Tech Universe: Wednesday 30 November

By Miraz Jordan

An artist's impression of the "sky crane" technique that will be used to lower the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover onto the surface of Mars when it lands next August. Photo / NASA
An artist's impression of the "sky crane" technique that will be used to lower the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover onto the surface of Mars when it lands next August. Photo / NASA

CURIOUS CAR: Nasa's latest Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, Curiosity, is now on its way to Mars, expected to land in around 250 days. The vehicle is about the size of a car and weighs 900 Kg. A lab on wheels it will sample rocks and soil then analyse them with the equipment it carries. The rover communicates with the Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter, in orbit around Mars, but also directly with Earth if necessary. Here's hoping it surpasses even Spirit and Opportunity in its usefulness and longevity. Nasa.


PHONES WITH STAMINA: Finnish researchers reckon they can cut power consumption of 3G smart phones up to 74 per cent. Their solution is to optimise a network proxy. They say that properly optimised websites and more efficient data caching could also make a big difference to how long phone batteries last.
Their work should have a big impact in countries such as Tanzania and Uganda where many people have cellphones, but limited access to electricity for recharging them.
Those sound like just the countries where small-scale solar power charging stations could be a big hit too.

AlphaGalileo.


ROAD JUICE: Imagine being able to charge up your electric car just by
driving along the road. Researchers from Stanford University believe it should be possible to embed special coils in roads to transfer power to cars with similar coils. Calculations suggest that in only 7 microseconds a set of resonant coils and discs could transfer about 10 kilowatts with 97 per cent efficiency.
The resonance of the two coils needs to be carefully tuned for the system to work. Get those regular tune ups or your car may run out of juice in the middle of the road. NewScientist.

BULLET RECOGNITION: Scottish police are using a high-res 3D camera to take images of bullets and cartridges found at crime scenes. The images are matched with those from bullets found at other crime scenes across the UK and Europe. Police hope to find matches and links with other crimes that will help them catch the perpetrators. Every day it's that bit harder to hide. BBC.


PATTERN MATCHING: Palantir Technologies is a US company that collates information — the sort of information that law enforcement agencies are interested in.
The datamining software pulls together information about banking transactions, travel, communications and human activities such as taking photos of public places to identify patterns of possible suspicious activities. Palantir reaches into existing databases, such as those held by the FBI and CIA to collate disparate yet connected items of information.
The software has its roots in PayPal where staff developed ways to deal with suspicious transactions that may have been part of money laundering schemes. But really its the interpretation of the data and patterns that counts.
Bloomberg Businessweek.


Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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