Saturday, March 06, 2010

With Artificial Photosynthesis, A Bottle of Water Could Produce Enough Energy To Power A House


One of the interesting side effects of last year's stimulus bill was $400 million in funding for ARPA-E, the civilian, energy-focused cousin of DARPA. And in this week's first ever ARPA-E conference, MIT chemist Dan Nocera showed how well he put that stimulus money to use by highlighting his new photosynthetic process. Using a special catalyst, the process splits water into oxygen and hydrogen fuel efficiently enough to power a home using only sunlight and a bottle of water.

Like organic photosynthesis, Nocera's reaction uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and energy. However, whereas plants create energy in the form of sugars, this process creates energy in the form of free hydrogen. That hydrogen can either be recombined with the oxygen in a fuel cell to generate electricity, or converted into a liquid fuel.

In about four hours, water treated with Nocera's catalyst can produce 30 kilowatt-hours of energy. Moreover, the process is cheap. So cheap, in fact, that Nocera has no problem envisioning a day when each house generates its own fuel and electricity from photosynthesis.

But don't take my word for it. Check out this video and hear Nocera describe this process himself:

[Scientific American]


China's "Human-Flesh Search" Channels Netizen Rage Against Offline Targets


Targets have included cheating spouses, corrupt government officials, and amateur porn makers, as well as citizens or journalists viewed as unpatriotic.

There's a new type of vigilante roaming across China. But unlike Batman or other caped superheroes, who work with a few sidekicks at most, this type of faceless vigilante draws power from legions of netizens who channel Internet crowd-sourcing to become "human-flesh search engines" that hunt down and punish wrongdoers in real life. The New York Times reports on the phenomenon.

The movement took off in early 2006, when an infamous online video of a middle-aged Chinese woman killing a kitten sparked thousands of responses and online calls for retribution. Chinese netizens tracked down the kitten killer's home in just six days and made her name, phone number and employer public, which led to both the woman and the cameraman who filmed her losing relatively cushy government jobs.

Similar examples of netizen vigilante justice have taken place in the U.S., South Korea and other nations. But only Chinese netizens have embraced human-flesh search engines as a regular practice to punish a wide range of people, not unlike the smaller groups of more computer-savvy hackers who gang up to attack perceived foreign or domestic enemies.

Targets have included cheating spouses, corrupt government officials, and amateur porn makers, as well as citizens or journalists viewed as unpatriotic. Tactics and goals include getting the offenders fired from jobs, publicly shaming them in front of neighbors, and perhaps running them out of town.

In 2007, a distraught woman's suicide led Chinese netizens to go after her cheating husband and the husband's girlfriend. Another incident in 2008 spurred the human-flesh search to go after a provincial government official who allegedly tried to force a little girl into the men's bathroom, as seen on a security camera.

As satisfying as much of this may sound, the frenzy of a human-flesh search can also seem blind to the facts and is not driven by any systematic or impartial approach to choosing targets. The cheating husband was hardly a singular example in China -- he and the wife who committed suicide were headed for divorce. Restaurant staff said that the government official may have been drunk and didn't necessarily intend to molest the young girl, but was caught up in an argument with the girl's rich family.

Another human-flesh search target, undergrad-student Grace Wang, drew the ire of patriotic Chinese netizens after she tried to mediate between pro-Tibet and pro-China protesters at Duke University. And a woman who argued that the government was coldly using the devastating earthquake in May 2008 to rally nationalist sentiment also became a target of human-flesh searchers.

Rebecca MacKinnon, a researcher at Princeton University, told the New York Times that China's central government may allow the human-flesh searches as a safety valve that allows Chinese netizens to vent anger over injustices. Despite some government censorship of the Internet, China leaves most of the forums and Internet activity alone for the most part.

That strategy of taming the Wild West Internet without actually exerting total control may have paid off so far for China. It's telling that all targets have been fairly lowly officials or normal citizens -- no human-flesh search has ever targeted higher-level officials, despite public perception of corruption there as well.

