Technology

Smartphones to ease traffic snarls

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: April 13, 2011   View Article

All commuters have a personal bag of tricks to skirt traffic. Now, a new smartphone app under development promises to learn your tricks and let you know when to use them.

The opt-in system combines information on your typical driving patterns collected by your smartphone with mountains of historical traffic data collected by sensors at toll booths, in roads, bridges, and intersections to predict traffic snarls and ways to avoid them before you leave home.

Virtual whiskers have the touch

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: April 8, 2011   View Article

A virtual model of rat whiskers may help scientists unlock the mystery of how our brains turn the mechanics of touch into perceptions.

“Our sense of touch is very mysterious. You can reach into your pocket or your purse and without even looking, you can identify your keys, a coin, or a paperclip,” Mirta Hartmann, who studies sensory and neural systems engineering at Northwestern University, explained to me today.

Water harvested from diesel exhaust

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: April 6, 2011   View Article

A new technology to harvest drinkable water from diesel exhaust could help the U.S. military become more nimble and mobile as it engages in conflicts around the world.

Warfare is hot, dirty, and exhausting work that requires a steady stream of water to slake thirst, prepare meals and maintain healthy hygiene — up to nearly 7 gallons a day per person.

Supplying that water to soldiers increases vulnerability to military personnel and limits the tactical use of field troops, according to researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory who are developing the new technology.

Their solution is to use the fuel that the military burns to run its tanks, Humvees, generators and other machines that power field operations. When fuel is combusted, it gets oxidized and produces carbon dioxide and water.

Software pinpoints Afghan fighters

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: April 5, 2011   View Article

The ongoing military campaign against Afghan insurgents may get a boost from new computer software designed to zero in on the locations of weapons caches and warlords.

“The idea is to say, look, this is a large area, where do you target your resources,” Venkatramanan Subrahmanian, co-director of the Lab for Computational Cultural Dynamics at the University of Maryland, told me today.

Device may find Martians in us all

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 23, 2011   View Article

Life as we know it has a common ancestor— somewhere. Is it a Martian? A new device under development to fly on a future mission to Mars to find and sequence bits of genetic material could provide an answer, according to MIT and Harvard scientists.

“Given what we know about meteorite impacts and transfer of material between Earth and Mars, we are hoping that life may in fact exist on Mars and that it may in fact be related to us,” Christopher Carr, a MIT research scientist who is leading the project, told me today.

Robots to the rescue in Japan

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 15, 2011   View Article

As the search for survivors and grim recovery of bodies continues following the devastating one-two punch of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, researchers are weighing what types of robots could be most helpful.

There are ground-based robots, for example, designed to climb up and down piles of rubble and slither into otherwise inaccessible cracks to look for survivors. Other robots are designed to work underwater, looking for survivors in cars that fell off bridges and to check the integrity of infrastructure.

Smart phone ‘grip of death’ proved

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 1, 2011   View Article

How users of some smart phones grip their gadgets can indeed lead to dropped calls — and, at least in a lab setting, placing an Apple-style plastic bumper between the antenna and thumb failed to fix the problem, according to new research on the so-called “grip of death” and potential fixes.

The antenna problem was widely reported among users of Apple’s iPhone 4 last June, which prompted Mark Beach and colleagues at the University of Bristol’s Center for Communications Research to revisit and update data collected in 2005 using a personal digital assistant with a new round of tests on a smart phone prototype.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach