Tech Universe: Friday 22 March

By Miraz Jordan

A 17 year old student has created an Algae Biofuel Lab. Photo / Thinkstock
A 17 year old student has created an Algae Biofuel Lab. Photo / Thinkstock

17 YEAR OLD BIOFUEL: Bored of an evening? You could always create an Algae Biofuel Lab, as one 17 year old student in the US did to win a $100,000 science prize. Sara Volz used artificial selection to establish populations of algae cells with high oil content. Her research could reduce the cost of the normally quite costly biofuels. Kids today!

ON THE SWIM: Salamandra robotica II is a Swiss amphibious salamander-like robot. The robot has four legs and an actuated spine that let it both swim in water and walk on the ground. It's an updated version of an earlier model and lets researchers explore body and limb coordination in robots and animals like lizards that have a sprawling posture. That's a versatile robot. If only it could fly too.

POLICE NOTICES: Heading for Mexico City? If you like, the police will track your every move, thanks to their dedicated smartphone app. And if you need to call for help the app will do that for you too. Just hope the police aren't too busy to answer the phone as the call isn't automatically routed to an emergency number. The aim is to increase safety and help the police respond more quickly to emergencies. Will it also alert you if you stray into the wrong neighbourhoods?

THE HIGH STREET: Google Street View is commonly associated with photos of buildings on streets — it's all in the name, after all. Recently though they added views on and from Everest Base Camp, Mount Kilimanjaro and several other of the Seven Summits. Let others brave the snow and wind, and do your mountain climbing from your own desk.

FIND THE ZEBRA: A rare disease is usually defined as one that occurs in less than 1 in 2000 of the population, and may be referred to as a zebra, because it's rare and unexpected. Of course, that's still a lot of people who can be affected. Because the diseases are rare though, they're also hard and slow to diagnose, so doctors and others are likely to turn to web searching for help. The FindZebra search engine is dedicated to the diagnosis of rare diseases. The search engine crawls a specially selected set of curated databases on rare diseases, and tests have shown it to return better results than generic and general search engines such as Google. Get ready to zebra your symptoms.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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