Tech Universe: Monday 24 March

By Miraz Jordan

Armadillos help keep cyclists safe from cars. Photo / Cyclehoop.com
Armadillos help keep cyclists safe from cars. Photo / Cyclehoop.com

GET THE HUMP: Cyclists and cars need a certain amount of separation. That's something that Armadillos, made of recycled plastic help with. The bike lane dividers are made from 100% recycled PVC then bolted into the ground and spaced out so that cyclists can enter or exit the cycle lanes as needed yet forming a small barrier for cars. Emergency vehicles can still roll over the Armadillos without damage and painted stripes help make them visible. London is currently experimenting with the barriers, but they have already found success in Europe. Keeping vulnerable cyclists separate from cars is a very desirable goal.

THE FOLDING: One of the problems of biking to work is what to do with the bike when you get there. The Gi electric Bike folds up in a flash. The bike also includes a LiFoPo4 battery that will drive the bike 65 Km, carbon drive belts to avoid maintenance, smartphone integration, an anti-theft lock system, smart lights and an unusual design.

Think how many of them would fit in a single car parking space.

EYES ON THE JOB: The standard equipment your ophthalmologist uses to take photos of your eyes is expensive and requires extensive training to use properly. Such equipment, and the training, is rare in GP surgeries, emergency departments and rural areas though. That's why researchers at Stanford have created a couple of adapters that fit a smartphone and quickly take high quality images of the front and back of the eye. The adapters mean anyone with minimal training can take images to share with other health practitioners or store in the patient's electronic record. After creating and refining a prototype from cheap plastic parts 3D-printed versions have taken over. Initially the low-cost EyeGo adapters will be available only for research purposes, but eventually the creators aim to seek FDA approval. It's amazing sometimes how small a part telephony plays in the role of smartphones.

FLASH OF INSIGHT: Power lines are everywhere. Now researchers have now found that power lines give off random and unpredictable flashes of ultraviolet light. Those flashes, invisible to us but visible to many animals, may be having negative effects on wildlife, affecting habitats and migration. The researchers made their discovery after noticing that Arctic reindeer would stay as much as 5 Km away from power lines crossing the tundra. The flashes occur because power cables aren't perfect: where current meets resistance from damage or an imperfection a UV flash may occur. We're sometimes blissfully unaware of the damage we do.

THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE: Engineers from Duke University can reroute sound waves to both hide an object and hide the cloaking device itself. The sound waves behave as though there is only a flat surface. The cloaking device is a pyramid made of metamaterials and incorporating strategically placed holes. The geometry of the device interacts with sound waves, slowing them so when reflected they appear to have bounced off a flat surface. The technique could have applications in auditoriums and concert halls, and also for military sonar avoidance. Since the metamaterial slows the soundwaves it must be absorbing some of their energy, perhaps increasing its own vibration or temperature, so maybe it'll give itself away by some other measure.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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