Tech Universe: Thursday 17 January

By Miraz Jordan

Norway has designed an electrically powered car ferry for crossing the Sognefjord. Photo/ Thinkstock
Norway has designed an electrically powered car ferry for crossing the Sognefjord. Photo/ Thinkstock

CHARGING FOR THE FJORDS: Norway is the land of fjords, so car ferries are a pretty handy thing. To cross the Sognefjord between the villages of Lavik and Oppedal you'll soon be able to take an electrically powered car ferry that will carry 120 cars and 360 passengers. And it will take only 10 minutes at each end to charge up the batteries. One problem though is that the local grid can't handle the sudden power draw, so batteries have been installed at each port to recharge the ferry. They in turn are slowly recharged from the local grid during the crossing. Way to go, Norway!

DAZZLING WHITE: Bicycle safety: bright lights, reflective strips — the same themes come up over and over again. But a powder coating from Halo really lights up the safety prospects. Josh's pale grey bike has LED lights and various other safety features, but at night it really shines — literally — because of its retro-reflective coating.

The whole frame lights up bright white when light hits it. It works because a retroreflector sends light back in the direction of its source so it can be seen at a much greater distance in low light conditions. The coating can be applied to plastic, metal and rubber at low cost. So long as it doesn't dazzle the driver behind the bike.

PLACE TAB A BESIDE TAB B: And you thought a Tab was part of your web browser… The PaperTab is a paper tablet computer that holds a single app or function. It looks and feels like a sheet of paper but it's fully interactive with a flexible, high-resolution 10.7" plastic display. For example, one PaperTab may show a photo while another shows a reply to an email. Tap the corner of the photo onto the email to attach the photo to the email. Put the PaperTab in an Out tray or bend the top corner of the display to send the email. Or place two PaperTabs together to create a larger display. This is a very different way of thinking and working.

BRING THE MOUNTAIN: The Americans are considering having a team of astronauts study an asteroid. But rather than sending the team deep into space to study the rock, they're thinking of bringing the rock to the astronauts. Or, more precisely, putting the asteroid known as 1999 AO10 in orbit round the Moon and having the team visit it there. A slow moving robot spacecraft would head over to the rock, study it, then capture it in a net and tow it back to the moon. Well, if you can't go to the mountain then bringing the mountain to you is a good second choice.

NEW CHIP, SHERLOCK: DNA from a crime scene can help track down offenders, if there's a match in DNA databases. But if there's no match detectives are no better off. The Identitas v1 Forensic Chip can produce much more refined results, suggesting gender, eye and hair colour, and even ancestry from a small sample of DNA, such as that found on a cigarette butt. The chip provides data on all the traits simultaneously, unlike current methods that can suggest two at most. The chip contains hundreds of thousands of short sequences of DNA, each of which can indicate a single trait when matched through binding. Tests found the chip up to 99% accurate in predicting gender, but only 63% accurate at predicting blond hair. What, no height and weight?

Miraz Jordan,

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