Concert tickets, magazine adverts and cereal packets could feature interactive moving graphics by 2007, according to German electronics giant Siemens. Researchers at the firm have developed a printable interactive display, with a similar thickness to paper. "A pillbox could display instructions for how [the pills] should be taken and provide this information in several languages with the push of a button," says Siemens spokesman Norbert Aschenbrenner. "Admission tickets for trade shows could indicate the booths where various exhibitors are located." The prototype screen is monochrome and can switch between its two colours in less than half a second. A working model, revealed at the Plastic Electronics 2005 conference, also has a controller. By scrolling through a list of companies, the user can bring up maps for each one's location on the screen. The screen works faster and has a higher resolution than previous prototypes. It is also simpler and cheaper to produce than "electronic paper" devices, which act more like scroll-down displays, and must be connected to a computer. The new display can be used independently with just a battery.
Robot Hands Become More Human
When it comes to emulating the human hand, engineers still have a long way to go. But a robotic hand developed by Paul Chappell at the University of Southampton, UK, does a better job than most of allowing people who have lost a hand to perform tasks that most people take for granted - like grappling with a door key or twisting the lid off a jar. Unlike most artificial hands, which are either fixed in one position or perform a single movement, each finger of Chappell's hand is controlled by a separate motor, and the thumb can rotate and shift position to allow different grasps. The motors are controlled by sensors that detect muscle tension in the arm. An artificial "skin" contains piezoelectric materials that respond to heat and pressure, allowing the hand to sense force and temperature, which should prevent it from sustaining damage or crushing something.
The Jurassic Tree
The Wollemi pine, a 200 million-year-old tree from the Jurassic period long thought to be extinct, has reportedly been found growing in Australia. The exact location is being kept secret -- even scientists are blindfolded before being flown to the site. A park ranger discovered a small grove of the trees in Australia. Specimens are now to be sold by auction to make sure the species survives. But the Mirror noted buyers will need a large garden, since the Wollemi pine tree can grow as high as 120 feet, with a three-foot-wide trunk. Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens told the newspaper the discovery is the equivalent of finding a small dinosaur still alive.
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A robotic camera capsule has been developed to be controlled by doctors and crawl around inside the gut taking pictures. It has the ability to anchor itself by biting onto the walls of your intestine. But the researchers behind a new take on the camera-in-a-pill claim its ability to move and stop on command will give doctors greater control over the images it takes, allowing them to focus on particular areas of concern. Existing camera capsules designed to take images of the intestine cannot be controlled externally, so they simply drift through the gut along with everything else. "It's like watching the view from a train window," says the bot's developer, Arianna Menciassi of the Sant' Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy. "If you see something of interest, there's no way to turn back and get a better look." But not all that will be possible thanks to the radio-controlled crawling capsule that has six legs, each with tiny hooks on the end.
Skull reveals the Past
This undated picture given by scientific magazine Nature shows a skull found a year ago in Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores. A tiny hominid whose discovery in a cave on an Indonesian island unleashed one of the fiercest debates in anthropology has suddenly been joined by several other sets of dwarf-sized beings.
Meteorite unlocks solar system secrets
An unusual meteorite that fell onto a frozen Canadian lake five years ago has helped scientists discover some solar system secrets. Florida State University Geological Sciences Professor Munir Humayun says the meteorite led to a breakthrough in understanding the origin of the chemical elements that make up the Solar System. Humayun of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Alan Brandon of NASA and colleagues discovered an isotopic anomaly in the rare element osmium within the primitive meteorite. The anomalous osmium was derived from small stars with a higher neutron density than that which formed our solar system. Our new data enabled us to catch a glimpse of the different star types that contributed elements to the solar system, Humayun said. It opens a treasure trove of prospects for exploring the formation of the elements. Humayun obtained the samples from a primitive meteorite that fell onto Tagish Lake in January 2000. Unlike iron meteorites, primitive meteorites are not preserved long on the Earth's surface because they disintegrate when exposed to water. This one was retrieved within 48 hours of its fall in frigid Arctic winter.
Spraying for Global Cooling
First he tried giant whisks. Now he is proposing a fleet of yachts that sprays water droplets into the clouds as the way to damp down global warming. The droplets, says engineer Stephen Salter of the University of Edinburgh, UK, will boost the whiteness of low-altitude clouds so that they reflect more sunlight back into space. In a paper presented at a climate-change conference in Edinburgh, Salter says that chimneys mounted on a fleet of 500 £1 million sprayer yachts would cancel a year's worth of global warming from carbon dioxide emissions over their 20-year lifetime. Instead of sails, spinning vertical cylinders known as Flettner rotors will propel the yachts. The rotors, which were used to successfully cross the Atlantic in the 1920s, will double as chimneys for the water droplets. As the remotely controlled vessels move through the water, the motion will drive propeller-shaped turbines that will generate electricity to power the water sprayers. The form the sprayers will take has yet to be decided, but Salter is investigating the use of a centrifuge or ultrasonic atomiser, like the nebulisers used for dispensing asthma drugs. The idea builds on a system proposed by Salter three years ago for rainmaking whisk-shaped wind turbines. Though water vapour can itself cause greenhouse warming, Salter is aiming for an evaporation rate of 90 cubic metres per second, compared to a natural global rate of 12 million cubic metres per second.
Source: New Scientist, Nature and Webindia123
Compiled by IMRAN H. KHAN
(R) thedailystar.net 2005