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     Volume 5 Issue 102 | July 7, 2006 |

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Power Your Portables With AA Batteries
It's not too often that you don't have access to a wall outlet when your cell phone or iPod battery dies. But when you do get caught in this precarious position, it would be nice to know that you have an alternative. Energizer is introducing the Energi To Go Instant Charger, a device that converts the power of AA batteries into juice for your portable electronics. The chargers will hit the stores at the end of the year.

Weapon of Mass Diffraction
Sure, it looks like the giant death ray from Goldeneye. And sure, the same technology could someday help blast satellites out of orbit. But for now, the US Air Force's Starfire Optical Range, perched on a hill in the New Mexico desert, is just trying to take some good pictures. Really. Hot and cold pockets of air change the speed of light as it moves through the atmosphere. That makes stars appear to twinkle and creates a major challenge for researchers trying to get a clear view of objects in space. Starfire's answer: Shoot a laser 56 miles into the mesosphere and measure the distortion. Then adjust the laser's mirrors until the beam is back in focus. Whatever optical tweaks correct the beam will also focus a telescope. The images from Starfire are 40 times sharper than uncorrected pictures. Today, that aids astronomers; tomorrow, maybe generals. "We don't hide the fact that it could help build an anti-satellite weapon," says Colonel Gregory Vansuch, chief of the installation, "if you choose to do it." Not that there are any plans for one, both the technology and the politics of space weapons are tricky. But if the military constructs Starfire II inside an extinct volcano, we'll let you know.

Password protected bullets only the owner can fire!
Criminals using stolen ammunition to hunt their prey may now face some problems. There is a new category of bullet coming into the market that can only be fired by their owner. Herbert Meyerle from Germany claims to have invented 'password protected' ammunition, which cannot be used after being stolen. Meyerle's invention boasts of a modified cartridge that can be fired by the burst of high frequency radio energy. However, the energy can ignite the charge only if a solid state switch within the cartridge has been activated, and this can only happen if the password entered into the gun using a tiny keypad matches with the one stored in the cartridge. Meyerle says that cartridges can be programmed with a password to match the purchaser's gun when they are sold. The owner can then set the gun to request the password when it is reloaded, or to perform a biometric check before firing. The gun can also be made automatically lock itself after a pre-set period of time has passed since the password was entered.

Walkie Talkie Watches
Wrist communicators were staples of spy flicks, but this is the Walkie Talkie Watch, which sells for around USD 100, brings the concept closer to reality. The watch is voice activated with a range of 3 km and more than 300 channel combinations. The watch also comes with a headset with PTT button and boasts a durable design that makes it great for outdoor adventurers. Oh yeah - it tells time, too.

Wheelchair Accessbible Gym Machine
Next time you're at your health club, take a look around and see how many wheelchair-accessible machines you can find. Chances are you won't see any, given that a staggering 94% of all gyms don't have equipment that can be used by members in wheelchairs. Designer Ryan Eder has designed the Freemotion Access, a strength-training machine not too unlike those at most public gyms, but with modifications that make it accessible to wheelchair-bound and able-bodies patrons, letting everyone get a workout.

Noise measurement may raise cell phone quality
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology claim to have developed improved methods for measuring cell phone 'noise.' The researchers, working with industry collaborator, created technology to more accurately measure very faint thermal 'noise' caused by random motion of electrons within electronic circuits. The new technique will help improve the signal range, data rate and battery life of cell phones and other wireless communications devices. Low background noise typically translates to better performance in electronics, such as longer ranges and clearer signals or higher information-carrying capacity. However, noise too low to measure means circuit designers cannot tune the system for optimal performance.


Compiled by IMRAN H. KHAN

Source: Wired, NewScientist and Webindia123


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