ROCK WATCHER: There are half a million asteroids out there orbiting the sun and we don't know when one might just collide with Earth. Sentinel will be the world's first privately funded space telescope, and it's designed to find and map the asteroids of the inner solar system. The infrared telescope will orbit the Sun close to the orbit of Venus, and scan for asteroids. Data sent back to Earth will be analysed to plot orbits, and possible future collisions. Then comes the matter of preventing those collisions. B612 Foundation has more info.
STORM WATCHER: Solar storms produce extra bursts of radiation that can endanger both astronauts and Earth-based electronics. It's a good idea to keep an eye on the storms, for safety's sake. You'd think a space telescope would do this job well, but it seems there's a better solution, and it's based here on Earth — at the South Pole. There are already neutron detectors in place there.
After analysing data collected over the last few years, physicists say they may be able to predict the maximum amount of radiation damage to be expected from future flares. I guess neutrons travel so quickly there's no time advantage in a space-based detector either. Science has the news.
BUSY HANDS: Pedalling a bike is good exercise for your legs, but what about your arms just hanging off the handlebars? Build up your arm muscles too with the German RaXibo Hand-Tret-Velo. A separate drivetrain adds hand cranks above the handlebars so the rider uses both arms and legs to pedal. The extra drivetrain feeds through to the rear wheel. It looks like very hard work. GizMag elaborates. Check out the video.
HANDY NODE: Variable Technologies has an interesting idea that could go far. Their Node is a small cylinder that fits in your hand. It contains a micro-USB port, low-energy Bluetooth, status-indicating LEDs, accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope. Then it has room for a couple of interchangeable modules. It connects to a smartphone where an app displays graphs and other information. Open APIs are designed to encourage Arduino development. Additional modules measure humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure, or anything you can design. That's a great adjunct to a smartphone. Variable Technologies details.
DOUBLE SUN: With solar cells you have to keep them pointed at the sun. The Israeli firm Bsolar may have just made that a bit easier: their solar cells are double-sided, making use of reflected light as well. The bifacial solar cells use monocrystalline silicon wafers and boron to capture reflected light on both sides. We may as well make more use of what we already have. GigaOM explains.
Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz