Samsung Galaxy might outdo Apple’s iPhone 5s fingerprint sensor with its iris eye scanning technology. The executive vice president, Lee Young Hee of the Samsung’s mobile sector told Bloomberg at CES in Las Vegas that the company is having a possibility but they cannot really say whether they would have it on the S5 or […]
Archive for the ‘Inventions’ Category
Amateur and student inventions have a long and noble tradition. We all know about Youtube or Ford, but did you know that the guy who invented TV was also an amateur? (thank you, for making Firefly possible.)
Lately, amateur science has been making strides all over the place thanks to better micro-chips, modular components, and huge advances in miniaturization and nanotech. Today’s amateurs (or “independent inventors,” as they are sometimes called) have a lot more to work with than their sprocket-wielding ancestors, and it shows. Here are a few of the most recent, and coolest creations.
1 The Uno Electric Unicycle
This hip-looking uni-wheeled electric bike was built, designed, and conceived by 18-year-old Ben Gulak. Sick of smog, he decided to create something that could be a viable alternative to driving, something like the Segway, only… way cooler. He came up with a cross between an electric bike and a motorcycle, with two wheels side-by-side. The bike is stabilized by gyros; to speed up, you lean forward. He designed it for commuters, and you can ride it for between 2 and 2.5 hours before it needs a recharge. He built it with the help of his grandfather, who is also a tinkerer and worked as an engineer, so he had all the necessary equipment on hand. The secret? The Uno is powered by electric wheelchair motors.
2 The Flying Car
Although I’m still waiting for something that looks like Luke’s landspeeder before I’ll believe that the future has truly arrived, this will have to do in the meantime. Its inventor, MIT student Carl Deitrich, calls his creation a “Personal Air Vehicle.” It’s a hybrid airplane-car, built to make short trips between 100 – 500 miles using the hundreds of small public airports and runways that dot the country.
It’s about the size of an SUV, but unlike an SUV this baby only seats two, plus luggage. It uses gyroscopic control in the air, and once you land at the airport you don’t need to “de-plane” and wait with a hundred other people to snatch you luggage from the conveyor belt – instead, you just flip the “Personal Air Vehicle” into “Personal Ground Vehicle” (car) mode, fold the wings into the body, and hit the highway.The construction of the plane includes all the standard vehicle safety stuff – seatbelts, crumple-zones, etc, but under the hood there’s definitely something special. It uses an ultra-efficient rocket engine that doesn’t require a turbo-pump to deliver the fuel, so it’s both cheaper, and lighter, than any other engine of its kind, which is what makes the whole thing possible. And while Deitrich admits that the idea for a flying car is nothing new, he’s the first guy to actually have one in his garage.
3 The Wall Scaling Batman Style Belt
This utility belt is just like Batman’s, but real. It can lift 250lbs (ie: Batman plus his suit) 50 feet in 5 seconds. It’s supposed to be used for good – towing things, getting soldiers into hard-to-reach places, helping firefighters get up buildings etc. But we know better: it’s just completely cool to be able to scale buildings. There are several models being created now that get you up further, faster, or carry more weight, but the idea is the same.
4 The Wearable Computer
Debuting at TED this year was an invention by another MIT student, Pranav Mistry, whose speciality is human-machine interface. His “SixthSense” computer system is wearable, and it’s hard to describe, except to say that it is completely awesome and kind of crazy.It uses a real-time gestural interface – a camera around your neck and watches your hands, and a projector beside it allows you to project data onto walls, or onto your hand, or onto anything else, and interact with it as if it were real – using a projected calculator, checking a projected wristwatch, or rearranging projected photos.
Some of the most wow-inducing examples presented at TED include a Wall Street Journal that, when pointed at, turns interactive, playing its lead story as a video, projected right onto the paper. You can play, pause, and enlarge the video by pressing the projected buttons underneath it. The set up is basically a laptop, camera, and projector, and the whole thing is internet-enabled, so you can look up product specs and compare prices right in a store, for instance, by pointing at an item and making a certain motion. It’s a hardware mash-up of found technologies from everywhere, but Mistry has put them together into a completely mind-bending package.
5 The Invisibility Cloak
This cloak invariably invokes comparisons to Harry Potter, but it’s not quite that good – yet. Japanese prof Susumu Tachi and his grad students created what they call a “retro-reflective projection system,” which basically means that what’s on one side gets projected onto the other. The jacket is made up of special reflective beads, which function like cats-eyes, reflecting almost all the light back to the source with a minimum of scattering (the effect they harness is the same one desponsible for “red-eye” in photos). When the rearward image is projected onto the front-facing beads, their shape and highly-focussed nature makes the picture look three dimensional… more or less. Each bead acts like a giant pixel. Watch the video to see it in action.
6 The Tumor-Killer
When a guy builds something in his garage that he claims will cure cancer, it’s OK to be a little skeptical. John Kanzius was diagnosed with leukemia in 2002 and, as a radio engineer and self-professed tinkerer, he set out to see what he could do about it. He came up with the idea of using nanoparticles and energy from highly focussed radio waves, to cook cancer cells from the inside out.Radio frequency is harmless to normal cells, and it scatters quickly, so it’s generally pretty useless for highly specific stuff. So Kanzius used the principle of a tuning fork, building two small antennae that resonate at a certain frequency and focus an RF wave between them. It reverberates like a guitar string, generating an electromagnetic field around itself. When metal nanoparti
cles are placed inside the field, they absorb its energy and heat up – but surrounding biological tissues are unaffected. Kanzius had figured out a way to cook a tumor from the inside out, without exposing a patient to the harmful radiation effects of chemotherapy.
Medical trials are still underway, and Kanzius died of complications from leukemia in February without seeing if his invention was a success – but rabbits exposed to the treatment are still alive, and FDA approval is being sought for human trials starting in 2010.
7 The Bedside Nuclear Fusion Reactor
Maybe high school student Thiago Olsen got sick of blowing the household circuits whenever his bedside coffee maker started up, or maybe he just just thought it would be neat to scare the bejeezus out of the Michigan Department of Health, but whatever his reasons, he decided it would be fun to build something several times hotter than the interior of the sun, next to his desk. So, on the weekends and after school he built his own fusion reactor. And it works – he can create ultra-hot plasma in a jar. Unfortunately, it takes way more energy to run it than it creates, so Doc Ock doesn’t have any competition yet. But Olsen didn’t need tritium or enormous, weirdly anthropomorphic robot arms to make his fusion generator run: he built it entirely out of components he got from the local hardware store, along with a few pieces of electronic test gear scrounged from E-Bay. Not bad for a weekend project.
8 The Roomba
Ok, I’ll admit it, the Roomba is one of those inventions that is sort of disappointing when you see it. Although it’s cool, what we really want when we think about home robotics is a fully-functional robot butler like Rosie on the Jetsons, and the Roomba doesn’t really measure up. But creating, designing, marketing, and producing small, self-propelling vacuums is still a pretty cool achievement, when you think about it. You’ve got to start somewhere, after all. In the early ’90s, inventor Helen Grenier, a mechanical engineer and yet another MIT grad (maybe there’s something in the water) founded a company to build robots – she just thought they were cool. What kind of robots? Well, she tried all sorts of different ones, but kept getting asked – jokingly – if she could create a robot to clean houses. She’d almost run out of money when realized that there really was a market for these things, and the Roomba was born. The genius lay in the pricing – under $200 – not just the compact design and simple construction.The company (now called iRobot, presumably because the vacuums allow no harm to come to humans as a result of dirty floors), is expanding into all sorts of other home automation now, too, and has funded robot-building contests all over the US and around the world.
9 The Student Satellite
In 2000, a group of Stanford students completed work on OPAL (Orbital Picosatellite Automated Launcher) and it was launched into space, along with a few other satellites, by NASA. It worked – well, sort of. There were quite a few bugs and it had problems communicating, but technically it was functional. While it required a lot of coaxing to get it to talk, it was definitely a landmark event. Now there are dozens of student-built satellites orbiting the Earth, but these guys did it first.
10 The World’s First Insulin Pump and The Segway (Dean Kamen)
Not strictly speaking a creation, but a guy with a bunch of creations. Kamen dropped out of a mechanical engineering program in the late 1970s. He created the world’s first insulin pump, and founded a company to put his various ideas to work. In 2002 he invented the Segway. While it was a financial disaster, his patents made him rich, so he carried on creating: he made a stair-climbing wheelchair, a tiny dialysis machine (they used to be gigantic), a new vaccine-delivery system… he’s kind of like Edison for the 1990s. His latest invention is called the “Luke arm“, in commemoration of Skywalker’s robotic hand.
11 The Bionic Contact Lense
This contact lens has a circuit on it, which lets you see things as if they were projected in front of you – a road map, World of Warcraft, exam hints, the possibilities are endless. The creators, University of Washington duo Ehsan Saeedi and Samuel Kim, made the device using nano-circuitry and teeny-weeny LEDs, 1/3mm across and 20nm thick. They’re also planning on including a solar cell for power. So far, they haven’t tested it extensively, but it’s made out of the same flexible organic materials that regular contacts are made from, so even though it looks a bit uncomfortable, the creators claim that you won’t even know it’s there.
Tiny cameras that sneak into tiny places are currently all the rage overseas, and Miharu’s dental-oriented device is one of the pack leaders. Though it looks like a highly sophisticated toothbrush, the unit features a tiny video camera and an LED light, through which you can film in places that don’t normally see the light of day – like the back of your mouth, the back of your refrigerator, or that little crack between the floorboards. Send the video to your big screen TV for maximum impact.
Its curvy esthetics will certainly appeal to the style conscious, but the Rotary Razaq is designed for performance, too. With a 3500-RPM motor, omni-directional, washable blades, and a handle that manual razor junkies will love, Hitachi’s little shaving marvel may just be the ideal whisker remover.
Korea will pay the ultimate homage to Dick Tracy this year as two of its preeminent electronics manufacturers duke it out for supremacy in the oh-so-pricey world of watch phones. Due to land in France any day now, the Samsung S9110 is said to be the slimmest watch phone ever released, featuring a 1.76-inch touch screen and such niceties as Bluetooth, voice recognition, MP3 player capabilities, a speakerphone, and e-mail functionality. Sporting similar specs but a slightly thicker profile, and a higher MSRP, LG’s GD910 will also pack 3G video call capabilities and 2GB of internal memory (versus just 40MB in the S9110) when it arrives in France at just about the same time.
