Tech Universe: Friday 20 April

By Miraz Jordan

On the off-chance you lose a USB stick with top-secret documents stored, you could go the way of the British Secret Service with a thumb drive that can be destroyed on command. Photo / Thinkstock
On the off-chance you lose a USB stick with top-secret documents stored, you could go the way of the British Secret Service with a thumb drive that can be destroyed on command. Photo / Thinkstock

FILE - MELT: Keeping your super-secret documents on a memory stick? We all know what happens when you lose the USB stick. But now there's a thumb drive being used by the British Secret Service that can destroy confidential files. An embedded GPS device lets the owner track where the USB stick is. It has a battery that recharges when it's plugged into a computer. The owner can block access to documents via an encoded text message or though a web app, and if all else fails, they can issue a remote destroy command where a high voltage charge melts the chip. Imagine that self-destruct command glitching and firing by mistake or by virus! Check it out at BBC.

MODEL BRAIN: Brain surgeons have to start somewhere with practising their techniques. The Cybram 001 Cybernetic Brain Artery Model is a life-size see-through plastic patient fitted out with cerebral blood vessels so students can learn how to do certain types of brain surgery.

A circulation pump and pressure control circuit realistically simulate blood flow and pressure, while a touch panel allows the surgeon to set blood pressure and heart rate in the model. The model can be used for training surgeons, equipment testing and for education. How did brain surgeons practice in the past, I wonder? DigInfo News has more.

GARBAGE UNDER THE SUN: Landfills eventually reach capacity and are then generally sealed with a polyethylene cap, covered in soil and grassed over. That can be good to look at, but the noxious waste below ground means the area can't really be used for much. The Hickory Ridge landfill in Georgia, USA is covered instead with more than 7,000 thin-film photovoltaic solar panels on top of a special membrane. The landfill now produces enough energy to power around 225 homes. Garbage in; power out. Go to Scientific American for details.

INFO GREED: The Department of Homeland Security in the US are buying a war surplus camera to keep a rather comprehensive eye on the southern border. The Kestrel camera provides high resolution images of entire miles of border in a single frame. The DHS plan to attach the camera to a blimp or aerostat to watch for illegal immigrants and illicit activities. Then they hope to find software that can handle the glut of data the camera produces. Just watch the data stack up till it's
useless. Wired explains.

HOMER PAGE: The University of Oxford and the Vatican plan to digitise 1.5 million pages of rare and ancient texts in a project that's expected to take 4 years. The project will include works by Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Hippocrates along with many church texts and Hebrew manuscripts. The work is made possible by a donation that aims to help democratise access to information. Slowly, slowly, the world's files are going online. For further information visit Ars Technica.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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