[via New York Times]


Citizen Scientist May Be First to Have Found First Interstellar Dust


Cosmic grains in NASA collector could reveal atoms that went into making the stars and planets

NASA's aptly-named Stardust spacecraft may have returned the first-ever samples of interstellar dust to Earth. Scientists hope to confirm their possible discovery of two dust grains, based upon the sharp eye of a citizen scientist, BBC reports.

Scientists don't kid when they say everything comes from stardust. The interstellar dust contains heavy atoms that formed within the fiery stellar furnaces. Those atoms later went on to make other stars, and eventually planets such as Earth.

The Stardust spacecraft deployed a dust collector with cells made of aerogel -- a porous material -- so that it could capture dust during a flyby of Comet Wild/2. But some of dust grains may represent interstellar grains, rather than pieces from the dirty snowball of a comet.

Stardust dropped off its sample capsule to Earth in January 2006, but has continued on a new four-and-a-half year journey to reach the comet Tempel 1.

NASA then enlisted the help of the public to try and find interstellar grains in the dust collectors. The Stardust@home website allows netizens to use a virtual microscope and scope out more than 700,000 individual images, which is how Bruce Hudson of Ontario, Canada first spotted the speck known as particle 30.

Scientists followed up on Hudson's find and discovered another likely interstellar grain candidate. Hudson has since named the two grains Orion and Sirius -- both appear to contain magnesium, aluminum, iron, chromium, manganese, nickel, copper and gallium.

The Stardust team can't confirm the find just yet, and admits that it could be a false alarm. But Andy Westphal, a Stardust scientist from the University of California, Berkeley told the BBC that they were "cautiously excited."

So c'mon, netizens! You should get cracking on those Martian craters via NASA's crowd-sourced online game -- you never know what might turn up.

[via BBC]


Catalyst could power homes on a bottle of water, produce hydrogen on-site (w/ Video)


( -- With one bottle of drinking water and four hours of sunlight, MIT chemist Dan Nocera claims that he can produce 30 KWh of electricity, which is enough to power an entire household in the developing world. With about three gallons of river water, he could satisfy the daily energy needs of a large American home. The key to these claims is a new, affordable catalyst that uses solar electricity to split water and generate hydrogen.


Sony Reader, You Are So Dead [Ipad]


According to ChangeWave, the Kindle is going to have a hard time surviving the incoming iPad wave. In a 3171-people survey on users looking to buy an ebook reader, 40% said they were planning to buy the iPad.

Comparatively, 28% wanted to get the Amazon Kindle, despite having a longer life, more titles in the store, and allegedly offering a better book reading experience than the iPad thanks to its electronic ink technology. The 28% to 40% comparison is higher than we thought, actually, with Kindle still doing fairly well in comparison to Apple's do-everything device.

The reason the iPad scored higher? Most probably, ereader shoppers are more excited about the color screen, Apple's design, and the multiple functions that the iPad can offer, compared to the single-function nature of Amazon's black-and-white, no multitouch, no fancy-schmancy design electronic reader. It'll be interesting to see what Kindle 3 brings, since Amazon is working on a full color, multitouch version. [ChangeWave]


CeBIT Remainders: 8 Reasons We Didn't Go [Remainders]


Every year, Hanover, Germany hosts hordes of tech journalists, analysts, and PR people for CeBIT. It's like CES, sort of, except further away, and more boring. We decided not to go this year; it ends tomorrow. Here's what we missed!

To be clear, these were some of the bigger stories of the conference, at least for American audiences. We've written a few other CeBIT stories up as well, which you can find here, but by and large, the event just sort of came and went. So, this is what was happening over in Hanover this week, while the rest of the tech world was going about their business.

Pierre Cardin Tablet: Wikipedia tells me that Pierre Cardin is a "Italian-born French fashion designer" who is famous for his "space age" clothing designs. He's paired up with a small Taiwanese OEM to make a tablet—the old foldy kind, not the slate-like new kind. It's pink, and it will cost $450, if it ever hits stores in the US.