Sanyo’s Eneloop rechargeable batteries have been the Holy Grail for serious battery users for some time now, so it comes as no surprise that one of the first seemingly reputable, fully functional portable solar panels is part and parcel of the Eneloop brand. Just now available in Japan, the Eneloop Portable Solar Panel will power gadgets such as MP3 players, handheld gaming devices, mobile phones, cameras, and even some laptops, and look pretty good doing it.
The latest iteration of a toothpaste-free toothbrush that’s already convinced millions – yes, millions – of Japanese to take the plunge, the Soladey 3 is an oral cleansing tool with a very unique ionic twist. Unlike traditional toothbrushes, the unit is equipped with a solar panel that absorbs light and purportedly transmits electrons via a titanium oxide semiconductor to make plaque unstable and easily removable. Word on the street is that the Soladey concept actually works. Can millions of Japanese toothbrushers be wrong? Can you imagine a life without toothpaste?
What if you could get that way-cool planetarium experience in the comfort of your own living room? With Sega’s Homestar Pro Planetarium, you can do just that. The system – essentially a spiffy spherical projector equipped with a variety of night sky “discs” – sets up easily and apparently fills any room with more stars than you can shake a constellation at. Though Sega says the unit is a great introduction to astronomy, we wonder if there could there be a more relaxing, calming sleep aid.
The SEG Clip is a USB stick and antenna that plugs into a PC and receives over-the-air television programming (via Japan’s free-to-air mobile TV service, dubbed 1Seg). While that may not be particularly remarkable, the fact that users can then download a TVPlayer App and wirelessly watch whatever they’ve recorded on their iPod or iPhone is. You’d never need, or even be able to use one of these gadgets here in the States, but when in Japan…
Yes, we fully realize this is a consumer tech site. Nevertheless, no discussion of cool overseas devices would be complete without a mention of the venerable toilet. The sad truth is that we’re so far behind (excuse the pun) in the toilet business that we never be able to catch up. In Japan, you can rest your derriere upon a seat that warms and massages you. You can turf the toilet paper and instead cleanse thyself with warm water. You can crank the MP3 tunes with your detachable remote, and you can rest easy knowing you’re perched in a germ-resistant environment. You can even purify the air afterward. That such luxuries cannot be found easily here in North America is nothing short of an abomination, and we offer up this pic of a little Japanese girl staring in amazement at her automatic toilet seat as proof.
This is a concept car from Suzuki. The original car was made way back in ‘06, and is not made by some random Halo obsessed Xbox man-child with technical car modification prowess. Though I am sure someone out there has tried and failed. For more details and more importantly more photos please check out the source.
This interior was unveiled at the international extreme auto show 08 in Thailand. There is definitely a girly feel to this interior. You can see that the steering wheel is the shape of a cat; which is a nice touch.
All in all, Alpine spent over a quarter of a million dollars on this Civic. This is a car so littered with electronics it could only be described as unprecedented. The sticker price a cool $250,000.
Well, I don’t have much other information on this car apart the fact it’s clearly taken a lot of time and beads to mod this car. It looks like it’s someone’s pimp-mobile from a club called ‘The Purse Club’. If anyone else knows anything more about this car please contact me and I will add it to the post.
For those who turn there nose up at the flash modern interiors there is this retro interior for those who want to get back to the basics of the open road. I wouldn’t use this to impress the chicks; this is more for the ‘lone road warrior’.
I think this car must of belonged to someone like Mr. Jolly; (look up psychoville). If I drove this car it would make me feel nauseous.
This is an ideal car if you love a cuddle. If you feel lonely just pull over and hug the seat.
I don’t know about anyone else but this car looks pretty un-comfy to me.
Swiveling chairs, just what you need when travelling at 70mph, the ability to swivel 360 degrees to talk to your passengers.
Got the bag, got the shoes, now get the car.
Curved Barrel Machine Gun, 1953
The 20th century saw many astounding technological innovations. The automobile revolutionized the way people live and work, the internet changed the way people think about information, and the U.S. of A put a man on the moon. But some technological advances that came in the earlier part of the 20th centry weren’t exactly meant for the history books. Because they were stupid. Take, for example, this M3 sub-machine gun with a curved barrel for shooting around corners. It’s the perfect gun for the “shoot first, look where you’re shooting later” kind of guy.
Anti-Bandit Bag, 1963
Inventor John H T Rinfret demonstrates his anti-bandit bag. To foil thieves the chain is pulled and the bottom of the case falls out so the contents are scattered over the floor. That’ll stop those thieves from getting at the contents of your bag! No, wait. It won’t.
Hubbard Electrometer, 1968
American science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard uses his Hubbard Electrometer to determine whether tomatoes experience pain, 1968. His work led him to the conclusion that tomatoes “scream when sliced.”
Baby Cage, 1937
A nanny supervising a baby suspended in a wire cage attached to the outside of a high tenement block window. The cages were distributed to members of the Chelsea Baby Club in London who have no gardens, or qualms about putting a child in a box dangling over a busy street.
A man at a shipping exhibition in Olympia, London, demonstrating the ”Laryngaphone,” a noise-excluding telephone which only transmits vibrations from the vocal chords when the microphone is placed against the throat or cheek. For the man who wants to annoy both his wife and his mistress
Inventor of a honey and vinegar mixture, called Honegar, Dr. DeForest C. Jarvis. Honegar was said to be a folk remedy for aches and pains, though it mainly sounds like a cure for lack of nausea.
