Thursday, June 28, 2012

GOOGLE GLASSES - making sci fi reality

Google Co-founder Sergey Brin previewing the Google Glass at the Google I/O

Project Glass is one of the ongoing projects in the Google X Lab, a Skunkworks like laboratory where sci-fi-esque technologies are being developed and tested including a self-driven car and even a space elevator. The product of this project is Google Glass, officially and spectacularly unveiled yesterday in Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco. The Glass demo-ers wore the glasses while going sky diving, with one of the diver's glasses sending a live feed from the camera to the big screen at the conference. After landing, the divers then mounted mountain bikes and biked into the conference room.

Google Glass is an augmented reality head-mounted display (HMD). The device includes a small display screen above the right eye, memory, wireless networking chip, camera (button on side to control it), compass, gyroscope, and speaker/microphone. Glass will run Android and users will be able to excess the Internet, send emails, interact with social networking websites, send and receive texts, etc. It is essentially a smartphone, albeit a hands-free and much less obtrusive one. The prototypes Google previewed yesterday weighed less than some sunglasses.
Sky diving at the Google Glass demo

Right now, Google is planning to make the glasses available to US software developers early next year at a price of $ 1500 and normal customers less than a year later for prices close to smart phones.

Public reception of the Google Glass is varied. Although there are many positive reviews, some criticise the glasses for lacking practicality, being too fragile, or the possibility of Google inserting ads directly on the user interface. Nevertheless, it is very possible that the Google Glass will be the next big thing (after smart phones) in mobile communication, integrating technology closer and closer into our lives.

WORLD'S FASTEST THINGS - list of the fastest



A price tag at US $2.4 million, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport uses a 8.0 liter W16 engine and can output 1200 HP. The Super Sport's slower sibling, the Veyron Grand Sport, uses the same engine but only has an output of 1001 HP. This is due to four enlarged turbochargers and bigger intercoolers in the Super Sport.

Bugatti Veyron Super Sport at 430 km/h

The Thrust SSC is a British jet-propelled car developed by Richard Noble, Glynn Bowsher, Ron Ayers, and Jeremy Bliss. Powered by two afterburning Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines (also used in the British verson of the F-4 Phantom II fighter), the Thrust is the first car to break the sound barrier. It was piloted by RAF fighter pilot Wing Commander Andy Green in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA.

The official record is held by the Thrust SSC at 1227.93 km/h in 1997

Samuel Groth, an Aussie underdog player ranked 340th in the world set his smash speed record in the 2012 Busan Open Challenger Tennis competition. He was playing against Belarusian Uladzimir Ignatik and lost the match 6-4, 6-3.

Samuel Groth at 263 km/h

Part of NASA's Hyper-X program, the X-43 set its record in a testflight on November 16, 2004. It's top speed was 9.8 times faster than the speed of sound. The X-43 is launched off a B-52 Stratofortress and it is originally boosted by a modified Pegasus rocket before switching to its scram jet engine.  The X-43 is designed to be fully-controllable in high speed flight. It was not, however, designed to land and all test vehicles crashlanded in the Pacific Ocean.

NASA X-43 at 12144 km/h

The X-15 is a rocket-powered aircraft part of NASA's X-plane series of experimental aircraft. During the X-15 program, 13 different flights by eight pilots met the USAF spaceflight criterion of exceeding altitude of 80 km, thus qualifying the pilots for astronaut status. The record setting flight, flight 188 happened on 3 October, 1967 piloted by William "Pete" Knight. The X-15, like the X-43, is launched by a B-52.

NASA X-15 at 7273 km/h

China's badminton doubles player, Fu HaiFeng, achieved this world record speed at the Sudirman Cup in 2005. He and his partner Cai Yun, won the men's doubles in the tournament. 

Fu HaiFeng at 331.52 km/h

Powered by a Westinghouse J34 jet engine, the Spirit of Australia driven by Ken Warby on the River Tumut near the Blowering Dam in Australia reached the record on 8 October 1978. The Spirit is now permanently on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney. The setting of water speed records is one of the sporting world's most hazardous competitions with an approximate fatality rate of 85% since 1940.

Spirit of Australia at 511.11 km/h

Located in Fortalez, Brazil, the Insano is the tallest water slide in the world at 41 meters high. This is as tall as a 14-storey building. The whole descent takes just 4 to 5 seconds and during that time it is possible to reach speeds of up to 105 km/h.