ASUS EeeTop ET2010PNT and ET2010AGT On the exterior, ASUS EeeTops are basically a budget take on the AIO concept you're familiar with from the likes of the iMac and HP's Touchsmarts. On the interior, as with most ASUS products, they're incomprehensible parts soup.

Shuttle I-Power External GPU: Breaking news, for people who would like to buy a box that's nearly the size of a netbook and which can help boost their notebook's graphics capabilities! (But only certain notebooks, because you need a special adapter!) The Shuttle I-Power External GPU is ready to accommodate your fantasies.

1Cross B'ook ereader: Entourage eDGe on a budget: The first step here is to try to remember what the Entourage eDGe is. Now that you've done that, the second step is to figure out why you care about this cheaper, gaudier, and somehow less practical take on the same concept.

Intel Atom for Storage Devices: Intel's Atom processors, traditionally meant for netbooks and cheap laptops, are about as unglamorous as tech products get. I'd even hold that this was true five minutes ago, which was before I'd even heard about the Intel Atom for storage devices, which is a special version of the platform for household and small business network storage devices.

New Intel Classmate: Intel's ultra-budget Classmate convertible tablet PCs are evolving! (Slightly!) Here is the reference design for the newest one, which is quite similar to earlier reference designs on the outside, but adjusted slightly for cost and performance reason on the inside.

LG 12x Blu-ray drives: Did LG not have 12x Blu-ray writers before? Are these just new versions of their old Blu-ray devices? Such are the mysteries of CeBIT, which could easily be solved, if anyone cared enough to Google for backlinks.

ASUS O!Play USB 3.0: We're big fans of the ASUS O!Play set-top boxes around here and we're not very slightly more enamored with the concept, now that it supports USB 3.0.


Google Beats 'Em AND Joins 'Em With DocVerse Acquisition [Google]


Google's shopping spree continues. This time they've picked up a company called DocVerse, whose software will eventually allow seamless interoperability between Google Docs and Microsoft Office. That's right, Microsoft... the call is coming from inside the house.

You can already store and share Office files through Google Docs, but DocVerse adds the functionality of letting users collaborate directly on Office documents. As the crowing Google Blog puts it:

DocVerse is a small, nimble team of talented developers who share our vision, and they've enabled true collaboration right within Microsoft Office. With DocVerse, people can begin to experience some of the benefits of web-based collaboration using the traditional Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint desktop applications.

Current DocVerse users won't be affected, but you won't be able to sign up for a new account until Google figures out exactly how they're going to incorporate the company. Of course, Microsoft was moving Office to the cloud on their own anyway; it's just that it'll be a bit more crowded there than they'd thought. It's official, though: even productivity software is a battleground now. [Google Blog via TechCrunch]


NVIDIA says Optimus 'works perfectly' with Intel Wireless Display


Intel's Wireless Display technology is undoubtedly impressive, but it does place a few specific requirements on the gear you're able to use with it (mostly involving Intel hardware). As it happens, while Intel may not be talking it up (we can't imagine why not), NVIDIA says that WiDi also 'works perfectly' with its Optimus discrete graphics technology. The two obviously weren't designed to be compatible from the start, but NVIDIA says it "just works," and doesn't require any software or hardware changes. That's apparently due to the unique way that Optimus interfaces with the integrated Intel graphics in a laptop, which effectively acts as a bridge between the WiDi system and the GPU, and makes it the only discrete GPU that will work with WiDi. Head on past the break to see the magic happen on video.

