Tech Universe: Friday 31 May

By Miraz Jordan

Scientists are wanting to place a telescope on the moon looking back at earth. Photo / Thinkstock
Scientists are wanting to place a telescope on the moon looking back at earth. Photo / Thinkstock

WATCHING ME WATCHING YOU: Most big telescopes are on Earth or in space looking outward. But the International Lunar Observatory precursor by Moon Express will be on the Moon looking at Earth. And not just that, but the public will be able to go online, manouevre the telescope and view the Earth from the lunar surface. The software has already been tested with the telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawai'i. The developers aim to have the telescope in place by the end of 2015. And the 'precursor' in the name? It signals a more permanent lunar telescope to be installed on the moon's south pole in the future. It seems an odd viewing target for a telescope that's off-planet.

ANY BIKE YOU LIKE: If you need to get around in New York you might consider joining up with Citi Bike. Thousands of bikes are available for hire at hundreds of stations around New York. Each station has a touchscreen kiosk, a map of the area, and a docking system that releases bikes for rental with a card or key.

Buy a 24-hour or 7-day pass, or sign up for an annual membership. Then use your code to release any bike, adjust the seat and ride to your destination. At the other end dock the bike again at any station. What a great way to see a new city. Citi Bike.

SEEING EYE TRUCK: It's a bad thing to nod off when you're driving any vehicle, but in a huge truck with a massive load it's particularly perilous. Caterpillar has a system to spot when a truck driver is about to fall asleep. A camera detects a driver's pupil size, how frequently they blink, and how long they keep their eyes shut. It also tracks where the user's mouth is, to work out when the driver isn't looking at the road. An accelerometer and GPS confirm the truck is actually in motion and a computer analyses all the data. If the system decides the driver has nodded off an alarm sounds and the seat vibrates. Video is also streamed back to base so the driver can be monitored. It wouldn't hurt to flash the lights too so others know to get out of the way.

ROLL YOUR OWN DISPLAY: The Monkey Light Pro is a set of 256 ultra-bright, full color LEDs that clip on a bike's spokes as a set of strips. They're not just static lights though, rather you can send them images and animations via Bluetooth. The images are already loaded into the lights or you can create and use your own. A lithium-ion battery keeps the lights running for up to 8 hours before you need to recharge them via USB cable. Just watch out for the distracted drivers looking at your bike wheels.

A LIGHT CURL: A graphene-based hydrogel created by scientists at the University of California curls up when you shine a laser on it. The process is similar to plants bending towards a light source because cells on the side farthest from the light elongate. The laser light causes proteins in the hydrogel to release water and dry out, creating a curl. When the laser's turned off the gel uncurls again. The curl can be repeated more than 100 times. That just has to be useful.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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