlach. “With the advancement of technology, I thought, ‘Why not?'”

She issued a challenge on her blog — for tech experts to construct an “eye cam” for her prosthesis that can dilate with light changes, and zoom, focus and turn on/off with a simple blink.

Dr. William Danz, Vlach’s doctor, states: “I’d always given thought to using cameras to restore sight to the blind. This is a little different, more like James Bond stuff.”

Tanya Vlach claims that she has “a lot of ideas floating around” including sync’ing the video feeds wirelessly to a smart phone or even record her entire life and shoot a reality TV show from her perspective.

“It is possible to build a wireless camera with the dimensions of the eyeball,” said Want, a senior principal engineer at Intel Corp. “You can find spy cams or nanny cams designed to fit into inconspicuous places in the home…. In a world where eye cams are common, they might serve as a kind of computerized backup to people’s memories.”

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Now Faster Than Ever, Thanks to… Electricity

Now Faster Than Ever, Thanks to… Electricity

a drillWhen we think about mind blowing speed, lets be honest, we tend not to think about electricity. Maybe because of all of the propaganda out there about electric cars, or maybe because electricity conjures up so many other images first, like the lights that go on at home or giant bolts of lightning, which by the way are actually pretty fast. So, it probably should not be a shocker (OK I promise no more puns) that electricity just helped to break a new world speed record.

In order to drive these rotary applications directly, efficiently and in a controlled fashion, there must be electrical drive systems with the appropriate rpm and engine power. Up to now, industrially-deployed motors have normally reached 250,000 revolutions per minute. Now, however, researchers from ETH Zurich’s Department of Power Electronics have developed a drive system in cooperation with its industrial partners that can achieve over 1,000,000 rpm.

Of course, this speed record was set in a lab, not on a track and it’s more to do with revoltions than it is with MPH, but still, you may at some point find it driving down the street next to you, or even in the sky above you. In future it can be expected that the drill used in material processing will become even faster and the compressor used for vehicles and airplanes even more compact.

Of course, you may end us seeing it used to make the technology in the palm of your hand too. Based upon the results of this research, Christof Zwyssig and Martin Bartholet, also a post-graduate in the same department, founded the spin-off company, Celeroton, in August 2008. It will make the lab partners industrially viable with a view to providing ultra-high revolution electrical drive systems for different branches of industry and areas of application. Celeroton is set to become a supplier for manufacturers of, for example, fast-spinning drill or milling machines.

The trend towards increasingly smaller cell phones and other electrical appliances means that increasingly smaller holes have to be drilled for the elec-tronics. This is only possible using a drive system that boasts a high rotational speed. “In my view, a spin-off company is the most direct way of transferring research results to industry. Our findings will rapidly be converted into concrete applications and products,” explains Johann Kolar, Head of the Department of Power Electronics.

Now you are wondering how big this thing that it can drill tiny holes in the cell phones of the future. The new drive system, which generates an output of 100 watts, is barely bigger than a matchbox.

As for construction, the recipie goes a little something like this, The rotor construction has a titanium shell that is able to withstand extreme centrifugal forces and the ball bearings are optimized for extremely high speeds. Ultra-thin copper wire is used for the windings which are inserted in a cylinder made of special iron previously unused for machines. In addition, the machine is fed by electronics specifically designed for such engine speeds.

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Instant Beauty Coming to A Photo of You

Instant Beauty Coming to A Photo of You

The results of the image software, before on top, after on bottomHave you ever wondered what you would look like if you could be as beautiful as a super model? It is only human nature, at least for those of use who were born without the perfect genetics, to try and figure it out.

Well researchers at the Tel Aviv University may just give you the chance to find out, without the amazingly high bills and associated risks of getting plastic surgery. They have built a computer designed to enhance the human face, a kind of instant beautifier for your photos.  How does it do this, why with that most sexy of fields, math.

Beauty, contrary to what most people think, is not simply in the eye of the beholder,” says lead researcher Prof. Daniel Cohen-Or of the Blavatnik School of Computer Sciences at Tel Aviv University. With the aid of computers, attractiveness can be objectified and boiled down to a function of mathematical distances or ratios, he says. This function is the basis for his beauty machine.

Of course, these type of things always come with a debate.

Beauty is, after all, a quality that has captivated artists since time immemorial, and its definition has eluded even the world’s greatest philosophers. Prof. Cohen-Or sees things more scientifically.

“Beauty can be quantified by mathematical measurements and ratios. It can be defined as average distances between features, which a majority of people agree are the most beautiful,” says Prof. Cohen-Or. “I don’t claim to know much about beauty. For us, every picture in this research project is just a collection of numbers.”

I bet that you are wondering how they made up that algorythm after all turning personal preference into hard data is no easy task. Well, I will tell you how it was done:

In a study, recently published in the journal Siggraph, for  computer graphics, Prof. Cohen-Or and his graduate student Tommer Leyvand  together with two colleagues  surveyed 68 Israeli and German men and women, aged 25 to 40, asking them to rank the beauty of 93 different men’s and women’s faces on a scale of 1 to 7. These scores were then entered into a database and correlated to 250 different measurements and facial features, such as ratios of the nose, chin and distance from ears to eyes.  From this, the scientists created an algorithm that applies desirable elements of attractiveness to a fresh image.

While this technology is not on the market yet you could end up seeing it in a lot of different places like:

– The offices of plastic suregons who want to develop more natural guides for working on their patients.

– In the offices of magazines, where cover models are often used.

– In your next digital camera. Imagine looking like a model in all of your family photos.

I know what you are thinking, “Is this really a breakthrough? I bet I could do the same thing at home with photoshop.”

While you can enhance your images with photoshop there is a difference between the two methods. Unlike heavily processed Photoshop images that can make magazine cover models and celebrities unrecognizable, Tel Aviv University’s “beautification engine” is much more subtle. Observers say that the final image it produces retains an unmistakable similarity to the original picture, unless, as it turns out, you happen to be a celebrity.

“We’ve run the faces of people like Brigitte Bardot and Woody Allen through the machine and most people are very unhappy with the results,” Prof. Cohen-Or admits. “But in unfamiliar faces, most would agree the output is better.” Of course, if you are a celebrity, you could just pay for a team of professionals to air brush you, then you won’t need the software.

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Predict Human Behaviors with Your Computer

Predict Human Behaviors with Your Computer

So do you want to:

– Find out how if your girlfriend really will flirt with your best friend when you back is turned?

– Outwit your enemies as they plot against you in the dead of the night?

– Find out just what will happen to your boss if you were to lock him in his office at 5pm with a wedge under the door?

– Just find out how many people it really does take to make your nervous co-worker feel claustrophobic.

Well, you can’t do those things right now but you might also be able to do that in the future thanks to new and improved computer behavior modeling techniques.

Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology department has created a computer model that can predict how people will complete a controlled task and how the knowledge needed to complete that task develops over time.

Frank Ritter, associate professor of IST and psychology, and his research associates, used the Soar programming language, which is designed to represent human knowledge, on a 20-trial circuit troubleshooting task most recently done by 10 students at the University of Nottingham, UK.

Each participant was to identify faults in a circuit system after memorizing the organization of its components and switches. This process was repeated 20 times for each person, with the series of tests chosen randomly each time. Their choices and reaction times were recorded and compared with the computer model’s results.

Much like the students, the computer model, called Diag, learned as it went through each test and developed the knowledge for completing the task quickly and efficiently.

“The model does not merely accurately predict problem-solving time for the human participants; it also replicates the strategy that human participants use, and it learns at the same rate at which the participants learn,” Ritter said.

In most cases, the model came within two to four seconds of predicting how long it would take each participant to solve the problem and it fit eight out of the 10 participants’ problem-solving times very well.

“The project shows we can predict human learning on a fine-grained level,” Ritter said. “Everyone thinks that’s possible, but here’s an actual model doing it. The model provides a detailed representation of how a transfer works, and that transfer process is really what education is about.”

So, you may have to get your potential victim to spend some time with the machine, but once that happens you can predict with comfort and ease.

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