Tech Universe: Wednesday 07 August

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

TOP HEAVY: Take a skyscraper and add an earthquake: there will be a lot of swaying going on. The Japanese have developed a seismic control device to suppress slow and large vibrations on the upper floors during major earthquakes. The device hangs 6 giant steel pendulums that weigh 300 tons each on the rooftop level. Their purpose is to halve the amplitude of vibrations by swinging in the direction opposite to long-period seismic motions, acting as a counterweight. That's a lot of extra weight on the rooftop. If the earthquake lifts rather than sways the building, what then?

TINY ADVANCES: The earlier cancer can be diagnosed the better the chances for recovery. But symptoms may be slow to appear. On the other hand biomarkers circulate in the blood before other symptoms show up. That means that a small diagnostic device from the Chinese Academy of Sciences could make speedy medical intervention possible.

The inexpensive and easy-to-use device works with microfluidics to manipulate tiny amounts of blood for analysis through micro- and nano-scale channels. The device displays results so they can be read by the naked eye or a digital camera. It can be taken anywhere to diagnose patients, making it specially useful for rural and remote places.

HITTING THE WALL: In the UK house sparrows are losing their habitat and numbers are declining far enough to add them to the list of endangered species. Even improved insulation in houses means fewer spots for the birds to nest. Keen house owners can help though, with the Bird Brick, a fire-clamped cavity brick that can be built into walls and to provide a sustainable nesting site for the birds. Five hand-made bricks assemble to create a small, round opening plugged with a brick stopper that includes a hole large enough for sparrows and similar small birds. The stopper is there to allow humans to open up the cavity if it needs cleaning out. If new buildings were to include a few of the bricks perhaps the sparrow population would increase. An approach to consider for New Zealand endangered birds perhaps?

OFF-COURSE: If you happen to own an $80 million superyacht you might think the navigation system could reliably get you where you want to go. In a recent test though a team of university students broadcast faint GPS signals to a superyacht's systems. The spoofed signals gradually overpowered authentic signals and gave the students stealthy control. They were then able to send the yacht off on a new course, even fooling electronic charts and the crew on board. While this test was carried out with the permission of the ship's owners and crew it demonstrates a possible vulnerability for all ships. It's alarming how absolutely everything needs to be secured these days.

UNFOLD A BOAT: The Quickboat is a fold-up boat that assembles in less than 5 minutes, much less if you have a helper, and doesn't require any tools. When assembled, the 4 metre long boat can carry 4 people. The folded up boat can be carried in two bags with a total weight of 35 Kg. Kevlar and fibreglass hinges are strong, flexible and durable, while the panels of the hull are made from advanced composite materials. That's easier than messing around with a trailer.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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