On The Fly: "World's Smallest Aircraft" Seeking To Launch Later This Year

If you thought the electric unicycle that we wrote about last week was cool, wait until you see this new prototype portable flying device...

It's the love child of a Segway and a Hovercraft.
(Image courtesy pinterest.com.)

Caffeine Fiends And Chocoholics, The Holy Grail Has Been Found

Sustainable energy is pretty sweet.  Soon, for at least one innovation, that will be literally true...

This is about to be real.  Deal with it.
(Image courtesy unilad.com.)

This Stamp-Sized Explosives Detector Stops Bombers From Going Postal

Dangerous times call for crafty innovations.  When it seems like all hell could break loose at any moment, it's nice to know that somewhere, unseen tiny detectors are keeping you safe from the unimaginable horror of a random explosive detonation...

If only we could someday put this guy out of a job...
(Image courtesy wired.com.)

Positively Fourth Amendment: The Department Of Justice Wants In On Your Info, Anywhere

Thanks to a new initiative to amend the Constitutionally-sound rules regarding search and seizure, the United States Department of Justice seems to want to practice anything but.  Currently the D.O.J. is seeking  the authority to hack computers anywhere in the world...

This isn't cool and never will be, regardless of what the Department of "Justice" thinks.
(Image courtesy watchdog.org.)

Shared Space: Is China Poised To Have Earth's Superior Space Program?

With plans germinating to launch a major new telescope and buzz that we possibly might make it to Mars by the 2030s, NASA has been no slouch lately.  Thanks to commercial spacecraft like the SpaceX Dragon being capable of ferrying supplies and personnel to the International Space Station, we've proved that private space companies and America's own space division can work excellently together.  But what about our working relationship with international space organizations, namely, China?

Surely there must be enough space for the both of us...
(Image courtesy alfegadragon.blogspot.com.)

Space Station Sunday: Spacewalkin' On Sunshine

Good evening, space fans!  What an exciting week it's been, off the Earth...

ISS Commander Butch Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts take a walk outside...
(Image courtesy NASA.gov.)

Reinventing The Wheel: Electric Unicycles Take To The Streets

Remember how the Segway was going to "revolutionize" modern transportation?  Well, even if that didn't happen, the fun of scooting around on gyroscopically-stabilized wheels can still be had, now on an even more portable scale.  Meet the slacker's skateboard of the future:  the electric unicycle...

Several brands of this interesting item exist, including Mobbo and AirWheel.  The devices appear to be simple:  put one foot on a foothold on either side of a motorized wheel, lean in, and you're off!  Direction and speed are controlled by your shifting weight thanks to the vehicle's internal gyroscopes.

A PinWheel T1 electric unicycle.  You know you want to take it for a spin.
(Image courtesy electricunicycleonline.com.)

Unlike Segway, there is no full platform to stand on, nor is there a handlebar for stability (but you sure can look cool, casually sipping your morning coffee as you cruise through your commute.)  However, AirWheel enthusiasts can use a stability strap or training wheels to get the hang of how to ride.  Training may be a bit difficult, but once up and rolling, the ride is apparently "intuitive", according to a recent video-laden article from the Telegraph UK that highlighted one man's journey to master the solo-wheeled scooter.  Mobbo too has motivational movies online.

     A Uni-Wheel model electric unicycle hits the town with "training wheels" for additional support.

The flagship model Airwheel Q3 weighs 13kg and can travel at 12 m.p.h for about two hours on one charge.  The Mobbo is slightly lighter, quicker, and better enduring, weighing in at 12kg and topping off at 16 m.p.h. (for a duration of 3 hours.)  A new Mobbo goes for $1000, while Airwheel has a full line of products at various prices (check out the board version if you want two wheels instead!)

Currently none of these vehicles are street legal, but can sure shock some sidewalkers.  Hey, you're travelling sustainably, and in (a strange but sort of sweet) style!  The electric unicycles can deal with rain or even hills, and are doing a small part to help save the planet (with none of that pesky and arduous bicycling needed.)  Will they catch on as viable modes of transport?  Tough to tell...the future is fickle.  However, at least for reasons of recreation, they'll make you a star performer in the urban circus.

