Tech Universe: Wednesday 27 July

By Miraz Jordan

Let there be light, with a bottle of water and a bit of bleach. Photo / Thinkstock
Let there be light, with a bottle of water and a bit of bleach. Photo / Thinkstock

LITRES OF LIGHT: Many people around the world have neither indoor lighting nor electricity. But maybe all it takes to add light is a soft drink bottle filled with water and a bit of bleach. The bottle is put through a small hole in the roof, leaving the top part exposed to the sun. Light refracts through the water in the bottle and spreads around 60 watts of light inside. The bleach helps prevent algae build-up, keeping the water clear for several years. MacGyver would be proud. Reuters video shows how it's working in Indonesia.

SWEATY FINGERS: A UK company, Intelligent Fingerprinting, have created a handheld device for police that detects traces of drug use through the sweat excreted through fingertips. Gold nanoparticles are coated with antibodies that react to specific metabolites in the fingerprint.
Fluorescent dies show up the presence of specific drugs such as cocaine, methadone or cannabis. Results could be available in minutes, making it suitable for testing drivers.

What's the betting it won't just be police using it soon? New Scientist details more.

SCIENCE FOR THE BIRDS: Queensland University of Technology researchers placed automated acoustic sensors in the bush to listen for bird song.
Recordings are transmitted to an online digital library. But that system creates a huge mass of data that must be sifted, so software determines possible sounds of interest in the recordings and posts them online. Then volunteer birdwatching enthusiasts classify the sounds. In one test traditional methods detected 35 bird species but the new approach found 61 birds. Twitchers, you're on! Science Alert explains.

LIVE IN YOUR CAR: The world's smallest motorhome fits in the boot of your car — as a set of modular boxes. The swissRoomBox lets you cook, eat, take a shower and sleep by packing in a table, cooker and even the kitchen sink and a toilet. The modules can be cleverly configured and reconfigured into various shapes and furniture, using interlocking pieces. The water boiler, pump, fridge and other items run off your car's battery. The Swiss excel at saving space. More at Idealog.

IN-CAR ECG: Toyota has ideas to keep tabs on your heart while you drive. An optical sensor in the steering wheel will pick up a single-lead ECG signal and add an alert to the dashboard display if any anomalies show up. It could also act as a daily health check.
Surely suddenly spotting an anomaly would make your driving less safe, not more so! MedGadget fills in the details.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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