Illuminated Tires, 1961
A woman adjusts her stocking by the light of the Goodyear’s illuminated tires. The tire is made from a single piece of synthetic rubber and is brightly lit by bulbs mounted inside the wheel rim.
Handwriting Game, 1955
A handwriting game being analysed by members of the Ideal Toy panel on Inventor’s Day at the Ideal Toy Company in Hollis, New York. Because there’s nothing children love more than handwriting.
Fast-Draw Robot, 1960
Robot equipped with fast-draw invention shoots it out with live gunner. It’s always easy to question the wisdom of giving a robot a gun, but also making him quick on the draw is just irresponsible.
Baby Holder, 1937
Jack Milford, player with the Wembley Monarchs ice hockey team, has invented a carrying device so that his baby can join his wife and himself on the ice. Because who wouldn’t want to take something as fragile as a baby onto a rock-hard surface with very little friction?
From 1790 until 1870, U.S. patent law required inventors to submit actual physical models of their novel machines along with their drawings and descriptions.
These miniature testaments to innovation — “not more than twelve inches square … neatly made” — are the subject of a new exhibition at Harvard University, Patent Republic. The display draws on the collection of Susan Glendening, a New York psychoanalyst by day and fervent collector by night. Seventy-five of her models are on display in Cambridge.
The patent models have taken a strange and winding path from their original creation to Glendening’s collection. After the patent office stopped requiring models, it spent more than 50 years trying to figure out what to do with them. Before they were auctioned in 1925, mostly to Sir Henry Wellcome, a pharmaceuticals magnate, they had a variety of homes in the nation’s capital. They were stuffed anywhere space could be found in the patent office building, but eventually lost their spots.
“Crowded out of the hallways, the models were put on display in a rented building. Early in the present century a wave of economy caused that practice to be abandoned,” reads a 1925 New York Times article. “For a while the old models were stored in a leaky tunnel near the House of Representatives’ office building.”
Glendening wants to provide them with a much comfier home: her own. She plans to transform her mid-18th century house into a museum, as soon as she can round up some funding.
Collecting patent models is not for the faint of heart or thin of wallet. Most respectable models go for five figures. And the prize of her collection — the model of a “carbonizer” invented by Thomas Edison to create early electric light filaments — could fetch a much gaudier sum.
“I’ve been offered a million dollars for it and I refused it,” Glendening said.
From the safety pin to a precursor to the Bowflex, dish washers to a machine for cutting lozenges, Glendening’s collection reminds us that someone, at some time, had to dream up all the devices of modern life.
“What I normally get from people when they see the collection is, ‘Oh, gosh! Everything had to be invented!’” Glendening said.
It’s not just an item itself that has to be invented, but all the ancillary components and associated technologies. For example, the top photo shows the model for a “stop attachment for [the] roller skate.” The invention isn’t the skate itself, but the piece of metal at the back that allows you to slow down. Similar technology is still used today.
Above: This model shows some improvements to the “ruling pen,” which was used to line paper.
Below: The wonderfully titled “apparatus for physical culture” was a predecessor to the Bowflex and pulley-driven weight lifting machines. It was designed by Harvard Medical School’s George Windship, who promoted the slogan that “Strength is Health.” Alas, he died at 42.
Above: Glendening maintains a special interest in patent models created by women. She notes that many women were confined to inventing in domestic realms, but some broke the mold. Clara A. Bartelett, who invented this improvement to the side saddle was such a woman. Yet, even Bartelett was a “product of her time,” Glendening said.
“Here’s a woman who had the chutzpah to get a patent for an invention but she’s still a wearing a long skirt (while) inventing a side saddle,” she said.
Below: The dishwasher below had a novel piping system for getting water from the pump to the dishes.
Above: The fringemaker pictured is rare among patent models in that it actually works. (The plastic spools are not from the original.)
Below: The safety pin pictured below is one of the smallest patent models made in the 19th century. It’s just one centimeter tall and four-and-a-half centimeters long.
Above:This big wheel bicycle was patented in 1879 by Sylvester Sawyer. Sawyer had previously patented several machines for making hoops for the American Hoop Machine Company.
Below: Before the design of the bicycle settled into what we know today, all kinds of human-powered wheeled vehicles puttered along 19th century roads. Here we see a velocipede where you sat in-between the wheels.
Above: You couldn’t always change the incline of your bed with a remote control. This pillow support was adjusted by a simple thumb screw.
Below: Nothing says 19th century medicine quite like this “electric bath,” which ran a mild current through your water for “healing purposes.”
Above: A simple charcoal-burning footstove that was used to warm the feet.
Below: The model for this machine for cutting lozenges is hand painted. According to the patent, the machine will allow for the manufacture of “the flat pieces of confectionery known in the trade as ‘lozenges,” with “exactness and rapidity.”
Above: A beautiful windmill model from the forgotten Minnesota innovator, George Roland. Nineteenth-century wind machines like this were used to pump water, not generate electricity like modern turbines.
Below: This ice skate model was the evidence for a patent that improved the process of making a blade out of a steel plate. The fact that it looks like an elf’s skate was purely coincidental.
