You Star Trek geeks out there should appreciate this one.
Today my friend sent me this:
Scientists at Oxford have developed TRANSPARENT ALUMINUM (or as they probably say over there “aluminium”).
Using a FLASH laser (no idea what that is, btw) they knocked out an electron from every aluminum atom in a lab sample.
“What we have created is a completely new state of matter nobody has seen before,” said Professor Justin Wark.
That’s pretty cool, I have to say! Granted, the sample was less than a 20th the width of a human hair and the amount of energy required to create this “new state of matter” was equal to that of a power plant providing electricity to an entire city (though what size city is never made clear). But they say this technology may be able to help in the quest for generating power using nuclear fusion.
I, however, like it mostly for it’s nerd factor. About 9.5 out of 10.
Last in my five part Star Trek inspired series has more to do with theory than practical application, at least right now anyway.
It’s a cloaking device (no, this is not an automated butler that helps you on with your coat).
It’s an actual invisibility generator that has been constructed by engineers at Duke University.
Light reflecting normally off a bump on a surface:
Bent light removing scattered beams to make bump “disappear”:
So far it only works on items places on a mirrored surface, but even that is pretty darn impressive.
As expected this has to do with the ability to bend light around an object. To do this the engineers used mathematical algorithms to engineer artificially structured “metamaterials” (materials that have properties not found in natural materials).
Said metamaterial is what actually does the bending of the light.
According to the Duke University professor it’s similar to the mirages created on the road in the summer. The mirage is “cloaking” the road below it.
Practical applications include protective shields and improved wireless communication (by making signal-blocking obstacles “disappear”).
I wonder if this will put magicians out of business. Pretty soon Chris Angel might have to start looking for a new job.
via Popular Science
Part four in what is turning into my five part Star Trek inspired blogs relates to some super high tech stuff at MIT. Again not so much “for consumer use” but the science nerd in me wants to share this with the world at large. It’s like that old PSA “The More You Know”, right?
Anyway, some smarty pants professor and graduate student at MIT have figured out a way to use a “tractor beam” of light to pick up, hold and move around individual cells and other objects on the surface of a microchip.
Yes, that’s right. I said tractor beam!
Here’s an image of 16 E.coli cells on a microchip that the tractor beam manipulated into spelling MIT:
They are calling this technology Optical Tweezers (which I think is a totally cute name, btw). They can be used to push around and control tiny objects (we’re talking nano to micrometer sizes)
Mostly this technology benefits engineering and biology research. Don’t expect to see new science kits on the shelves of your local Target or Toys R Us that include optical tweezer technology (come to think of it, I haven’t seen any science kits on any shelves in a real long time… what’s up with that? Do kids not think science is cool anymore? But I digress…)
Just think, if they can use this to make microchips even smaller then the iPhone will be even more awesome!
via MIT Develops ‘Tractor Beam’
Part three of my Star Trek inspired gadget blogs isn’t really a “for consumer use” gadget. But could potentially be developed into one someday (think TASER but less likely to cause a heart attack).
The US Air Force has recently developed a non lethal weapon that causes temporary blindness. They are calling it PHaSER (an acronym for Personal Halting and Stimulation Response).
It still takes two arms and a considerable amount of muscle to wield one of these things, but I like that it is non-lethal. Soon we’ll have troops that can set their weapons to “stun”, and that is pretty cool.
via Air Force Develops ‘dazzling’ laser weapon
Part two of my Star Trek inspired gadgets: The Klingon Language iPhone app.
I have not personally gone so far in my Star Trek geekiness as too try to learn the Klingon language. But I know a few people that have (they’re not fluent but they have a few key phrases memorized, which makes them hard-core Trekkers in my book).
This is the iPhone version of the Simon and Schuster paperback of the same name.
The app contains all the functionality of Ultralingua dictionaries in addition to the vocabulary and grammar developed by Marc Okrand, the linguist responsible for creating the Klingon language for Star Trek. It also has a suitably “Star Trekkie” GUI. So combine that with the fact that the iPhone already looks like a state of the art Tri-corder, you should feel like you really are a student at Star Fleet Academy (even if you are just sitting in your cubical at work on your break time).
And don’t worry about the pronunciation. It includes a listen-and-repeat function so you don’t cause a difficult situation when you accidentally say “Your mother has a smooth forehead” when you meant to say “Today is a good day to die!”.
-Interactive, two-way bi-lingual text from English to Klingon and back
-History of searched dictionary terms
-Number translation (critical for targeting)
-Listen-and-repeat audio format by author Marc Okrand teaches you basic grammar and pronunciation
-Text timed with the Conversational Kiingon audio for an added learning aid
-Searchable audio – find the exact portion of the lesson you want via standard playback tools, a handy scrollbar or complete text search
-Audio phrase pronunciation with volume control
In case you are worried about the dictionary’s credibility, rest assured it has been tested and approved by the Klingon Language Institute
For a sample check their site for some commonly used phrases and pronunciation guide!
You can get the app on the iTunes app store for only $11.99.
via iPhone Application List