Tech Universe: Tuesday 29 October

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

BY THE LIGHT TO THE MOON: The Moon is rather a long way away. It takes time for signals to travel between the two and that affects the nature and amount of data that can be transmitted. As part of its work to speed up communications NASA recently sent a test signal by laser from a ground station in New Mexico to a spacecraft orbiting the Moon some 385,000 Km from Earth. That transmission sped along at a mighty 622 megabits per second. Being able to send data at high speed opens up the way for high resolution images and even 3D video. Everyone wants high speed broadband.

THE HORNS OF AFRICA: Kenya's trying to stop poachers from killing rhinos and trading the horns. One approach is to track the animals closely and monitor their movements. To help track rhinos they're using 1,000 donated microchips and 5 scanners. The plan is to insert a microchip in the horn of every rhino in Kenya. That could allow them to take other measures to keep poachers away and protect the animals, or just to track horns that have been taken.

What an enormous undertaking.

BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP: Regular sonar can't distinguish between a fish and a cloud of bubbles. Send out a carefully timed large pulse followed by a small one though and you can tell the two apart. Now try something similar with radio waves and a radar can find hidden electronic devices amongst piles of rubble. Tiny radar devices created in the UK could use this technique to locate survivors — or at least their smartphones — in the rubble of an earthquake or improvised explosive devices hidden amongst piles of trash. Very cunning.

DRAW THE HOT STRAW: A house built of straw may only need a huff and a puff to be blown down, but perhaps German houses could be heated and lit by straw instead, as some Danish houses already are? Researchers say around a quarter of the cereal straw produced each year from agriculture in Germany could provide millions of households with heating and electricity. Now they need to work out how to use it in an environmentally friendly way.

GLOW LITTLE PATHWAY: The gravel glows gently in the night lighting your way. Or it will if it's coated with Pro-Teq's Starpath product. The sprayed on elastomeric coating looks like a normal path during the day, but at night it glows thanks to the UV energy it absorbed during the day. The path also includes anti-slip materials and is non-reflective, and can be any of half a dozen colours. Paths are quick and easy to lay so installing them doesn't much disrupt the normal flow of traffic. That would make for a driveway with a difference.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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