While NASA prepares its next Martian rover to launch in 2011, other minds on Earth are developing an alternative means to explore the Red Planet. Instead of roving, why not hop around Mars and cover a lot more ground?
Draper Laboratory is developing a concept vehicle that would land on the Martian surface and then propulsively leap to interesting spots, traveling miles with each hop.
In a recent release, Draper says that two hopper vehicles could cover a total of 25 miles on Mars in only a few hours or days. As of September 8, NASA's Spirit and Opportunity … Read more
Mobile-device typing has changed significantly with the iPhone's functional touch-screen keyboard, Android's reasonably advanced word-prediction system, and Swype's technology for sliding fingers over letters. But as any touch typist or hunt-and-peck tapper knows, mobile typing is still … Read more
But they're poised to pedal even further toward the future, if any of the winning designs from the international Seoul Cycle Design Competition 2010 ever hit the pavement. The contest, organized by design magazine designboom in collaboration with the Seoul Design Foundation, tasked inventors with envisioning cycles that could advance Seoul, South Korea, as an eco-aware, design-conscious city.
More than 3,000 designers from 88 countries took … Read more
The next time you get injured, go ahead and swear.
Researchers who found that cursing actually relieves pain were among the winners of Ig Nobel prizes today. Also honored were projects on whale snot and certain things fruit bats do while copulating.
Sponsored by the science humor magazine "Annals of Improbable Research," the annual awards were presented tonight in a ceremony at Harvard University to projects that "cannot and should not be reproduced."
The Ig Nobel peace prize was awarded to research from Keele University in the U.K. that confirmed that swearing can lessen pain. … Read more
How do you increase the odds that a shirt you bought online will fit just right? Well, you could cross your fingers--or enlist the help of a new shape-shifting robot mannequin that shows you how clothes hang on your frame.
The headless robot is part of a virtual fitting room service for retailers created by Estonian start-up Fits.me. Customers shopping at a participating site enter their body measurements online (height, chest, arm length, torso, type, and so on), then see photos of a mannequin shaped just like them "trying on" the item they're eyeing in different sizes and styles.
For now, the robo-mannequin can only step in for male shoppers. Created using scientific algorithms based on more than 30,000 3D human body scans, it can shift into 2,000 different male body shapes (wait, are there really that many male body shapes?!), gaining or losing pecs and biceps with the adjustment of a scroll bar.
The virtual fitting room, which launched earlier this year, is currently being tested by several retailers, including Germany's Quelle and U.K.-based Hawes & Curtis, which makes and sells shirts and other apparel items.
"Not only do we expect it to increase sales," Hawes & Curtis' e-commerce director, Antony Comyns, told the BBC, "but it should also cut down on returns, because customers should be receiving a product that fits perfectly on their bodies." … Read more
The House of Representatives voted late Wednesday to accept the Senate's version of NASA's $19 billion fiscal 2011 budget proposal, which would provide money for an additional shuttle flight, kick-start development of a new heavy-lift booster for deep-space exploration, and fund the development of commercial manned spacecraft for trips to and from low-Earth orbit.
With no amendments allowed, the vote was 304 in favor and 118 against.
"This is a great night for our nation's space program," Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said in a statement. "This bill is a blueprint for how … Read more
A team of astronomers said today that they've discovered the first solid example of a planet outside our solar system that could sustain life.
The planet, Gliese (pronounced "GLEE-zuh") 581g, orbits a star about 20 light-years away from Earth and is just the right distance from the star to enjoy temperatures that are hospitable to water in liquid form--and that are thus, researchers said, hospitable to life.
"Our findings offer a very compelling case for a potentially habitable planet," Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California at Santa Cruz and … Read more
Let's face it: the typical tweet in the Twitosphere (if you need help with the vernacular, consult the Twictionary) is about as revelatory as the words going into the cell phone of the girl sitting behind me on the bus last night. The vast majority are meaningless to strangers--and probably even to close friends.
But the sheer volume of Twitter activity (the site is "over capacity" as I type this) turns otherwise banal tweets into telling trends, when scrutinized in the aggregate, and health trends are no exception.
"A microblogging service such as Twitter is a … Read more
The Eurocopter Group is working on a concept aircraft that's a hybrid of a helicopter and a fixed-wing plane, the company announced today.
Dubbed the X3, the concept--which looks mostly like a helicopter, but with airplane propellers at either side--is designed to offer "the speed of a turboprop-powered aircraft" while boasting the hovering and vertical take-off and landing capabilities of a helicopter.
Ultimately, Eurocopter hopes to sell its concept to organizations that require "maximum cruising speed." It said that the hybrid rotorcraft could come in especially handy on search-and-rescue missions and other highly time-sensitive operations … Read more
"It has the potential of being a safer way of doing what's already being done--delivering information that people are already getting with in-car GPS navigation systems," says lead author William Provancher, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Utah.
He adds that the study was based on a "multiple resource model" of how people process information, where our senses are considered resources that relay information to our brains:
"You can only process so much," he says. "The theory is that if you provide information through different channels, you can provide more total information. Our sense of touch is currently an unexplored means of communication in the car."
Tactile systems that warn drivers if they are veering out of lanes already exist, but these devices actually turn the steering wheel, instead of prompting the driver to turn it.
Using the new device, the researchers studied 19 University of Utah undergraduates (13 men and 6 women) in four driving scenarios, each one lasting 6 minutes and including, randomly, 12 cues to move right and 12 to move left. During the simulations, each driver's index fingertips rested on a red TrackPoint cap from an IBM ThinkPad computer that gently stretches skin clockwise to indicate right turns and counterclockwise to indicate left.
In two scenarios, the drivers talked via cell phone to a person in the lab while receiving directions from a computer voice or the touch devices on the steering wheel. In the other two scenarios, the drivers did not talk on cell phones.… Read more
Wearables are largely aimed at the person who just wants to maintain a good weight, sleep enough, and maybe get in a little cardio. CNET's Brian Cooley tells you why 2014 could be the breakout year for wearable tech.