A Mobbo in the wild.  Still imagery does no justice to the electric unicycle's rockin' roll.
(Image courtesy arma.tv.)

The Big Daddy Of Big Data: U.S. Appoints First-Ever "Chief Data Scientist"

Due to the vast influx of intelligence from many forms of modern media, treasuring our data technology is now a job that requires a major position in the United States government.  Meet America's chief cyber crusader, D.J. Patil...

Send In The Drones: New "Drone Circus" To Open In Amsterdam

You may have heard that finding crazy and interesting things to do and see in Amsterdam is easy.  Now, it just got a little more intriguing...a circus where the performers are all drones is set to open this year.

"Like" After Death: Leave A "Legacy Contact" To Manage Your Facebook Postmortem

Like millions of people the world over, perhaps you enjoy reporting the diverse details of your life on Facebook.  But what about...after?  What happens to your e-life when your real one is over?  Better find someone very trustworthy to handle your e-estate...

Get Loopy: Elon Musk's Hyperloop Poised To Revolutionize Transportation

Elon Musk has been on fire lately.  Two wild dreams of his - the SpaceX private aerospace company and Tesla motors - have overcome tremendous adversity to become useful, sustainable, forward-thinking modern businesses.  Now, Musk is about to hit the futuristic trifecta: his supersonic vacuum-tube transport device, the Hyperloop, is poised to become a reality . . .

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? Farmers And Internet Enthusiasts Do...For Their Wi-Fi

Like it or hate it (although you probably still secretly like it, at least a little bit), the internet is a major force in modern human life.  Yet we hyper-connected humans continue to forget that there are wide swaths of this planet that slip through the net of the World Wide Web.  Some propose to remedy this with signal-beaming satellites, or even drones, but now, a new and ecologically-interesting idea has manifested: using sensors placed on animals to spread connectivity.  Can we turn a herd into a hotspot?

It's about time we replaced the old dial-up style of sheep.
(Image courtesy marilynstevens.com.)

According to The Atlantic, some scientists are seriously into the idea.  Placing wi-fi sensors on animals like sheep or even reindeer could allow them to traverse rural areas (for reindeer, to venture further beyond where many humans are comfortable living) and spread the signal.  In addition to helping the information superhighway get a few more on-ramps, it could allow farmers to monitor things like pollution, flooding, or even keep tabs on the flock themselves (e-shepherding!)  This type of technological exploration could expand not only our knowledge of the natural world, but also expand all knowledge for the far-flung residents therein.

Thanks to the vastness but also relative modernity of Australia, experiments with such sensors are now being carried out there with sheep.  The small sensors, which are embedded in ear tags and are light enough not to perturb the animal, can operate independently but can also help form mesh networks.  This kind of rudimentary internet also serves to spread information (as the sensors "talk" to each other to recognize their presence and location) and can operate as a whole even if singular elements fail (because wild dogs often do some non-technological sensing of their own for a sheep-snack.)

This could be one big fuzzy mesh network.
(Image courtesy news.bbcimg.co.uk.)
Greg Cronin, an Australian professor of animal welfare, explained that such attacks on sensor-bearing sheep could improve the hardships of shepherding, theorizing, “If you could pick the right sensor that identified behaviors that changed when sheep were under attack, it could trigger an alarm for the farmer.” While the technology is still undergoing trials, Cronin was enthusiastic about its eventual results. “We know we can do it but we still have to do the hard work to prove it,” he said.  According to the BBC, the idea has gained traction in rural Wales as well, including sensors that would be placed on inanimate set locations (such as rivers) to improve knowledge of overall farm conditions.

So, maybe your toaster isn't able to Tweet yet, and perhaps your pet piranha isn't getting far enough away to require a tracking device.  But for this early inception of the Internet Of Things (well, Internet Of Creatures, at least), man and beast might be able to share information in harmony.  Just don't give the sheep options to upload selfies every time they get a haircut.

"@BleatBox - Looking mad fly today.  Hit me up on Tinder."
(Image courtesy fr.pinterest.com.)