This isn’t your dad’s beer.Or even your grandpa’s. It’s your distant prehistoric mammalian ancestor’s. And you’ve never tasted anything quite like it.
There are only four ingredients in most beer: Malted barley, water, hops and yeast. But on the banks of northern California’s Russian River, Stumptown Brewery’s Peter Hackett is cooking up a different kind of brew. His unique ale is made with a special ingredient: 45-million year old Saccharomyces cerevisiae (aka brewer’s yeast) rescued from a piece of amber formed during the Eocene epoch and reanimated in the lab of microbiologist Raul Cano.
The single-celled yeast, unsurprisingly robust for something that has lived 45 million years in dormancy, is shockingly good at making beer, though it’s not without its quirks. After all, modern brewer’s yeast has evolved in the anaerobic environment of a fermentation tank, while the ancient yeast hasn’t had the benefit of adapting to the harsh world inflicted by beer makers.
Here’s a look at the technical nitty-gritty behind the science and art of cooking up a batch of Fossil Fuel’s first offering: XP Ale.
Hackett’s first step in making beer starts in the attic of his brewpub, where he pours giant bags of malt into a grain mill. There, rollers crack the malt and feed it into a large tank in the brewery below. Malt is made of grains or seeds whose growth has been stunted at germination, when they contain the highest concentration of starch-digesting enzymes.
In this case, the malt is made out of barley.Beer can also be made with wheat, oats or any type of malted grain.
The mill feeds the grain at a controlled speed, along with 170-degree water, into the stainless steel mashing tub. It is stirred occasionally with a blue plastic boat oar to ensure consistent hydration of the cracked grist.
The temperature at the mash stage, says Hackett, determines the ultimate mouth-feel of the beer. This is because the heat breaks down the malt, releasing enzymes that turn the grain’s starch proteins into simple and complex sugars. Later, the yeast will consume these sugars and turn them into alcohol. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae prefers to eat simple sugars.
At this stage the liquid that will eventually be beer has a caramel color and tastes sweet like barley-flavored sugar water.
After the mash rests for an hour, Hackett circulates the liquid into and out of the tank. This step, called vorloft, removes any solids or impurities floating in the mixture. The next step is called sparging. Hackett moves the liquid, known as wort, into the kettle while adding additional hot water. This stage releases any sugars still trapped in the barley and dilutes the mixture to create a clear, nearly-flavorless fluid.
At this point the specific gravity – a measurement that determines the density of the liquid, which will be essential later in determining when the beer is finished brewing – should ideally be about 1?050 (water is 1.000).
Once in the kettle, Hackett brings the diluted wort to a violent boil.
The purpose of this is twofold. First, because the hot tanks are open to the environment, it’s possible for free-floating, sugar-loving microorganisms to get in. They’re not dangerous to eat, but they could change the flavor of the beer. Boiling pasteurizes the liquid to avoid contamination.
Its second purpose is to break out any undissolved proteins, which will appear as inch-long strings inside the kettle.The proteins will need to be removed from the wort before the yeast is added, otherwise they create what is called a protein haze — making the beer cloudy and giving it a viscous character that will affect the ultimate mouth feel.
Over the next hour, the wort will boil in the kettle and Hackett will add flavoring ingredients. Hops, which are related to cannabis and smell like marijuana, give the beer its bitter flavor.
Later additions (three total for Hackett’s special ale) will add more complex flavors and a floral aroma? Hops also act as a preservative, giving the beer a longer life span before the flavors go off and the plant’s oils contribute to the overall mouth feel of the finished beer.
When the hops addition is complete, Hackett shuts the burner off and spins the liquid inside the kettle into a whirlpool. The solids inside — the undissolved protein strands and hops — need to be removed in order to prevent them from changing the flavor of the beer and interfering with the yeast. During the whirlpool stage, the solids collect on a mound at the convex bottom of the kettle. When the liquid is removed, Hackett will transfer it out around the pack collected inside.
After 10 minutes of spinning and 20 minutes resting, the hot liquid, now at more the 190 degrees, is fully prepared and ready for the final step: turning wort into beer.
Once the liquid in the kettle has been moved to the fermentation tank Hackett cools it to about 74 degrees. Normally, this temperature would drop a bit during fermentation, but the ancient yeast likes its food to remain consistently a little warmer then other yeast.
At this stage Hackett pours a 5-gallon jug of liquid yeast (called a brink) into the side of the fermentation Tank.He locks the tank shut and lets the yeast go to work.
Once the brink is emptied into the tank, the ancient yeast eats the sugars created by the mashing process and converts them into alcohol and CO2.
During the process, however, the Eocene ancestor to modern brewer’s yeast behaves differently from traditional ale ale yeast.It ferments quickly at the top of the tank, like an ale yeast, but then it continues to ferment slowly when it falls the bottom of the tank instead of going dormant, which is more like a lager yeast. It’s during the fast and furious top fermentation that the yeast imparts its ancient and unique flavor to the beer.
At the bottom of the tank, the ancient yeast clumps up and forms a thick clay. This is because, unlike its modern counterparts, it has an unusually high supply of agglutin — a sticky surface protein and antibody that causes the yeast’s cell walls to become compact, highly concentrated, and rigid in an effort to prevent foreign bodies from getting in.
