Tech Universe: Monday 15 October

By Miraz Jordan

The Polaris lunar rover's mission will be to look for water ice at the moon's poles. Photo / Thinkstock
The Polaris lunar rover's mission will be to look for water ice at the moon's poles. Photo / Thinkstock

ICE WOULD BE NICE: The Polaris lunar rover from Astrobotic is now a completed prototype. The mission for the real thing will be to search for water ice at the moon's poles. It will also prospect for water, oxygen, methane, and other volatiles that could be useful for energy, supporting life, and producing rocket fuel. Solar panels on the rover will produce 250W of power. The rover's about the size of a small car and can carry up to 70 Kg of scientific instruments. To determine its location on the moon the rover will match surface pictures with satellite imagery taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. They need to get a few GPS satellites in place. Astrobotic details. Video here.

CARGO SURFING: Military cargo aircraft suck up a lot of fuel, so it's not surprising that the US Air Force are looking for ways to reduce fuel consumption. Their latest tests are with vortex surfing, or using the airflow from a leading aircraft to help lift a trailing craft.

This use of air flow is already common with migrating birds, racing cyclists and car racers. Formation flight system software does the trick, by positioning the trailing craft in the best place to benefit from the leading craft's airflow. Tests suggest that over a long flight fuel consumption could be reduced by 10 per cent. That's handy, if you happen to have several aircraft all going to the same place at the same time. Network World has the news.

CHEAP READS: The txtr beagle is a low-cost ereader designed to connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth. The device is 5 mm thick and weighs 128 grams. It has a 12.7 cm grayscale E Ink 800 x 600 pixel display. Two AAA batteries in the base form a hand rest and provide enough power to read around 12 or 15 books. Cheap ereaders for school books would be a handy thing. Txtr explains. Check out the video.

WASTE NOT: 2.5 billion people don't have access to basic sanitation facilities such as toilets, which leads to millions of deaths each year and a lot of sickness. One problem is that the toilets we take for granted require huge amounts of water that would be better used for drinking or other purposes. A solar powered toilet from the California Institute of Technology aims to help. It breaks down human waste into fertiliser and hydrogen gas that can be used in fuel cells. Treated water can be used for irrigation or to flush the toilet. Photovoltaic cells capture enough light in a day and produce enough power to run the system for 24 hours. Even if they could put them in schools and markets, that would help. BBC elaborates.

CHATTY WRISTS: The Larklife bracelet tracks your sleep, what you eat, and your exercise to help you make better decisions about your health. A 3-axis accelerometer tracks movement, while flashing lights give instant feedback and an app connected via Bluetooth helps you make sense of the data. The Larklife learns while you wear it and can alert you that you've been sitting for too long or that it's time to eat. Generally my body tells me those things; a bracelet would be redundant. Wired has further info.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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