Tech Universe: Wednesday 28 August

By Miraz Jordan

Artist impression of the Giant Magellan Telescope twilight.
Artist impression of the Giant Magellan Telescope twilight.

A VERY FINE MIRROR: The Giant Magellan Telescope is being built at the moment, as the third of its seven primary mirrors is cast at the University of Arizona. The mirror has to be polished to be accurate to within one twentieth the wavelength of light, or one part in 10 billion. In the process 20 tons of molten borosilicate glass will be spun cast at 1171 degrees Celsius. After cooling it's polished with a series of fine abrasives. The finished telescope is expected to be ready for use in 2020. It's astonishing that humans can achieve that level of accuracy in manufacturing.

WOTCHA: The Omate TrueSmart watch can make voice calls, send text messages and hook in with social media without depending on a smartphone, though it can pair with a smartphone if the wearer wants it to.

The watch runs on Android and includes a 5 megapixel camera and GPS. A microSD card can boost its 4 GB internal storage. The Multi-touch Capacitive Touch Screen is a 240x240 colour display. What next? A shoephone?

IN BRICKS WE TRUST: At the University of Newcastle in Australia researchers have found a way to take carbon emissions from power stations and turn them into paving stones and bricks. A pilot plant is starting tests soon. The idea behind the project is to permanently transform carbon dioxide, rather than just store it. But won't the bricks just release all that CO2 anyway as they weather?

LASERS AT WORK: Different types of bacteria and yeast are known to cause disease in people. But when a person has a disease it can take days to grow the pathogen and then work out which bacterium is at fault, yet choosing the best treatment depends on that information. A new device can shave several days off that discovery time. First a culture must be grown. Then a laser breaks down bacteria and yeast samples, which allows the device to identify the microbes by number and size of particles. The VITEK MS device itself can do its work within an hour, where researchers would need between 1 and 3 days. We're still a long way from the instantaneous identification doctors would like.

LETTERS FROM THE BRAIN: Researchers have used functional MRI scanners before now to figure out which part of a person's brain is active while they do a task such as reading. Now one research group has been able to work out just from brain scans which letter of the alphabet their test subjects were viewing. Next they plan to make a higher res scanner and work on images of faces. Neuron by neuron the brain is revealing its secrets.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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