Tech Universe: Friday 26 October

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

DEER LIGHTS: Wildlife crossing the road is a real danger in some places, like the US. If a vehicle collides with a deer or moose the animal is often killed, the vehicle damaged and humans may be injured or killed too. DeerDeter from Austria uses solar-powered light-sensitive pods attached to roadside stakes in areas where dense foliage flanks the road. When a car's headlights activate the pod a strobe flashes to simulate a predator and the pod creates sounds like those of a wounded animal. The combined light and noise distract nearby animals while the car passes. Test data shows a severe or total reduction in the number of animals hit. How's the driver distraction rate? Wired.

BLACK SCREEN OF DEATH: Boeing's Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project sends out a high-powered microwave pulse when it reaches its target. It's the kind if pulse that disables all electronic equipment, such as computers.

The weapon succeeded in knocking out all the targeted computers in a test, while not harming any people or buildings. And with people increasingly relying on personal medical electronics that 'collateral' damage may just be greater than envisioned in real-life work. Boeing.

MOUSE ALERT: Dogs can sniff out explosives such as those used in landmines, but so can mice. Mice also have the advantage that they don't trigger the mines. Researchers at the City University of New York have genetically engineered mice to have a sense of smell hundreds of times sharper than unmodified mice. The engineered mice have 10,000 to 1,000,000 odour-sensing neurons with a special TNT-detecting receptor compared with only 4,000 in a normal animal.

This sensitivity means that instead of needing to be trained to react to explosives the mice would involuntarily experience a seizure when they smell TNT. Then an implanted chip would track, report, and record their behaviours. Let loose the mice of war! Technology Review.

GOOD VIBRATIONS: Stuttering is a genetic and neurological condition that affects around 1 person in every hundred. Researchers at the University of Mississippi have created a cellphone-sized battery-powered device that helps people who stutter to speak more fluently. The device is based on one researcher's finding that he could speak more fluently with a hand on his throat. The tactile feedback, where he could feel his throat vibrate while speaking, made the difference. So if a hand works, why the gadget? University of Mississippi.

OUT OF THIN AIR: Getting oil is such a messy business, with all the drilling, transport mishaps and the like. Then much of it is refined into petrol for our cars and trucks. Imagine if we could make petrol out of thin air instead. That's just what Air Fuel Synthesis in the UK have done: combining air and water to create synthetic fuel. The demonstration unit has made 5 litres of petrol since August, but full production, expected in 2015, will be much more efficient. Although it sounds good, if it needs potable water it may not be as helpful as it seems. BBC.

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