Tech Universe: Monday 19 March

By Miraz Jordan

'The 'Wreath Nebula' shot by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. Photo / NASA
'The 'Wreath Nebula' shot by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. Photo / NASA

560 MILLION SPOTS: NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mapped the entire sky in 2010. It collected more than 2.7 million images taken at 4 infrared wavelengths of light — that's more than 15 trillion bytes of returned data. Now the individual WISE exposures have been combined into an atlas of more than 18,000 images covering the sky and listing the infrared properties of more than 560 million individual objects. The WISE mission was responsible for many discoveries, including a new type of asteroid and a new class of star. That's a lot of imagery to process. More at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

HOT SPOTS: The US Military's Active Denial System isn't like a microwave oven because the radio wave frequency it uses is too slow and doesn't penetrate deeply enough. But the weapon does create an unbearable sensation of heat that causes a person to move away. The 95 gigahertz heat ray is effective from even 1,000 metres, and could be used for crowd control, mob dispersal, checkpoint security and similar purposes.

The weapon's stealthy: there's no warning that the heat is on its way, but it's very effective. If you can't stand the heat head for the kitchen. More here.

PINK SPOTS: It seems the Cardiff Council in Wales want to use some special technology to deter antisocial behaviour in certain areas of town. They're thinking of installing pink lighting because it highlights pimples on teenage skin, and they think boys will avoid areas where the lights are coloured pink. And troublesome teenagers
would never think of destroying the lights, I'm sure. BBC has more.

CELL PEEL: Twin Creeks Technologies in the USA has found a way to make thin wafers of crystalline silicon that halves the cost of making silicon solar cells. Their Proton Induced Exfoliation uses less silicon and reduces manufacturing costs. While silicon blocks are traditionally cut up by saw, creating a kind of sawdust waste, the new process fires hydrogen ions to a precise depth in a block. Hydrogen bubbles form that lift a thin layer of silicon away from the rest, leaving no waste. It's good to know exfoliation can be so useful. Details at Twin Creeks Technologies and video here.

PRESS PLAY: Use conductive ink to print circuits on paper and all kinds of things become possible. For example, the prototype Listening Post poster shows a map and thumbnail images of bands performing nearby. Press the thumbnail image on the poster so a short music clip plays, and you can book tickets to listen to them live. The poster and similar products have been developed by a British research partnership. And when the paper with printed circuits reaches the end of its useful life — can it be recycled, or must it go to landfill? The BBC has more here.

- Miraz Jordan knowit.co.nz

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