Fun & Frivolity: Incredible Tech

This weekend’s fun stuff is all about incredible technology. Enjoy…

Robobugs

It may have seemed like just another improbable scene from a Hollywood sci-fi flick ? Tom Cruise battling against an army of robotic spiders intent on hunting him down.

But the storyline from Minority Report may not be quite as far fetched as it sounds.

British defence giant BAE Systems is creating a series of tiny electronic spiders, insects and snakes that could become the eyes and ears of soldiers on the battlefield, helping to save thousands of lives.

Prototypes could be on the front line by the end of the year, scuttling into potential danger areas such as booby-trapped buildings or enemy hideouts to relay images back to troops safely positioned nearby.

Soldiers will carry the robots into combat and use a small tracked vehicle to transport them closer to their targets.

Then they would swarm into the building and relay images back to the soldiers’ hand-held or wrist-mounted computers, warning them of any threats inside.


I love this idea – not only is it super-cool, but it would allow machines to play the most dangerous role in building incursions rather than people. Given that terrorism is changing the landscape of war, making urban warfare more likely, this is very timely technology.

Cloak of Invisibility

Invisibility devices, long the realm of science fiction and fantasy, have moved closer after scientists engineered a material that can bend visible light around objects.

The breakthrough could lead to systems for rendering anything from people to large objects, such as tanks and ships, invisible to the eye – although this is still years off.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, whose work is funded by the American military, have engineered materials that can control light’s direction of travel. The world’s two leading scientific journals, Science and Nature, are expected to report the results this week.

It follows earlier work at Imperial College London that achieved similar results with microwaves. Like light, these are a form of electromagnetic radiation but their longer wave-length makes them far easier to manipulate. Achieving the same effect with visible light is a big advance.

Japanese researchers have developed a rubber-like material which can conduct electricity while being stretched and folded.

Underlying the work is the idea that bending visible light around an object will hide it.

I’ve mentioned this technology before, and it sounds like it’s coming along – cool stuff! I especially like this picture of a live demonstration of the technology:

Segway + Motorcycle = Uno

The 2008 National Motorcycle Show in Toronto has always been heavily influenced by the American V-twin crowd and highlights some of the area’s top custom builders who have on display a fine array of one-off custom machines.

This year’s show, however, had one very unusual one-off custom, the Uno. The orange and grey coloured Uno made its first public appearance balanced on its two side-by-side wheels and its footpegs. Looking more like it should have been ridden by George Jetson as he pulled up to his space platform, it looked out of place amid the other custom creations in the building. Perhaps that’s why it garnered so much attention.


This is entrepreneurialism at its finest – I hope he gets rich from it!

The world’s first moving building!

Italian architect David Fisher is building his first skyscraper, the Dynamic Tower, and it happens to be one of the most ambitious construction plans since the Pyramid of Khufu. Every floor of the 80-story self-powered building rotates according to voice command, and nearly the entire structure of the $700 million building is pre-fabbed.

The rotation takes up to 3 hours (so you’re not always spilling your coffee), and gets power from photovoltaic solar cells and 79 wind turbines, one located between each floor. The system is meant to create enough energy to power to the entire tower and still have juice to spare for some surrounding buildings. According to Fisher, two of these $700 million futuristic scrapers are planned so far, one each in Dubai and Moscow.

The only part of the tower built on site will be the skinny center core. It is strong enough to hold the floors in place, and will contain the building’s elevators, which transport people and cars right to their door. Each floor will be made piece by piece in a factory in Italy … and placed onto the core using a lift system.


Some more details:

The one planned for Dubai will rise 1,380 feet into the air. Sales of individual apartments will begin in September, with asking prices of around $3,000 per square foot. The smallest, at 1,330 square feet, would cost about $4 million and the largest, a 12,900-square-foot villa, $38.7 million.

A few penthouse villas would spin on command using a voice-activated computer. The motion of the rest of the building would be choreographed in patterns that could be altered over time.

This is pretty amazing! Not only will it be visually appealing, but it amazes me the capacity some people have for engineering incredible stuff.

Have a great weekend!

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I'm a gun-owning, Bible-thumping, bitter clinger conservative in the heartland. You can disagree with me if you want (you do, after all, have a right to be wrong)...just don't be rude or stupid and we'll get along just fine! :)

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