Moon Loot! Neil Armstrong's Widow Finds Stashbag Of Apollo 11 Parts

It's not uncommon to have elements of your job wind up following you home...maybe some pens from the office, a cupcake from the bakery, or a limited-edition craft brew bottle from the bar (or maybe two.)  But recently, a whole new level of work-treasure was unearthed (unmooned?) when Neil Armstrong's widow discovered a cache of original Apollo 11 equipment...stowed in a bag at the back of a closet.

"Time to conquer the moon.  But first, a selfie."
Armstrong, pictured near some of the power cables found in his moon-stash.
(Image courtesy NASA.gov.)

As reported by gizmodo.com, the amazing and historically rich find had been either forgotten or kept a secret by Armstrong, who died in 2012.  His wife Carol reported the find to Alan Needell, the curator of the Apollo collection at the Smithsonian Air And Space Museum, and it was instantly recognized to be of "priceless historical value", according to NASA.

Known as the "McDivitt Purse", the bag was a readily-available container kept accessible inside the lunar Eagle module, where it was used to keep small parts from floating away in micro-gravity.  "The Purse" was named for Apollo 9 commander Jim McDivitt, who had emphasized the importance of a stowable bag for for the front of the spacecraft.  The one-of-a-kind collection is now being prepared for display by the Smithsonian.

Allen Wrench?  Maybe on Earth.  Offplanet, that's the door key to a moonship!
(Image courtesy NASA.gov.)

Inside, all manner of Apollo artifacts had been preserved by Armstrong.  Power cables, hand tools, a valve cover, a mounting bracket, and other everyday-type items were in the collection, but the crown jewel of the space stuff was a 16-mm film camera (plus accessories!) that was used to record the descent of the Eagle onto the surface of the moon.

The original Apollo 11 footage (left) as compared to footage from the modern unmanned LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.)  Because moon movies are always awesome. 

Also present was a safety strap that was photographed in use for Buzz Aldrin's EVA ("Extravehicular Activity"...a common term for astronauts, which in this case specifically meant WALKING ON THE FREAKING MOON.)  You know...so he wouldn't get too excited in that 1/6th gravity and just bounce away.

Buzz Aldrin, rocking the waist tether on descent from the Eagle.  Just moon things.
(Image courtesy gizmodo.com.)

By the way, if you swoon for some moon, you can check out the LRO's sharp, zoomable moon imagery right here.  Thanks to NASA, more info on the overall LRO project, which is run from the Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, can be found here.  Take your own lunar recon voyage from the comfort of Earth!

Sure, it may just be an orbiting chunk of rock that's mostly comprised of what Buzz Aldrin called "magnificent desolation"...but it's OUR chunk of orbiting rock.  And in an age where we can use a smartphone (that contains more computing power than the Eagle had) to check out close-up snaps of a celestial body, it's cool to recall that even some small steps like helmet straps, power cables, and bits of hardware were critical to making that "giant leap for mankind" come to pass.

One small stash for a man...
(Image courtesy gizmodo.com.)

Space Station Sunday: The Ships That Fell To Earth

Good evening, space fans!  Here's what went on with our off-planet pioneers this week.

Preparations are underway for Tuesday's detachment of the SpaceX Dragon space freighter that arrived at the ISS in January.  The Dragon will be loaded up with scientific experiments to be analyzed back on earth.  Also aboard will be non-essential hardware and a space suit with a malfunctioning fan motor (another space suit aboard the ISS had the same problem, but was repaired.)  The Dragon will be grappled by the 57.7-ft. Canadarm2 robotic arm, then sent back to earth by way of a splashdown near Baja, California.

Another vehicle currently docked at the ISS will be sent home this week, albeit to a fiery demise.  The European ATV-5 cargo vehicle will be loaded with trash and sent home to burst into flames in the atmosphere as it deorbits on Valentine's Day.  How's that for burnin' love?

Artist's rendering of the ATV-5 controlled reentry.  Happy Valentine's Day from space!
(Image courtesy esa.int.)

Other scientific endeavors of note this week on the ISS included Commander Butch Wilmore analyzing seedlings in the APEX-03 experiment to determine the effects of microgravity on plant cells and root systems.  ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti analyzed roundworms in an Epigenetics study, which will assess if new cells develop significantly differently in micro-g.

CNN ran a story on the planning, packaging, and consumption of the food that gets transported to the ISS.  Since the human body cannot truly be at rest while constantly floating in micro-gravity, the astronauts must imbibe 3,000 calories a day, more than the average human on earth should consume.  Food scientist Maya Cooper of the Johnson Space Center explains that their team, who are responsible for 40% of all the food sent by NASA to the ISS, tries to "strike a delicate balance between providing home comforts and healthy food."  This includes everything from M&Ms to birthday cake on the comfort side, but a carefully-reformulated program of sodium reduction on the health side.  Of course, every now and again after a cargo launch, a special treat like fresh fruit might be the first thing out of the hatch.

Astronauts Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti were eager to help unpack the latest SpaceX Dragon, which delivered (among other things) this precious golden cargo.
(Image courtesy NASA.gov.)

Back on earth, this week astronaut Scott Kelly concluded his aquatic training, which is designed to mimic microgravity.  Kelly will be headed to the ISS in March as part of a pioneering endeavor to spend a full year in space.  Looks like he's good to go!

On land...on sea...and in the lack-of-air...astronauts always take care of business!
(Image courtesy NASA.gov.)

Want to see the station for yourself (albeit from beneath the surly bonds of gravity?)  Check out Spot The Station and receive text or email alerts whenever the ISS will be flying by your area!  Then, if you happen to leave your lens open and capture an image of the ISS, tag it to #SpotTheStation or @SpotStationAUT (for Android users.)  Enjoy images by space fans from all over earth!

The space station, captured in long-exposure, swoops past Reunion Island, off the coast of Madagascar.
(Image courtesy @panoramareunion.)

That's all for this week, space fans!  See you next Sunday for news on two upcoming spacewalks...watch this space!

                               Commander Wilmore captured a nice, bright flyby this week.
                                 If you live on the East Coast of the US, you're in this video.

Dial-Up Diagnosis: Smartphone Device Identifies HIV Quickly, Cheaply, And Effectively

Sure, your smartphone has always been pretty sharp, but now, a new app makes it intelligent enough to diagnose diseases.  Thanks to a small device that plugs into a phone, HIV can now be detected in 15 minutes, using only a single drop of blood.

HIV hasn't been cured, but now it's much easier to spot.
(Image courtesy spectrum.ieee.org.)

According to bustle.com, the device has been deployed in Rwanda at healthcare facilities for the purpose of detecting HIV and syphilis.  The device was over 90% accurate in its diagnostic capability.  Handheld and lightweight, it can travel to far-flung patients who may not be able to make lengthy treks to clinics for tests.  Best of all, the devices only cost $34 apiece.

The implications of being able to bring this formerly-expensive and arduous technology to the masses are huge, particularly for the most vulnerable sufferers of HIB.  Samuel Sia, head of the device's research team from Columbia University, explained "If you diagnose and treat them on the spot, you can save the life of a newborn… If it’s not treated, you can have stillbirth."  With 17.1 million people in eastern and southern Africa currently suffering from HIV, the device could be a critical element in saving future lives.

That's DR. Smartphone, to you.
(Image courtesy nbcnews.com.)


Don't Just Complete, Compete! New "Push-ups With Friends" App Motivates More Muscles

We're now over a month into the new year - have you managed to maintain your resolutions?  If so, congratulations.  If not, was it because you aimed a little too high, or was it simply a lack of motivation?  If your time got crunched but your belly didn't, now, a new app can help you deal with at least one small aspect of getting fit.

The free new iPhone app PUWF (Push-ups With Friends) is straightforward and effective in the way that documented competition can be.  You do pushups, touching your nose to your smartphone as you complete a rep.  You and your friends will all get notifications when someone else in your group also drops and knocks out some pushups.  A leaderboard indicates monthly progress.  Your ripped arms and back will indicate the rest.

Use your smartphone for "games" that actually improve yourself.
(Image corutesy quickanddirtytips.com.)

