Forget Tweets- Meet ‘Chirp’!

A new app called ‘Chirp’, developed by Animal Systems, enables iPhones and iPads to share images through a short burst of sound. Animal Systems is a spin off of the computer science department of University College London, and the lead developer on the app was Daniel Jones.

Jones explains that the biggest challenge was “making sure that we had a system that would work equally well in environments that are particularly noisy. So, in  a pub, or on a bus… to be able to work in all sorts of different real-world places.”

Jones adds that the capability is similar to Bluetooth- one advantage though is that once the app is installed, devices do not need to be paired in order for the transfer to work. Though the technology is only available for iPhones and iPads today, Jones and Animal Systems hope to expand the program to radios, tvs and PA systems. Any device capable of sound should be able to ‘read’ a Chirp.

Learn more with Matt Cowan of Reuters:

Green Technology and Solar Panel Solutions

Green, environmentally friendly technology is all the rage as global warming concerns heighten and people begin taking responsibility for the health of our home planet.

One of the most popular topics in the sector today is alternative energy; the possibilities, potentials, hardships and numerous advantages. Some progress has even been made, with experts exploring the options of wind power, water power, and of course, solar energy. One of the popular approaches to harnessing the sun’s energy is through the use of solar panels.

In an article discussing new science discoveries, presents the two main downsides of solar panels, as well as some new, innovative solutions:

  • Solar panels are typically inflexible and brittle, limiting the versatility of their application. But what if you could just spray solar cells onto any surface and collect energy from the sun? The technology is currently being produced at the University of Texas, where researchers are using nanoparticle “inks” full of tiny photovoltaics made from copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). These particles are 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. Currently, the photovoltaic ink only converts 1% of the sunlight that reaches it into electricity, but the researchers expect to increase the production and have the technology on the market within three to five years.
  • For homeowners that can afford them, the biggest reason not to install rooftop solar panels is often aesthetics: they’re just plain ugly.  But, unobtrusive solar panels that blend in nearly effortlessly with the architecture of a home are now within reach. Dow Solar recently announced a new generation of building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roof shingles, and SRS Energy has created powerful solar panels that look just like standard clay roof tiles.


First Flying Car Passes Flight Test

Terrafugia Inc. has managed to turn every inventor’s dream into reality by completing a test flight of its flying car called the Transition.

The car has two seats and four wheels, as well as foldable wings that allow the vehicle to drive on a road. Unlike commercial jets, the car was flown at 1,400 feet for nearly ten minutes last month. The development brings the Massachusettss-based company closer to its goal of selling the flying car before 2013.

Though the car will be sold for $279,000, over one hundred people have put down $10,000 deposits for vehicles. The number of customers will likely increase when the car is officially introduced to the public at the New York Auto Show this week.

Robert Mann explained that the flying car has been the dream of American inventors since the 1930s. He believes that Terrafugia’s creation is the closest a company has ever come to developing a flying car, though it will still need a runway for takeoff.

Mann added that the government has already granted permission for the use of special glass, tires and other materials in order to lower the weight of the vehicle. The Transition is also exempt from the law requiring vehicles to have electronic stability control, which adds six pounds to the total weight. The car is undergoing tests to make sure it meets the federal safety standards.

According to Mann, the most profitable industry for the Transition will likely be the western U.S. states.

Has Man Learned the Secret of Flight?

Jarno Smeets and the Human BirdwingsJarno Smeets, a Dutch engineer, has unleashed a video onto the public, sparking controversy, awe and skepticism across the globe.

The video, which showcases his ‘Human Birdwings’ project, is supposedly shot from a camera attached to Smeets’ helmet while he successfully takes off at a park in Hague. The 200-foot wings are part of Smeets’ invention, which he claims is the first to allow a human to fly in a way similar to that of a bird, with neither rotors nor jets. Instead, the contraption uses motion sensors from Nintendo Wii and an accelerometer from an HTC Wildfire S smartphone to ‘amplify’ the flapping motion of his arms, and then transfers it to small motors on the wings. This technology allows Smeets to flap wings much larger than his body would otherwise be capable of lifting.

