Blog Archives

American firm proposes “Zero Gravity Roller Coaster”

Anyone familiar with Alton Towers or Thorpe Park will know that roller coasters are awesome. But now, BRC Imagination Arts, a Californian design firm, has proposed a roller coaster sure to eclipse any theme park experience.

It is a ride which will accelerate passengers at such magnitude that they will become “weightless” for a whole eight seconds. BRC drew inspiration from NASA’s “Vomit Comet”, the aeroplane which is used to acclimatise astronauts to the sensation of being in outer space.

Their roller coaster will achieve the same effect by accelerating up to top speed, over 100 mph, on a vertical track, and then suddenly starting to decelerate. This will throw passengers out of their seats, and then the ride will adjust its speed so that it matches the velocity of the passengers. Upon reaching the peak of the track and descending, the roller coaster will continue to match the speed of its falling passengers, prolonging the feeling of weighlessness for several seconds.

It is perhaps the closest thing you can come to experiencing being in outer space without needing to be an astronaut. 

Bob Rogers, BRC’s founder and chief creative officer, says the zero-gravity ride would cost $50 million or more, mainly due to the complexity of the precision-response propulsion system. It is still only a concept at this stage, but, if the company could acquire the necessary funds, Rogers claims that this will become a reality by the end of 2013.

Full story: POPSCI http://www.popsci.com/cars/article/2012-01/zero-gravity-roller-coaster

South Korean prison to be guarded by robots

A prison in South Korea is going to use five-foot tall, four-wheeled, friendly-faced robots to keep an eye on the inmates.

The robots will start work with a one-month trial, commencing in March. It will consist of three prototypes beginning their duties in a prison in the city of Pohang. The project will cost around 1bn Won (£554,000) in total.

The robots will work mainly in night-time shifts. They are able to alert human guards if they find any problems: they contain technology that is sophisticated enough to detect violence and even notice suicide attempts. They are also able to help prisoners connect with officers, as the robots have cameras mounted on their torsos which allow “remote conversation”.  

Should the trial be a success, the future of prison security may well end up being controlled by robots.

Full story: POPSCI http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-11/robotic-guards-will-soon-patrol-south-korean-prison

8.4 million people in Britain will not read this blog post

The office of National Statistics has revealed that more than 8.4 million adults in Britain (16.8% of the adult population) have never used the internet.

This is the surprising finding of official figures published this month, which also revealed a sharp increase in the number of non-internet users in the UK.

These numbers say more about a lack of accessibility, rather than a lack of technology, in Britain. For instance, 4.25 million of the 8.4 million non-internet users have a disability (36.3% of the disabled population), while 72.4% of people over 75 years of age have never ventured online.

“A growing gap exists between those who are online and those who are not, as the internet becomes more of an essential utility for consumers … The Government must provide even more targeted support to those who lose out the most,” said Jonathan Stearn of Consumer Focus.

The Government aims to have everyone in the UK using the internet by 2015.

Full Story: Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/8893705/More-than-8.4m-Britons-have-never-used-web.html

The internet was made for … Facebook, it seems

We covered a technology news story last week on this blog about Facebook and its new “instant personalisation” feature. Well, apologies if you can’t stand it, but Facebook has made the news again. However, this time, it’s for a different reason – one that will raise a few more eyebrows.

The “news” is simple: Facebook is now more popular than porn.

Well, that’s according to latest figures from online intelligence service Experian Hitwise. They have shown that, for UK internet users, social networking websites account for 12.46% of all online traffic, which eclipses “entertainment” websites (including pornographic ones), which only attract 12.18% of internet traffic. 

This is big news in the world of technology and computing, because it is the first time ever that “social networking” websites have officially become more popular than “entertainment” ones. 

These statistics say a lot about the way our habits, our lifestyle, and our culture are evolving. It not only demonstrates the unprecedented success of Facebook, but also suggests that people are starting to become more sociable, more civilised – and less degrading – in their online behaviour.

Or is it because people are now just using Facebook to leer and ogle at other people’s photos, rather than going to the bother of searching long and hard (no pun intended) across other websites to find something that will arouse them?

Full story: BBC Newsbeat http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/12784325

The future of Facebook: Instant Personalisation across the internet

Just when you thought your life revolved around Facebook a little too much, and just when you wondered how it could possibly dominate the internet any further, along has come Instant Personalisation.

