Tech Universe: Friday 7 December

By Miraz Jordan

Lost your keys? There's something to help find them. Photo / Thinkstock
Lost your keys? There's something to help find them. Photo / Thinkstock

5 HOURS TO EUROPE: The SABRE from Reaction Engines is an air-breathing rocket engine that combines jet turbine and rocket technology. It can fly around the world or boost into space and land again on a runway. The engines could power SKYLON, a new type of reusable space vehicle. The key to the engine is lightweight and highly efficient heat exchangers that cool the incoming airstream from over 1,000C to -150C in less than 1/100th of a second without blocking with frost. The makers say this could allow a commercial aircraft to fly between Europe and Australia in less than 5 hours. Plus, of course, double that for airport checkins, security and Customs.

BLUE STICKER ITEMS: Lost your keys or bus pass? The StickNFind might have helped if you'd applied it before you lost the item.

The coin sized stickers weigh almost nothing and are equipped with low-energy Bluetooth. A smartphone app then lets you locate the item a sticker's attached to. Each tag has a sound and light that can be triggered separately. The app can also alert you when an item comes into or goes out of range. A small battery in each sticker should last about a year with 30 minutes daily use. Stick one on your lunch container in the office fridge.

TICKER CHECKER: The AliveCor iPhone case is intended for doctors. On the back are a couple of large electrodes. Rest two fingers on them, or press the case against the chest to monitor pulse, heart rhythm or ECG. Data from the electrodes is sent to the phone for analysis. A small battery inside the case provides juice for 12,000 scans, each 30 seconds long. The app doesn't provide medical information — that's for a doctor to do when analysing the data. That's a case to make the heart race.

CAR BIKE: The ELF is a blend of three-wheeled bicycle and eco-car. Pedal it, or relax and enjoy the lithium battery assist with energy stored from rooftop solar panels or plugging the vehicle in at the wall. It's a single-seater with a range of almost 50 km. There's enough space in the back for groceries. Headlights, brake lights and turn signals round out the features. Hmm, bike lane or car lane?

PRETTY IN PINK, AND BLUE, AND GREEN: Auroras are pretty spectacular to watch with the naked eye. But NORUSCA II, a new camera in Norway, can simultaneously image 41 separate spectral bands within an aurora. The new camera switches between the optical bands in microseconds and may have already revealed a new phenomenon to do with airglow in auroras. More imaging, more data, more discoveries. It's a rich world we live in.

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