Tech Universe: Friday 4 November

By Miraz Jordan

The Landsat 7 satellite appears to have been hacked twice in 2008. Image / NASA
The Landsat 7 satellite appears to have been hacked twice in 2008. Image / NASA

HACK A SAT: It seems Nasa's Terra AM-1 satellite may have been hacked, and not just once. Two suspicious events were noticed in 2008, but no data was lost apparently. The satellite studies climate, weather and ground use. Landsat-7 is also reported to have been hacked twice. That weather report must have been specially interesting! Talking Points Memo.

AVATAR WARMTH: A study by Northeastern University in the USA found that some patients responded really well to a warm and engaging virtual nurse. They preferred the virtual nurse because they didn't feel rushed or talked down to, and some developed a degree of emotional attachment. The avatars are equipped with hand gestures and facial expressions derived from watching real-life nurses as they interacted with patients. They also use some basic small-talk with a choice of answers to help put patients at ease. It's a bit sad when patients find virtual nurses more amenable than real ones.
Technology Review.

PAGE TURNER: Researchers at the University of Munich and the Hasso Plattner Institute hope to have us tapping on almost anything to control gadgets — even clothes or pieces of paper. The possibility arises because the touch of a finger could be detected by a simple set of wires in the fabric or paper. The principle is similar to radar: sending out pulses and noticing minute variations in the reflected pulse. Now they need to find ways to shrink and refine the tech. At last: maybe we'll be able to tap on a paper book to turn the page. Technology Review.

OH LED!: The University of Toronto have been making low-cost, flexible and highly efficient organic light-emitting diodes by putting them on plastic. At the moment the items they produce are tiny, but it should be easy to scale up for commercial use. The OLEDs could be used in devices like cellphones or TVs, but because they can be flexible they could be shaped for specific uses too. The wristphone is on its way.
University of Toronto.

SENSITIVE COTTON: Scientists at Cornell University have been creating transistors out of cotton fibres coated with gold nanoparticles along with semiconductive and conductive polymers. Clothes made with this material could perhaps sense your temperature and heat up or cool down, track your heartrate and do other tasks. You could soon be wearing your electronics, not carrying them. Cornell University.

- Miraz Jordan

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