Continue reading NVIDIA says Optimus 'works perfectly' with Intel Wireless Display

NVIDIA says Optimus 'works perfectly' with Intel Wireless Display originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 05 Mar 2010 13:38:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Acer D241H monitor has built-in WiFi, media player, identity crisis


Is there room for a product that's part digital picture frame, part all-in-one PC, but mostly just a monitor? Acer seems to think so, and it's doing its best to carve out a niche for itself with its new 24-inch D241H model, which promises to do nothing short of "revolutionize the way you use a monitor." To accomplish that feat, the monitor packs built-in WiFi, along some basic internet / media player capabilities that will let you check your email, keep watch on the news, weather and other things via some widgets, or simply enjoy some music, photos or videos. You'll also get a built-in memory card reader, a pair of USB ports, a wired LAN port, and an apparently included wireless keyboard (no touchscreen here, folks). No indication of a price or release date just yet, but we're going to go out on a limb and guess it'll fall somewhere between a standard 24-inch monitor and an all-in-one PC.

Acer D241H monitor has built-in WiFi, media player, identity crisis originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 05 Mar 2010 15:04:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Motorola patent combines multiple devices to make one large display


It seems to us that if you indulge in mobile video from time to time, you're either lugging around a device with a decent display size (netbook, tablet, whatevs) or more likely than not you're watching your Britain's Got Talent! clips on a handset -- either solution is obviously less than ideal. What if we told you that Motorola has filed a patent application for a "Reconfigurable Multiple-Screen Display"? This technology will essentially let you configure multiple devices for use as one big display: Instead of lugging around your Thinkpad or suffering the indignity of watching postage stamp-sized video on your Droid you can simply and conveniently carry four phones around. Why didn't we think of that?

Motorola patent combines multiple devices to make one large display originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 05 Mar 2010 15:49:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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ASUS' EeeBox EB1501U packs ION and USB 3.0, need we say more?


Sure NVIDIA's Ion 2 is all the rage right now, but ASUS still has a few tricks left in store for the progenitor nettop GPU. The EeeBox EB1501U sports a typical nettop processor -- in this case, the older Diamondville Intel Atom 330 dual core -- with Ion One, and as an added bonus, there's USB 3.0 support. Also under the hood? A 2.5-inch, 320GB HDD, DVD drive, and 802.11b/g/n WiFi. As for the other home theater PC box, the EeeMedia EM0501 isn't quite as exciting -- just a 800MHz Samsung ARM processor, a variety of codec supports, and HDMI out. Still, given history, it's a pretty solid addition. Pricing and availability? Your guess is as good as ours for now. Enjoy the pictures for the time being.

ASUS' EeeBox EB1501U packs ION and USB 3.0, need we say more? originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 05 Mar 2010 18:38:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround eyes-on, triple the fun


What's better than gaming on one 3D screen? Gaming on three, of course. We're no strangers to NVIDIA's 3D Vision along with the Acer and Alienware displays, but the company has unveiled its 3D Vision Surround capability at CeBIT that lets you play 3D games on three 1080p 3D displays simultaneously. Yeah, it's as crazy as it sounds -- we got to throw on a pair of the glasses and it's one seriously panoramic and immersive experience. What won't be as pleasing is how much a set-up like this will cost you -- you'll need three 3D screens, and a rig with an GeForce GTX 480 SLI configuration or higher (the desktop we saw had two GeForce GTX 280 GPUS). NVIDIA will officially launch the whole platform along these new GeForce GTX 480/470 GPUs later this month.Thinking about digging into your savings? Maybe the video after the break will put an end to your wavering.

Continue reading NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround eyes-on, triple the fun

NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround eyes-on, triple the fun originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 05 Mar 2010 22:06:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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NVIDIA GTX 480 makes benchmarking debut, matches ATI HD 5870 performance (video)