Though the engineering of the wings is in fact plausible, many of the video’s viewers were quick to dismiss it as a fake. How did the engineer know it would take exactly 14 videos until a successful takeoff? Some have questioned the video’s legitimacy based on the physics involved, while others have analyzed the clear differences between the Human Birdwings and the natural wings and flapping motions of birds today, such as rotation and the specific angling of the wings before and during flight.

One interesting observation discussed the placement of Smeets’ legs. In general, the legs of a bird are thin, small and remarkably lightweight. Human legs are monstrous in comparison, and so would inevitably dangle beneath the torso, perpendicular to the floating body. However, the video clearly shows the legs rising to line up with the body at 38 seconds. The strength needed to hold the legs in this position without breaking the spine, especially when the body is suspended from the upper back, is incredible and therefore highly unlikely here. However, further scrutiny implies there might be a small sail placed between the feet which buoys the legs during flight.

An interesting analysis of the camera motion in the video provides another important perspective on the invention’s authenticity. Though the detailed study does not prove it is legitimate or a hoax, it does prove that the camera work is genuine and not a compilation of a number of processed clips.

Is Humor Dead?

A somewhat sad study undertaken by Costa Coffee has found that the British people no longer know how to tell a good joke.  Apparently, more than 33 percent of the UK adult population claims it simply doesn’t know even one real rib-tickler.  Some of them say it’s because they forget the punch line; others, that they are just embarrassed, and a few simply put it down to the fact that they are just not quite in the right mood.

But really, when you think about it, is this situation really so surprising?  Given that close to 70 percent of survey responders claimed to not have gotten positive feedback from those individuals to whom they were telling the joke, why would they want to try again and face that potential embarrassment once more?  Ten percent said they hated being the center of attention, which is also what happens when telling a joke and has been off-putting this large factor of non-joke tellers.

So what else can explain this relatively new phenomenon?  Is it possible new technologies have something to do with it and can take the blame?  One in five of those surveyed said it is way easier to text a joke as if it bombs, you don’t have to look stupid.

SMS’ing Killing Jokes?

There has been an argument that the reason the Brits are losing their humor can be put down to the fact that texting has become so popular in recent years, individuals are now shying away from one-on-one, face-to-face joke telling.  Indeed, the survey found that almost a third now choose to send jokes via SMS rather than relate them face-to-face.  As well, a somewhat lower percentage – 13 percent – choose to e-mail jokes and 5 percent try to make others laugh through some kind of social networking site.

But, at the end of the day, this situation really is a little sad and doesn’t say much for societal progression.  According to Paul Tonkinson, a comedian, “the findings from the survey show that technology seems to have taken over as the best way to tell a joke, which is a result of the modern age we now live in.  Brits are famed for their sense of humor and it’s a great loss to our culture that so many of us can’t tell a good joke any more. Remembering all the detail in a joke and delivering a punch line with impact does take a certain amount of skill and flair – which some are better at than others.”

Come on Brits, don’t be shy; get out there again, learn to trust and start bringing humor back to the table…face-to-face.

ISS Footage Reveals Earth in Sixty Seconds

The International Space Station, or ISS, recently celebrated a decade of human occupation. Traveling 220 miles above the surface of the earth, the ISS constantly photographs earth as it flies overhead and posts the images on The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth on the internet.

Science teacher James Drake spliced together more than 600 of these photos to create a video of the ISS traveling around the world in one minute. Starting at the Pacific Ocean, the film moves over North and South America before reaching Antarctica in daylight. Major cities and landmarks are clearly visible, including Vancouver Island, Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Texas, the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Guetemala, Panama, Peru, the Amazon and more. Also visible are lightning storms over the Pacific Ocean, as well as Earth’s ionosphere- the thin yellow line seen surrounding the planet.

For the full video, click here.