After about a week in the fermentation tub, Hackett “crashes the tank” by dropping the temperature.Normally this would shock ale yeast into dormancy. But the ancient yeast will continue to eat, so Hackett moves it to a conditioning tank where the beer will sit and slowly ferment for another month. When the specific gravity and flavor profile is just right, the beer is done.
A standard ale, made with modern hybridized brewing yeasts, will start at a higher specific gravity. For example, a regular ale will have a starting gravity of 1.058 to 1.065 and would finish at about 1.014.
The ancient yeast, however, only eats simple sugars and not as much as modern yeast.Because of this, Hackett has to start at a lower specific gravity, 1.050, and it will finish at about 1.012.
After a month in the conditioning tanks, the beer is ready to drink.
Hackett, who likes to think of himself as the Research and Development end of Fossil Fuels Brewing Co. has made other variations of beer with the ancient yeast. Stumptown Brewery was recently selling a strong, dark caramel, Scottish brew Hackett called “XPort.”
But his original XP, also known as Experimental Pale Ale, is his pride and joy. “You would have better odds of winning the lottery,” Hackett said of the likelihood that the ancient yeast would brew tasty beer. “I was very surprised to find that it did a great job. I was over the moon.”
Snow-Blowers From Hell, and more…
The picture of a rusted Soviet truck with a mounted jet engine provoked lots of interest from our readers, so we decided to make a full page about such monstrous machinery.
First of all, full disclaimer – they’re not dormant Decepticons or armies of malevolent AI ready to tackle the world at the first notice. They are simply snow-blowers and jet-dryers used at some Russian airports, like the ones shown below – with Klimov VK-1 engines taken from MiG-15 planes.
These machines are still used to remove snow from runways, and in some cases, for de-icing of planes in Russia. The engine is a MiG-15 or MiG-17 radial compressor engine with a lengthened jet exhaust.
Eric Chipchase writes to us: “During the 1960’s a number of MiG-15’s were used by the Polish State Railways to clear the tracks of ice and snow (the rear fuselage and wings were removed and the engine was operated from the cockpit)” Similar set-ups were used to remove ice from railroad tracks and railroad switches in the permafrost areas (in Siberia, and even in East Germany during the harsh winters) -
Some our readers suggested that such jet-equipped machines could’ve been used for extinguishing oil well fires, for example in Kuwait (with water injected into a jet turbine for fire suppression). The reality turned out to be even more fantastic: Hungarian inventors actually attached a couple of jet engines to a tank’s turret!
“Some new methods were used. Early on, teams used liquid nitrogen to smother fires. A team from Hungary put two jet engines on top of a captured Iraqi tank and introduced water into the stream of gas the jets produced, blowing a high-velocity fog at the fires and essentially blowing them out” /NY Times Online/
Other Jet and Turbine-Powered Trucks
We’ve all seen jet trucks made just for show (and we already linked once to a jet engine mounted on a pick-up truck, on a smaller scale). Here is one of the more ambitious ones – “Shockwave” triple-engine jet truck (featured recently on the Dicovery Channel) -
“The ShockWave Jet Truck runs over 300 mph racing airplanes at airshows; holds the world record in a quarter mile for trucks at 256 mph in just 6.36 seconds; and holds the world record for full size trucks at 376 mph as recorded by Guinness Book of World Records. At 36,000 horsepower, the ShockWave has enough power to accelerate at 3 Gs vertical, which is as much as the Space Shuttle!”
“Super Shockwave” twin-jet engine retro-styled truck:
…and a “Super Chief Jet Train” -
Hawaiian jet-powered fire truck, owned by Davidson Racing
Fire truck, equipped with MiG jet engine
it houses the largest turbine motor in a land vehicle anywhere in the world, which is so big that water tanks had to be removed from the vehicle… which renders the whole effort pretty useless in real life situations.
Here is another jet truck, this time from Texas:
The “World’s Fastest Ambulance” is described here (the engine takes all the space inside the vehicle, so there is no space left for the patient)
Outisde of sheer record-breaking and show appearances, the efforts were made in the U.S. (and behind the Iron Curtain) to come up with gas turbine-powered trucks. Kenworth, for example, had a few trucks outfitted with a Boeing gas turbine engine:
it almost looks like this Kenworth truck (a gas turbine prototype from 1950) is driving without a motor – due to the extremely low profile of a turbine inside.
Chevrolet Bison, 1964 – another iteration of turbine-powered futuristic truck (almost as outlandish in looks at the time, as designs by Luigi Colani ). Its two turbines are located just above the cabin:
While over in Russia…
Check out this centipedal monstrosity – perhaps the biggest of Soviet trucks designed to carry ballistic nuclear weapons, also sporting a turbo-jet power. This is MAZ-7907: 30 meters long, 24×24 chassis, build in Minsk, Belorus. Read our coverage of the rest of such “ballistic” Russian trucks
The turbo-engine produced 1250 h.p., giving this “truck” a maximum load of 150 tons. By the way, Russia even had jet-powered (gas turbine) tanks during the 1970s – T80 went into production in 1976.
We wrote about Jet Train idea and its implementation in Russia and U.S. before . Here is a more recent image of Soviet jet train car, which was put up as a monument in a city of Tver.
The jet train car above was restored and kept as a monument, the rusted car shown below (made by Kalinin train factory), was not so fortunate:
Speaking about monuments and sculptures, this jet truck “thing of beauty” was found by Duncan Hull:
The Alcohol-Fueled Whoosh Rocket
Here’s something different: the alcohol-fueled whoosh rocket. It is volatile so keep a small fire extinguisher at hand.