We're still not happy with NVIDIA's failure to publish anything on its site alerting users about the doom that may befall them if they switched to the 196.75 drivers, but the company's making an effort to get back into our good books with the first official video of its forthcoming GeForce GTX 480 and even a benchmark run against ATI's flagship single-GPU card, the HD 5870. It looks like you'll need to jack in a pair of auxiliary power connectors -- one 8-pin and one 6-pin -- to power the first Fermi card, as well as plenty of clearance in your case to accommodate its full length (stop giggling!). NVIDIA's benchmarking stressed the GTX 480's superior tesselation performance over the HD 5870, but it was level pegging between the two cards during the more conventional moments. It's all well and good being able to handle extreme amounts of tesselation, but it'll only matter to the end user if game designers use it as extensively as this benchmark did. As ever, wait for the real benchmarks (i.e. games) before deciding who wins, but we're slightly disappointed that NVIDIA's latest and greatest didn't just blow ATI's six-month old right out of the water. Benchmarking result awaits after the break, along with video of the new graphics card and a quick look at NVIDIA's 3D Vision Surround setup. Go fill your eyes.

Continue reading NVIDIA GTX 480 makes benchmarking debut, matches ATI HD 5870 performance (video)

NVIDIA GTX 480 makes benchmarking debut, matches ATI HD 5870 performance (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 06 Mar 2010 07:34:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Draw Abstract Wallpaper Using the Flame Drawing Tool [Wallpaper]


If you're a huge fan of abstract wallpaper but you don't have the software or the know-how to make one you'll definitely want to try Flame, a web-based drawing tool that makes creating abstract doodles easy and fun.

Using Flame you can create a variety of shapes and patterns and the user interface is simple. You have a palette which is black by default, white is the only other option. You have an adjustable brush, customizable in size, softness, and other variables, and you can select your colors and the level of opacity and saturation.

One of the best ways to create really soft and flowing lines is to move the mouse quickly. The faster you move the mouse the "wider" the brush stretches and the softer and more diffuse the lines are. If you move the mouse slowly you get a laser-focused beam of intense color, move it quickly and you get a wide swath of gossamer-like color.

You can save your pictures to your computer, the default size is 1680px × 1050px with no ability to select other sizes—a feature we'd love to see implemented for creating crazy triple-screen wallpaper and other sizes. If you make a particularly awesome wallpaper, share it in the comments below. Have a neat tool for making your own wallpaper? We want to hear about that too.


Ceiling Painted By Light [Concepts]


At the moment, our choice of lighting is fairly committal. We drill holes in our ceilings for permanent placements of bulbs. But LEDs open all sorts of other possibilities.

It's not hard to imagine a ceiling covered in RGB LEDs, like Seo Dong-Hun's Draw the Lights concept. Equipped with a few sensors, a laser (or IR) pen could "paint" an array of light, allowing you to customize your entire living space in a manner not unlike a Philips LivingColors lamp...only a lot more immersive. [Red Dot via Yanko Design]


This Is Why that Amazing NASA Earth Image Looked So Familiar [IPhone]


After publishing the The Most Accurate, Highest Resolution Earth View to Date, it got extremely popular: The day after, countless newspapers and blogs worldwide reposted the story. NASA wrote to us, surprised. Why? Because everyone already knew about it:

Yes, the Blue Marble is the iPhone's default screen, which have been seen by millions of iPhone owners and by everyone who has read about the iPhone since 2007. In fact, the image has been public since 2002:

From: *************** <***********>
Subject: Question on Blue Marble image from NASA
Date: March 2, 2010 8:17:49 PM EST
To: Jesus Diaz

Mr. Diaz

Hello. I am the photo editor for the Public Affairs Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

We were happy to see you featured our Blue Marble image on your website last week.

We also featured it on our Flickr page but it has really taken off on the web. We had over 500,000 hits in the last two days alone.

Given that this is an image from 2002 I'm just curious what prompted you to post it on your site? Or did you pick it up from someplace other than our site? I see at the bottom it says "NASA via Twitter"

Really, I'm just curious because it's gotten so much play over that few days.

Thank you for your interest in our work.

Take care,

The reason? Because it's a beautiful image, that's all. One that makes you marvel at the beauty of our planet, and how tiny and insignificant we are, but also how unique and rare. [Gizmodo—Thanks to John Hermann for telling me about the obvious]

Don't forget to check NASA Goddard's Flickr page. They keep posting really cool stuff.