With gadgets like the FitBit and entire smartphone systems devoted to managing every element of your health that's technologically trackable (at least without the aid of hospital equipment), the PUWF app eliminates the need for overabundant obsession.  Like a brutal but effective drill sergeant, it just wants you to do more pushups.  It might not yell at you as viciously, but the drive to out-push your friends might motivate you just as well.

What are you waiting for?  Time to unleash those pythons!  Drop and give PUWF fifty!

"You're too pretty to count them on your own!"
(Image courtesy slate.com.)

Pot Automat? Pot-O-Mat? New Cannabis Vending Machine Debuts In Seattle

Yesterday, in a move that helps to further freedom and medicinal options alike, Seattle became the first location in the state of Washington to allow the usage of a vending machine for medical marijuana.  According to trust.org, the ZaZZZ machine that is the first of its kind began operating on Tuesday for the customers of Seattle Caregivers medical dispensary.

The machine as well as its contents were fired up yesterday.
(Image courtesy cannamagazine.com.)

The ZaZZZ, created by American Green Inc, is an updated version of a similar machine that debuted in April 2014 in Colorado.  Those machines, however, only sold cannabis edibles.  The new and improved ZaZZZ sells the cannabis flower (a.k.a. buds), vaporizer pens, hemp-oil energy drinks, and more.  The first purchase made was for a $15 gram of the "Girl Scout Cookies" cannabis strain.

You will probably also want some real Girl Scout cookies to go with that.
(Image courtesy news.yahoo.com.)

The machine operates by using an ID card scanner, which verifies user identity after a shop employee confirms the client's medicinal-user status.  Stephen Shearin, president of American Green Inc., is enthusiastic about the adoption of the machines, saying, "It's a way to take something that has proven itself as a viable business model throughout the last century, and bring it into the 21st century."

Five ZaZZZes are planned for locations throughout Washington state, with others planned for Alaska, California, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Michigan. Wherever you venture to find one, you won't even need to worry about getting robbed for your stash cash along the way - the ZaZZZ accepts bitcoin!  The future just got a little more chill.

Bits for hits!
(Image courtesy maxkeiser.com.)

On The Road Again? Never Lose Power Thanks To New "SmartBackpack"

Let's face it, electronic gadgets govern huge swaths of our modern lives.  Try going a day without your cellphone.  Think about the horror of hitting the gym without your trusty mp3 player.  And of course, the ubiquity of tablets and e-readers has now made them indispensable as well.  So, how do you keep them all powered for hours?

According to wired.com, a new wearable battery charger/backpack is the nomadic, stylish answer for how to induce the juice.  Equipped with an onboard charger that's capable of powering up your phone, camera, or even laptop, the AMPL SmartBackpack has got you covered.  Capable of charging multiple devices at once, an OLED screen informs you of progress, as well as weather conditions that may be a hindrance to you or your tech toys.  This intel can also be sent to your smartphone via an app (of course.)

Neglect none of your devices thanks to the SmartBackpack.
(Image courtesy indiegogo.com.)

A hierarchy of charging can be established so that more important devices juice up first.  At maximum output, the SmartBackpack offers 147 Wh of charge.  The modular batteries inside can be removed and used individually, or the entire backpack itself can be plugged into a wall socket to re-up its own power.

Currently engaged in an indiegogo.com campaign for development, the SmartBackpack will be for sale at $225 in pre-production, and $250 later in 2015.  It might be pricey for a backpack, but it's invaluable for today's tech gypsies who crave constant connectivity.  And maybe you can recoup some of the expense by renting out your power to electronically-estranged folks who planned their battery life badly.

Workaholics, your dreams have come true.
(Image courtesy ampl-labs.com.)

Green Power In The Green Mountain State: Vermont's Largest City Is Fueled By Renewable Energy

Vermont has always been known as "The Green Mountain State", but now, it's the "green city" state, too.  Vermont's capital, Burlington, now uses 100% sustainable methods to provide power to their citizens.

As reported by PBS, the city of Burlington actually makes or obtains more power than it uses, and all derived from "green" sources. At a population of 42,000, Burlington is the most populous state in Vermont, all powered by renewable energy from Burlington Electric.  Ken Dolan, a Burlington Electric worker, explained that this way, power is not only gathered and used in a safer manner than fossil fuels, but it is also cheaper in the long run as a means for the city to energize itself.