You will need:
• 2-liter plastic soda-pop bottle
• Duct tape
• Electric drill
• Disposable ballpoint pen
• Wire clothes hanger
• Small amount of isopropanol alcohol—this is known as rubbing alcohol and can be found at drug stores • Eyedropper or pipette
• Cable tie
• A long taper (with which to light the rocket)
• Matches or lighter
• Safety gloves and goggles
• If you wish to add fins, follow steps 2–7 of project 1.2 and add them after step 2
Unscrew the cap from the soda-pop bottle and carefully drill a hole about 3/8 inch (10 mm) diameter through its center. Then screw the cap back onto the bottle.
Use the pliers to bend the coat hanger into the shape of a launcher, as shown. The straight segment sticking up at an angle (labeled below) should be kept absolutely straight. Attach a cable tie on the straight segment, leaving enough room for the tube of the ballpoint pen to just fit on the straight segment.
From this step onward, take the rocket outside to an open space. Put on the gloves and goggles. Using the eyedropper, carefully squeeze four drops of the alcohol into the bottle. Replace the cap on the bottle and shake to mix the vapor with the air.
Slide the ballpoint-pen tube onto the straight segment of the launcher so that it rests on the cable tie. Place the launcher on a flat piece of ground far away from any objects or people.
To Launch Your Rocket
Light the taper and hold the flame to the vapor that will be emerging from the hole in the bottle cap. The rapid combustion of the alcohol vapor will cause increased pressure inside the bottle, and this pressure will vent through the hole in the cap, causing lift. As the pressure releases, a distinct whoosh.
The whoosh is just as satisfying as you might expect, and the flight, though brief, is very fast. Any structural addition in the form of fins will be decorative only—with this rocket, blink and you miss it. You’ll find, though, that it’s well worth repeated flights.
The Pressurized Cluster Rocket
The cluster rocket is a development from project 2.2, the three-bottle rocket, and starts at the point at which that project was completed. The six-bottle addition around its base is adorned with three simple but large fins, giving the cluster rocket a deceptively complicated appearance. Despite its elaborate looks, it’s still very easy to make.
You will need:
• Three-bottle rocket
• Six 2-liter plastic soda-pop bottles
• Duct tape
• Epoxy glue
• Heavyweight scissors and a craft knife
• Cutting mat
• Soft drawing pencil—2B is ideal • Sheet of thin cardstock, 11 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches (29 x 42 cm)
• Three sheets of thin, flexible plastic, 11 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches (29 x 42 cm)—you can find this in hobby or craft stores
• The launcher from project 1.3 (see pages 22–25) and a bicycle pump, ideally with a pressure gauge. You will also need access to a photocopier.
Make a three-bottle rocket.
Using a photocopier, enlarge the fin template on page 111 to scale onto the thin cardstock. Cut out the fin shape carefully with scissors or a craft knife. Draw around the cardstock template on the flexible plastic sheet. Repeat twice so that you have the outlines for three fins. Cut around the outlines with scissors or a craft knife. If you are using a craft knife, do your cutting on a cutting mat.
Cut the slits on the fins as shown on the template, then fold two tabs going one way and two going the other way on each fin.
Measure the diameter of the rocket and make pencil marks at thirds around the lowest bottle, just above the neck where the bottle body is straight. Glue the fins to the bottle at the marked points using epoxy glue. Add duct tape to strengthen the joints.
Prop your rocket in the firing position, and arrange six bottles around its base, two between each fin. Their bases must be aligned slightly above the top of the neck of the central bottle so they won’t interfere with the firing of the rocket. Tape the first bottle in place with duct tape, just above the fin.
Continue to tape bottles around the base of the rocket until all six are in place. Run duct tape around the lower parts of the bottles, below the fins, so that the cluster is securely fixed both top and bottom.
To Launch Your Rocket
Fill one and a half bottles with water. Place your rocket on the launcher, secure with the wire trigger, pressurize, and fire.
Although this was not one of the most impressive performers in height terms, due to the weight of the extra bottles, it makes a terrific booming sound at the point of takeoff.
The Long-Tailed Pipe Rocket
Fins are integral to the design of this long-tailed rocket and are necessary to steady it in flight. The tubing that forms the tail makes it one of the heavier designs in the book, so it’s particularly gratifying that it soars to an impressive height. When you’re buying the pipe to make the tail, take an empty plastic soda-pop bottle along with you to double-check that the pipe will fit its neck and can be glued easily in place. If your pipe is too wide for the job, it’s almost impossible to produce a neatly formed rocket.
You will need:
• Two 2-liter plastic soda-pop bottles
• Epoxy glue
• Heavyweight scissors and a craft knife
• 15-inch (38-cm) length of 1-inch (2.5-cm) OD (outside diameter) plastic water pipe—this can be found at building or plumbing supply stores
• Soft drawing pencil—2B is ideal
• Sheet of thin cardstock, 8 x 11 inches (20 x 28 cm) • Sheet of thin, flexible plastic, 11 1/2 x 161/2 inches (29 x 42 cm)—you can find this in hobby and craft stores
• Sheet of thin cardstock, 8 x 11 inches
(20 x 28 cm) • Sheet of thin, flexible plastic, 11 1/2 x 161/2 inches (29 x 42 cm)—you can find this in hobby and craft stores
• The launcher from project 1.3 (see pages 22–25) and a bicycle pump, ideally with a pressure gauge. You will also need access to a photocopier.