The Insano at 105 km/h

The MLX01 is an experimental maglev train developed by the Central Japan Railway Company and the Railway Technical Research Institute. It reached its record on 2 December 2003 on the Yamanashi Maglev testline. It had 3 cars. Maglev trains use magnets to levitate on the track, thus experiencing minimal friction.

JR-Maglev MLX01 at 581 km/h with three cars

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Willy Chyr is a Torontonian who has quite an unusual career path given his educational background. Chyr has a B.A. degree in Physics and Economics from the University of Chicago and had been partway working his way through a PhD in Physics. Chyr, however, decided to become a balloon artist. It turns it wasn't a bad choice as he has gained quite a reputation as an artist. Over the past year, Chyr's sculptures have been featured in magazines and museum exhibitions around the world. He even had a spread in Elle magazine.

Before university, Chyr would never have dreamt of pursuing a career in art. However, it was only after first year when he joined Le Vorris & Vox Circus (in a very unexpected move) that the gears started moving. There, he learned how to juggle, unicycle, perform magic tricks, and most importantly, twist balloons. Then, in his last year of university, he and a group of students were looking for a school grant and decided on an electronic based project of making balloon sculptures based on bio-luminescent creatures with lights embedded throughout. Their project caught the attention of the Museum of Science and Industry and Chyr continued to create balloons on the side and even went to study in an arts school.

Chyr's work has been described as "exploring the intersection between art and science". In many of his works, he has taken inspiration from his old textbooks and created balloon sculptures based off of genetic molecules and neuron pathways.

Recently, Chyr has caught the attention of the world's largest brewer and they have announced that their new bottle labels will feature one of Chyr's designs (he calls it, A Glimpse of Something Ephemeral). It will be one of six other creative projects by various individuals that is aimed to celebrate independent thinking.

NEW PRIMITIVE MINERAL FOUND IN METEORITE - a titanium oxide named panguite

The mineral in question is called Panguite, a titanium oxide named after the Pan Gu, a giant from Chinese mythology that created the world through separating ying from yang and thus forming the skies and the Earth. It was discovered by a team of Caltech scientists looking through a space rock called the Allende meteorite, which was part of a larger meteorite that broke into thousands of fragments over the Mexican state of Chihuahua in 1969. The scientists believe panguite is among the oldest minerals formed in the Solar system.

Carbonaceous chondrites are a diverse class of primitive meteorites and the Allende meteorite is the largest specimen ever found on Earth and it has been extensively studied ever since. So far, nine new primitive minerals, including panguite, has been discovered on the meteorite. The search for these minerals involves the use of scanning electron microscopes on the space rocks, and specifically on areas such as refractory inclusions (which is also where panguite was found). Refractory inclusions are among the first solid objects formed in the solar system and contain minerals that are stable at high temperatures and in extreme environments (thus the "refractory" in the name) produced by the solar nebula.

Scientists continue to study primitive minerals such as panguite in an effort to learn more about the conditions under which they formed and subsequently evolved, thus increasing our understanding of the origins of our solar system.



Orsos Island is a man-made island that Austrian entrepreneur Gabor Orsos has dreamed up and is planning to sell and build. The target market, of course, are the mega-rich. The "island" has a price tag of 5.2 million euros. According to Orsos, "interest has been massive from all over the world... We have already had the first pre-orders and have some potential buyers coming from Australia next week" (AFP).

The "Orsos Island", named after the company founder, is basically a floating platform measuring 20 by 37 meters. It has no engine and so requires a tow boat for mobility. The "island" offers 1000 square ft. of living space and can sleep up to 12 people plus crew of 4. It is self sufficient in obtaining power through large stretches of solar panels on the roof as well as wind generators but in case of emergencies the "island" also has 2 diesel engines and a 6 000-litre fuel capacity. Water will also not be an issue as the Orsos has the capability of turning salt water into fresh water and turning waste water into clean water. In terms of plants, there will be ample space on the island where palm trees and other assorted flora can grow.
Interior of the Orsos

Right now, no "islands" have been produced yet but the company does have a completed 3D model of its design. Once manufacturing starts, it will initially be in land-locked Slovakia. Orsos expects the first finished products, which includes manufacturing and the transportation down the Danube River into the Black Sea, to be ready in 18 months to 2 years (AFP).