Tech Universe: Thursday 06 June

By Miraz Jordan

Shipping lanes are being changed to avoid killing whales. Photo / Thinkstock
Shipping lanes are being changed to avoid killing whales. Photo / Thinkstock

WHALE OF AN APP: From time to time both ships and whales try to occupy the same bit of the ocean at the same time, and it usually doesn't end well for the whales. This is a particular problem in the mile-wide shipping lanes that funnel maritime traffic into the San Francisco Bay and to the ports in the Los Angeles area. Now the shipping lanes are being changed at the same time that monitoring is being increased. One key element is a smartphone app that allows anyone to record whale sightings, while flights and observers will also monitor whales in certain areas. Couldn't ships install sensors to monitor for whales and other vessels too, in the way that some cars can watch for pedestrians?

IN THE DRINK: The Dotonbori Canal is in Osaka, Japan. The area was once a disused waterfront, but it has now been renovated and is known for its thriving nightlife. Now there are plans to create the world's largest outdoor swimming pool in the canal.

Although the canal itself is polluted, an area 12 metres wide by 800 metres long will be filled with purified city water. The pool will be open during the summer from 2015. I guess if you were going to fall in the canal, it would be wise to choose your spot.

I THINK THEREFORE I PRINT: 3D printing and controlling things with your mind are both very popular topics at the moment, but the two don't usually go together. Thinker Thing are changing that. They combine an EmotivEPOC headset with a MakerBot Industries Replicator loaded up with ABS plastic. The idea is to capture the headset wearer's thought patterns and emotions and turn them into a 3D printed object. In particular Thinker Thing hope to make it possible for young children to create objects directly from their imagination. Don't just dream it; print it.

TWIST AND SHAPE: Shapeways handle 3D printing for the public. A new material they're working on is a flexible, rubbery plastic called Elasto Plastic. The laser sinted powder elasto-polymer can be slightly compressed and return to its shape, is flexible, but doesn't extend when pulled unless the geometry of the item is created for extension. That means the material can take more stress and impact than other standard materials. With 3D printing becoming increasingly popular a broad range of materials is a very useful thing.

SUDSY SPANS: When you think of recycling plastic you probably don't imagine the material being used in bridges. The Onion Ditch Bridge in Ohio though is one of many bridges made from 80% post consumer plastic such as lotion and detergent bottles and 20% recycled car bumpers and dashboards. The materials in the bridge don't absorb moisture, they don't rot and they are impervious to insect infestations. The bridge itself is expected to last for 50 years. How many detergent bottles does it take to make one bridge?

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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