It’s Mark Zuckerburg’s latest vision that aims to change your entire internet experience. Facebook has partenered with a number of websites including search engine Bing, music site Pandora, and movie review site Rotten Tomatoes. It works by using your public Facebook information to “personalise” the website for you – for instance, if you wanted to search for a movie online, you will be able to see your friends’ reviews first, or be able to hear your favourite songs automatically when you visit a music site.

Facebook claims that this new feature will “make your experiences across the web more seamlessly social and personal” – although its critics will argue that it is an unnecassary feature for other websites, an exploitation of Facebook users’ information, and just one step further towards Facebook attempting to monopolise the internet.

Einstein’s theory of Relativity gets its own iPhone app

This is Einstein’s equation of Special Relativity. It states that, for any object moving with a velocity of u, the time that seems to elapse according to the moving object (delta t-zero) is different to the time it takes if measured by an observer at rest (delta t).

Simply put: as you travel through space, you stretch time and make it tick just that little bit slower for you. But, of course, unless you are travelling close to the speed of light (c), you won’t notice a difference.

Nevertheless, if you have ever wondered how many nanoseconds you have stretched when you’ve been for a brisk walk or a long journey, you now have a way to find out. A Japanese developer has invented the Einstein Pedometer, which will measure the time it took for your journey to elapse, and then use the necessary calculations to tell you the time it actually took, in your reference frame, allowing for Relativity.

So, for example, the Einstein Pedometer may tell you that a journey has just taken you 15 minutes and 19.999999999827 seconds, as apposed to the 15 minutes 20 seconds that a regular watch would tell you. The app is a must for physicists and pedants everywhere.

Full story: POPSCI Popular Science http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-04/new-ipod-app-calculates-how-special-relativity-affects-your-daily-activities

Three (frighteningly) realistic robots come face-to-face with their human twins

Imagine if scientists built a humanoid robot that looked just like you. Now imagine meeting that robot, sitting down with it, and spending some time getting to know it. Would that be weird, or would that be … really weird?

Three people were able to have that slightly surreal experience last month, as the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute hosted a “Geminoid summit” in Nara, Japan.

Below is the video of the meeting. The people didn’t really have an in-depth conversation with the robots – or each other, come to that. It consisted mainly of them giggling, slightly in awe, but mostly because the meeting must have felt so strange and eerie. And who can blame them?

Full story: Plastic Pals http://www.plasticpals.com/?p=27347

The car that’s “green” in every sense of the word

We are all too aware that fossil fuels are irreplaceable, damaging to the environment, and contribute to the Greenhouse Effect. One of the biggest challenges that scientists currently face is to produce alternative fuels that are renewable and environmentally friendly, especially when it comes to vehicles and transportation.

But perhaps scientists’ latest creation will come as a slight surprise, and raise a few eyebrows. Motive Industries, a company in Canada, have manufactured a car made of hemp (yes, hemp – the close relative of marijuana).

The company aims to make the vehicle (pictured above) available for $25,000 and is hoping to have thousands of these cars on the road by 2012.

Full story: POPSCI Popular Science http://www.popsci.com/cars/article/2011-02/introducing-first-road-ready-hemp-mobile

Remote-controlled hugs

Isn’t a hug wonderful? To hold someone up close and tight as a way of telling them you love them? Well, scientists are developing the technology to make hugging even more convinient. Soon, you won’t even need the person next to you. You won’t necessarily need to be in the same room. Or even in the same country. 

Scientists in Singapore are in the process of making equipment that will mimic the sensation and feel of a real hug, thereby allowing people who are miles apart to share a virtual hug over the internet.

Full story: Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8299560/Scientists-develop-the-cyberhug.html

14-year-old’s home-made Physics game tops worldwide download charts

It’s a game that’s free to download onto your iPhone. It’s called Bubble Ball, and the objective of the game is to guide a ball through a series of obstacle courses to a goal. Last week it had topped the iTunes worldwide free app download charts, having being downloaded 2 million times. It had even outranked apps such as Facebook and Skype. If none of this really seems too remarkable, the game was designed and made by a 14-year-old boy.

The inventor, Robert Nay, from Utah, describes Bubble Ball as a “physics puzzle game” for Apple devices. He learned how to code the game using a book from a local library.

The success and the popularity of the game has taken him by surprise. “I think it’s pretty cool because I never thought my game would do that well…When I saw that it was number one for the free apps, I was astonished,” Robert told ABC News.

Full story: BBC Newsbeat http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/12224670