March 28, 2017

Micro Wind Turbine for off-grid power

Imagine packing a contraption called the Micro Wind Turbine that is no bigger than an umbrella and can catch enough wind to power your electronic devices when you are “off grid.”

The inventor, Lausanne design student Nils Ferber, is looking for partners for his 2-pound invention that can capture wind at night and on overcast days when sunlight is not an option. The Turbine can power up electronics directly or charge the device’s battery pack.

Campers and survivalists, take note.

Energetic Medicine – Part One

This will be part one of a brief overview of some of the cutting edge energetic therapies currently in use or in trials.

A friend is about to undergo a six week treatment protocol using NeuroStar TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) Therapy for depression. The patient sits in a chair similar to a dentist’s and has magnetic waves beamed into the areas of their brain that are under active. Stimulation of these areas may result in decreased depression. Many oral medications for depression have side effects so this non-invasive energy treatment holds great promise for the over 16 million people in the U. S. who suffer from this debility.

Cold laser therapy is used to reduce inflammation and heal specific areas on the body or to target acupuncture trigger points that may improve functions of the body. Chiropractors, acupuncturists and physical therapists were some of the first to adopt this treatment. The actual laser beam looks like simple focused light which is painless, non-invasive and has no side effects. The only caution is not to look directly into the laser light which can cause eye damage.

The therapy may increase cell growth, increase vascular activity, reduce scar tissue formation and reduce pain. I look forward to seeing more medical practices adopt this cost-effective, painless and effective treatment.

I myself have used cold laser therapy for bruises, sprains, strains and foot problems thereby avoiding surgery.

More speculative are “electroceuticals,” tiny implanted devices that will monitor our nervous system and fire into action if a counter-pulse is needed. This treatment sounds like science fiction, but Alphabet Life Sciences (formerly Google Life Sciences) predicts that these nerve-zapping implants will be ready for use in seven years. Implantable devices are already being used for heart regulation, sleep apnea and weight loss.  This may be a revolutionary treatment for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, auto-immune disease and a host of other illnesses that are due to faulty electrical signals in the human body.

The Hadrian, a robotic brick layer in Australia

Named for the Roman Emperor who built a wall in Great Britain, the Hadrian is a one-armed robotic invention that can lay bricks four times faster than a human. Invented by an Australian engineer, the machine boasts being able to work 24 hours non-stop, lays the bricks with an accuracy within one hundredth of inch and secures them with mortar.

The Hadrian could ostensibly build 150 houses per year. It could also make one of the world’s oldest jobs go the way of the dinosaurs. Is this another step towards the demise of human manual labor?

Drone-ovic, your tennis buddy

For tennis devotees, check out this high tech invention that is being tested for production.
Using drone technology, the machine drops a tennis ball at an optimal angle so you can practice your serves. The flying gizmo also has a camera so you can record your swing and analyze your form in playback.

Solar Impulse 2 plane flies on sunshine

Who are Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard?
Swiss pilots and founders of the company Solar Impulse. Not only are they currently flying around the world in their high tech plane, but they are promoting clean technology.

The plane uses no earthly fuel, but only sunshine to power the the carbon fiber invention.

The wing span of the plane is longer than a Boeing 747 but the airplane itself weighs only a little over 5,000 pounds (about the weight of a pick-up truck.)

The web site has impressive photos and videos of the record-breaking airplane as it journeys around the globe.

Tech Shop: fostering creativity and innovation for all

While visiting Detroit for a music job, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing a business called Tech Shop. Club members have access to a building filled with tools, software and the ability to rub elbows with like-minded artisans, inventors and entrepreneurs.

Including the facility in Detroit, there are currently 8 Tech Shops throughout the United States in cities like Austin, TX, Chandler, AZ, Arlington, VA, Pittsburgh, PA and San Francisco, Mid Peninsula and San Jose in California.

Each 20,000 square foot building has laser cutters, plastics and electronic labs, a machine shop, a woodshop, a metalworking shop, a textiles department and welding stations. In Detroit, I also saw an industrial spray painting bay, a 3D printer and a car repair area including a hydraulic lift for vehicles.

You simply buy a monthly or yearly membership which entitles you to use of the facility, lectures on topics like 3D Printing, textile arts, screen printing, glass etching, mold-making for concrete, book-binding or tutorials on how to use Autodesk Inventor. Members can also attend clubs and Meet-Ups for topics like art, lasers, electronics and drones (for the droniacs).

Members include stone-cold professionals creating prototypes all the way to hobbyists and crafters, Tech Shop appears to have something for everyone who wants to exercise their tech skills, their ingenuity and their creative expression. Founder Jim Newton started the enterprise in 2006 and has termed the business “Kinko’s for geeks.”

Tech Shop has been lauded as bringing about the “democratization of innovation.” Some of the companies that have used TS facilities are Embrace which makes incubation blankets that have saved the lives of more than 150,000 babies and Square, the mobile payment company that is now a billion dollar company.

Did I mention the facilities are open 24/7? Creativity does not sleep!  The motto on the web site is “Dream it. Build it.” When are we going to get a Tech Shop in Chicago?

Olli electric driverless buses, testing in a city near you?

Family members have stated that “you’re not getting me in one of those contraptions that don’t have a driver.”  They may be eating their words sooner than they think.

Olli is a driverless, electric bus that can transport 12 people, is 3-D printed and is operated by IBM’s Watson, “a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.” In other words, it’s a computer program that can understand human language and instructs the vehicle where to go and how to get there. Passengers will be able to summon a bus using an app similar to Uber.

Trials just started in Washington, D. C. with Las Vegas and Miami to follow later in the year. The  Olli mini-buses can be 3-D printed in ten hours and assembled in just one.
As someone who does not like to drive, I say, “Bring Olli to Chicago, pretty please!”

The Drinkable Book, clean water for all

Suppose you give someone in Africa, Asia or South American a book that not only educates them on how to keep their water clean, but also provides pages that each filter up to thirty days of potable water. The Drinkable Book can provide clean water for up to 4 years and comes in a 3D printed box that doubles as a filtration tray. Working like a coffee filter, each paper page has silver nanoparticles that destroy 99.9% of harmful bacteria. The system has neutralized the bacteria that cause cholera, E.coli and typhoid.

Developed by Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia in conjunction with WATERisLIFE, Folia Water now appears to be championing the invention which has not yet gone into production. For more information about this ingenious product:

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Two versions of the book cover

At 880 pages, Neal Stephenson’s science fiction tome, Seveneves is heavy in both senses of the word. The prose is dense with science, but the author makes us care about the characters as they encounter cataclysmic events.

Something or someone has blown up the moon. The lunar debris creates a “Hard Rain” that threatens to extinguish all life on earth. Humans endeavor to launch as many people as possible to the Cloud Ark which exists in the stratosphere near the international space station.  A group of women (the Seven Eves) figure prominently in the preservation of the human race.

This book was on Bill Gates summer reading list and he said it “inspired me to rekindle my sci-fi habit.” If you like science and are not put off by the length, by all means, dive in.  In honesty, the first two thirds of the book is more engaging than the last third. The timeline spans 5,000 years so that’s a long time to keep the reader’s interest. Still and all, I enjoyed Seveneves and may dip into some of Stephenson’s other successful books, like Snow Crash, Anathem or Cryptonomicon.

MIT Invention called Transform

We might be on the verge of having furniture and objects that can shift shape according to our needs.