Tech Universe: Tuesday 24 September

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

DON'T LOSE THE LIGHT: It's a pain to get back to your bike and find someone has removed the lights. The Fortified Bicycle Alliance's Afterburner and Aviator lights are indestructible and theft resistant. The lights lock to the handlebars and seat post with proprietary screws. A high capacity lithium-ion cell powers the lights and can be recharged via USB. The lights come in 30 to 300 lumen options, white or red. Be safe out there folks.

THE BIKE THAT'S BENT: Bikes may have shock absorbers in the forks. Alter Cycles take a different approach in its new commuter bikes: the shock absorber forms part of the frame. The down tube is curved like a bow and available in 3 levels of stiffness to suit the quality of the road. If you like, you can swap out the down tube for a different one even after purchase. It seems like you wouldn't have to worry about maintenance.

NIFTY 25: The tiny Stigo folding electric scooter can travel at up to 25 Kph. It folds with two easy clicks into a 40x45 cm footprint that's easy to wheel. At 17 Kg it's not too heavy to pull up steps either. The 250W hub motor is driven by a 36V LiFePO4 battery for up to 40 Km on a charge. Ah, memories of the old step through bikes.

LOOK CLOSELY: When we humans look around our eyes easily shift focus between objects at various distances. A camera lens has much more trouble with that. Researchers at Ohio State University were inspired by insect eyes to create a wide-angle lens with depth of field. With this lens, as close objects come into focus, far away objects look blurry. The flexible transparent polymer lens is filled with pockets of gelatinous fluid similar to fluid inside the human eye. As fluid is pumped from one pocket to another the lens changes shape, direction and focus. The prototype lens uses fluid that has to be pumped by hand, but a more developed version uses an electrically active polymer that expands and contracts based on electrical signals. The lens could find its place in medical imaging or even in smartphones.

MOON MISSION: Fancy a one-way trip to Jupiter's moon Europa? The Objective Europa group are exploring whether such a mission may be possible. Europa seems to have a deep ocean and active geology that could be a solid platform for extraterrestrial life. What's more, the trip takes a mere 600 days. In Phase 1 the group is simply assessing whether such a trip could be made, gathering all relevant and groundbreaking ideas, conceptual sketches, theories and knowledge related to a crewed mission to moon Europa. It may be a one-way trip, but you could hardly expect to live there when you arrive, so what next?

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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