March 26th, 2010

Odd Lots

  • Here's a great article from NASA on the unexpected success it's had with the WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) spacecraft in spotting previously unknown asteroids in the infrared spectrum. WISE is detecting hundreds of new asteroids every day, which is unnerving, since a rock no bigger than a Motel 6 could cause regional devastation greater than any nuclear weapon yet produced.
  • From Larry Nelson comes a pointer to the AirStash, an interesting $100 USB Wi-Fi gadget that can accept up to a 32 GB SD card and act as a content server over Wireless b/g. Anthough nominally a thumb drive, the USB plug also charges the internal battery, and (though it's not screamed from the rooftops) the thingie works all by itself, no computer connection required. This suggests "wearable file sharing": Drop one in your pocket and nearby people can download files from the device without having any idea where it actually is. Little by little, the jiminy (an AI wearable computer I thought up in 1983, and figured would be mature by 2027) creeps toward realization. The AI is actually the tough part; everything else already exists, if not in as small a package as I imagined 25 years ago.
  • And if you ever wanted to run Linux on one of your fillings (ok, one of your elephant's fillings) this would be the solution. (Thanks to Bill Cherepy for the link.)
  • Here's a gadget that builds you an external USB storage device by dropping in (literally) a naked SATA hard drive. I may not need it, but I admire the elegance of the concept.
  • I've been arguing in favor of dual-screen reader devices for years, and this one is a good start. Sounds like the user interface software needs work...but when has that not been an issue for a first-gen device? We're closing in on it, though.
  • Nice status update on some of the current non-Tokamak fusion research approaches, link thanks to Frank Glover.
  • Also from Frank comes a reasonable article on how people would die in a vacuum and how they wouldn't. I had heard of lung shredding; heart failure was new to me. But take, um, heart: Your blood wouldn't boil.
  • If you ever wondered why you cry when you slice onions, well, it's the sulfuric acid released by cells in the onion when they're cut open. Supposedly living things evolved this mechanism (or at least key parts of it) half a billion years ago. Onions evolved their chemical weapons to avoid being laid on hamburgers in slices--but we evolved Vidalias to prove that we were smarter than onions, and that fast food will prevail against all threats.
  • Interestingly, the Canon G11 camera reduces the size of the image sensor to 10 megapixels, down from the 12.5 on the G10. The new sensor gives you fewer pixels but better ones, and faster, which is all for the best.
  • Burger King is testing a new retailing feature in Brazil. When you order a burger, they take your picture and print your face on the burger wrapper.