The Winooski One hydroelectric plant uses water to turn turbines, creating energy.
(Image courtesy thinkprogress.org.)

The change to renewables is estimated to save the city $20 million dollars over the next two decades, and it's already helped make significant strides.  Burlington's utility bill rates haven't risen since 2009.

The power itself is derived from several sources.  About a third of it comes from burning biomass (in this case, salvaged scrap wood that is burned to heat steam and thus generate electricity.)  Another 20% comes from wind turbines and solar power.  Thanks to the rivers of snowy mountain runoff that power hydroelectric facilities, the majority of the energy is harvested from hydro (which spins giant underground turbines to generate electricity.)

The J.C. McNeil power plant in Burlington, where biomass is converted to power.
(Image courtesy vtdigger.org.)

With Vermont relying deeply on nature to maintain their tourism (skiing and maple syrup are big moneymakers in the Green Mountain State), it's important to Vermonters to keep the environment happy.  Using renewable energy sources keeps things pleasant for the natural world as well as the citizens' wallets.  If their example can be extrapolated to larger areas in the country, we could be well on our way to improving conditions for all by kicking the fossil fuel habit for good.

A few windmills in the mountain vista are worth not having to be reliant on fossil fuels.
(Image courtesy revermont.com.)

Space Station Sunday: A Superstorm, A Super Cut, And The Superbowl

Good afternoon, space fans!  Here's what was up on the ISS this week.

It looks so pretty when you don't have to shovel it.
(Image courtesy astronaut Terry Virts.)

While a massive snowstorm hit the American Northeast, visibility was at near zero on the ground, but the ISS had an amazing view.  NASA astronaut Terry Virts captured a time-lapse flyby of the storm, which blanketed New England and shut down major cities.  The view from above was striking and the video (embedded below) made the winter wonderland look warm...of all the things to have to worry about on the ISS, Earth weather isn't one of them!

Another Earthly event was of interest aboard the ISS today, as Commander Butch Wilmore and astronaut Terry Virts wore their favorite American football jerseys in celebration of the Super Bowl.  Wilmore (a Tennessee Titans fan) and Virts (a Baltimore Ravens fan) sent a video message home saying that both were excited to watch from their "skybox", and were even more psyched that someday, the big game might be seen on Mars!

Speaking of football, the ISS shares a little something in common with the gridiron:  size.  The ISS covers about the same area as a standard American football field.  Except thanks to the constant orbit, 260 miles above the Earth, it will never make a "touchdown."

Microgravity football (and tackles) would be amazing to watch.  Someday, spacefarers, someday.
(Image courtesy NASA.gov.)

As for business as usual on the ISS this week, the crew maintained their fruit fly study, which studies immune system reactions to microbes in space.  Fruit fly immune systems are similar enough to humans' that they make for good (and much more portable) test subjects.  The astronauts also packed the recently-arrived SpaceX Dragon capsule with materials to be safely sent back home for scientific study, and prepared for several spacewalks which will commence this month.

Commander Wilmore prepares for a little trip outside.  More to follow soon!
(Image courtesy NASA.gov.)

Coolest of all, the Robonaut humanoid robot aboard the ISS got a little more lifelike this week, when astronaut Terry Virts enabled its new robotic legs.  Known as "R2", Robonaut will be assisting with human-like tasks in and around the ISS.  Virts posted this image on his Twitter.

"Lieutenant Robonaut, you got legs!"
(Image courtesy Terry Virts / NASA.)

However, there's some things you just on't entrust to robots, like fashion sense.  Thus, Virts also helped ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti maintain her awesome haircut, which looks extra rock-n-roll thanks to microgravity spiking it for her.  

Not only clippers are needed, but a hair vacuum (held by cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov) as well, to prevent bits of locks floating around.
(Image courtesy NASA.gov.)

That's all for these 112 Earth orbits, space cadets!  See you next week with more extra-atmospheric awesomeness...watch this space!

                                                                 Stay cool, Earthlings!
                                                    (Video courtesy Terry Virts / NASA.)