Tech Universe: Monday 12 November

By Miraz Jordan

A Chandra X-ray image of Pictor A showing a jet emanating from it. Photo / NASA
A Chandra X-ray image of Pictor A showing a jet emanating from it. Photo / NASA

MATHS PLANET: Thanks to some very powerful statistical software astronomers have found a new potential habitable exoplanet around the star HD 40307. It's a mere 42 light years away in the constellation Pictor. The software analyses exoplanets radial velocity data, in this case gathered from the Arecibo telescope. Who ever thought of explorers and discoverers would be folks who sit around doing maths? Planetary Habitability Laboratory has further info.

STACK UP THE BREEZE: The lazy turn of a ceiling fan can be quite relaxing, but the Exhale fan doesn't use blades at all. Instead it uses a stack of rapidly spinning discs that move the air out to the sides by laminar flow. That circulates and mixes the air around the room, rather than just stirring the air beneath the fan. A gentle breeze all over the room. Indiegogo explains. Video here.

A SLOW READ: Scientists from the Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co Ltd in Japan have developed a slow-refresh LCD panel that can reduce the eye strain amongst those who watch displays for long hours. The specific technology reduces the number of screen refreshes needed to display a still image from 60x per second to 1x per second or less. The panel uses red, green and blue LEDs for backlighting. The researchers say the wavelength of this particular blue light isn't harmful to our eyes, so that also reduces eye strain. It must reduce power draw too. Tech-On! has more.

SAIL INTO THE WIND: Conventional wind turbines have giant blades, are expensive and inefficient. The Saphonian from Saphon Energy has no spinning parts but rather a sail-shaped body. The wind is harnessed by a sail that follows a non-rotational back and forth motion. Pistons convert the kinetic energy into mechanical energy. That creates hydraulic pressure that can be stored or directly converted into electricity. A prototype was twice as efficient as conventional wind turbines at almost half the cost. I can see how the wind would push the sail back, but what allows it to come forward again? Saphon Energy details. Video here.

STRAIGHT HIT: Bulky steel and lightweight Kevlar are both good at stopping bullets. But how about a thin and almost weightless fabric? Researchers at MIT developed a self-assembling polymer using rubbery layers for resilience, alternating with glassy layers for strength. Then they developed a technique for studying the effects of different kinds of impact. In scaled down tests the team found that head-on hits were absorbed 30 per cent more effectively than edge-on impacts. Being able to effectively measure the effects of impacts is what may allow new materials to be developed. Just so long as the shooters aim straight on. MIT news elaborates.

Miraz Jordan,

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