Tech Universe: Monday 29 July

By Miraz Jordan

Imagine giant mirrors on the hillside of a Norwegian town. Photo / Thinkstock
Imagine giant mirrors on the hillside of a Norwegian town. Photo / Thinkstock

LET THE SUNSHINE IN: The town of Rjukan in Norway is surrounded by mountains. For 5 months of the year the sun doesn't reach the floor of the valley. Never mind, though, 3 heliostats 450 metres above the city will bring light and happiness. The locals are installing 100 square metres of mirror on top of one of the hills to reflect sunlight down into the town square. 200 square metres of the square will be illuminated in an ellipse. The mirrors will derive their energy from sun and wind, while a preset computer programme will move them through
2 axes of motion to follow the sun's path throughout the year. We tend to take walking in sunshine so much for granted.

FLY US TO THE MOON: The International Lunar Observatory Association and Moon Express are working together to put a couple of telescopes on a mountain at the South Pole of the Moon.

The 2-meter radio antenna, and a smaller optical telescope, could perhaps be placed on the 5 Km high rim of Malapert crater where they would have a clear view of the centre of the Milky Way, unimpeded by atmosphere or all the radio and electromagnetic noise we create. Oh, and they hope to land the telescopes on the Moon in 2016. Ambitious, much?

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE EYE: Astronomers are used to detecting faint traces of light in the darkness of the universe. That's why they're the ones who helped develop a Retinal Densitometer for eye doctors. Age-Related Macular Degeneration affects a small part of the retina on the back of the eye and leads to loss of vision when looking at something directly ahead. The Densitometer measures how well the eye adapts to dark after exposure to bright light, an indicator that there may be a problem with vision. The software, light sensors and cameras in the Densitometer were developed by astronomers for star-gazing, but now will be gazing deep into eyes instead.

EVERY BREATH WE TAKE: Mosquitoes are more than just annoying. In the places where they carry malaria, especially in Africa, South-East Asia and South America, they cause thousands of deaths each year. They find humans to bite by the CO2 we exhale. The Kite Patch is a small colourful square, roughly 4 cm on a side, that you can stick on your clothing to keep mosquitoes away for 48 hours. The patch uses non-toxic compounds that disrupt the mosquito's ability to detect our CO2, making it harder for them to track us. We need to watch this.

WATCHING US WATCHING YOU: Take a good-looking cylinder and pack it full of sensors. Add a smartphone app and you may have a Canary home security system. The Canary contains an HD video camera with night vision and a wide angle lens, and multiple sensors that track everything from motion, temperature and air quality to vibration, sound, and activity. Use your smartphone to control the Canary, receive alerts when something seems wrong or just to check on how things are going at home. The makers claim the only setup needed is to plug in the device, though there must be settings for alerts and so on. At the moment the product is at prototype stage, but it sounds like a great way to keep an eye on dogs, family members and possessions while you're out and about.

Miraz Jordan,

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