Take the plastic pipe and smear the outside of one end generously with epoxy glue. Apply the glue in a band around 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep.
Push the pipe into the mouth of one of the soda-pop bottles until the glued length is completely contained in the neck. Leave to dry.
Using a craft knife, cut the screw-neck portion away from the second bottle.
Use epoxy glue to stick the free end of the water pipe inside the cut screw-neck piece.
Enlarge the fin template on page 109 to scale onto the thin cardstock, using a photocopier. Cut out the fin shape carefully with scissors or a craft knife. Draw around the cardstock template on the flexible plastic sheet. Repeat twice so that you have the outlines for three fins. Cut around the outlines with scissors or a craft knife. If you are using a craft knife, do your cutting on a cutting mat.
Cut the slits on the fins as shown on the template, then fold two tabs going one way and two going the other on each fin.
Glue the fins at even intervals around the end of the pipe. They should be glued just above the neck of the bottle.
To Launch Your Rocket
Fill your rocket halfway with water. Place your rocket in the launcher, secure with the wire trigger, pressurize, and fire.
Completely reliable; a good flight every time, plus a satisfying explosive noise as it left the launcher. It was also a pretty performer in its descent, spi
nning around gently as it drifted back down to earth.
The Finned Floater Rocket
This model, in addition to having fins that will steady its flight on its way up, also has a nose cone containing a parachute that will help it float back down to the ground in elegant style. It’s based on a two-bottle rocket like the one described in project 1.4 (see pages 28–29). The top bottle makes a store for the parachute, while the lower bottle holds the water that will propel the rocket’s flight.
You will need:
• Two 2-liter plastic soda-pop bottles
• Duct tape
• Epoxy glue
• Heavyweight scissors or craft knife
• Cutting mat
• Hole punch
• Soft pencil—2B is ideal
• Measuring tape
• Large black plastic garbage bag
• Ball of thin string
• Sheet of thin cardstock, 8 x 11 inches (20 x 28 cm)
• Sheet of thin, flexible plastic, 11 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches (29 x 42 cm)—youcan find this in hobby or craft stores
• Either the launcher and the bottle stopper from project 1.1 (see pages 10–13) or the launcher from project 1.3 (see pages 22–25), and a bicycle pump, ideally with a pressure gauge. You will also need access to a photocopier.
• If you wish to add fins, follow steps 2–7 of project 1.2 and add them after step 2
Use heavyweight scissors or a craft knife to cut off the top and bottom of one of your bottles. Don’t cut much length off—cut just at the point where the body becomes straight below the neck and above the base, so that you are left with a long cylinder of plastic.
Fit one open end of the cut bottle over the base of the second bottle and duct tape the two together neatly. Use two or three layers of tape to ensure that the joint is strong and secure.
Make the parachute. Lay the garbage bag out flat on your worktable or on the floor and use scissors to cut off the sealed end, cutting as straight a line as you can. Straighten out the resulting tube and cut down the sides to make two panels of thin plastic. Use one panel to make the parachute and save the other for use in the future.
Fold the panel in half lengthwise from left to right, then fold in half again from bottom to top. Fold the left edge to meet the bottom edge and make a small cut in the plastic where the top of the left edge meets the bottom edge. Fold the diagonal edge on the left to meet the bottom, then repeat this again to leave a narrow triangle of plastic with the open edges outer-most. Find the small cut you made earlier, then cut in a slightly circular motion to the top edge. Open up the plastic to reveal the large circle.
Mark the plastic circle out in quarters (you can do this by eye or use a measuring tape). Cut a 3-inch (7.5-cm) length of duct tape and stick it at one of the quarter-points of the parachute, wrapping it around both sides of the plastic so that it makes a solid tab at the edge. Mark the other three quarter-points with duct tape in the same way, then add three extra tabs between each quarter-point marker, spacing them as evenly as possible. You should now have 16 tabs around the edge of your plastic circle.
Use a hole punch to make a hole through the center of each duct-tape tab.
Measure the diameter of your parachute with a measuring tape, and cut 16 lengths of string, each 1 1/2 times the length of the diameter measurement. Use a reef knot to tie one end of each piece of string through one of the punched holes in the edge of the parachute.
Knot the loose ends of the 16 strings securely together. Cut a short length of duct tape and tape the knotted ends inside the open end of the top of the rocket.
Fold the parachute in quarters and place it neatly into the top bottle, pushing the strings in first, followed by the parachute.
Photocopy the pattern for the nose cone of the rocket and its supporting tab to scale onto the sheet of cardstock (see page 108), then cut them out to make a template. Lay the cone template on the plastic sheet and draw around it, then use a craft knife or sharp scissors to cut it out. Draw around the tab three times and cut out the three tab shapes. Fold the tab shapes as show
Glue the two folded-out edges of each tab at even intervals along the top of the rocket. When glued, the tabs make tiny ledges at a 90-degree angle to the bottle. These will support the cone.
Roll the nose cone into shape and tape the tab inside it to hold it together. Cut a length of string 18 inches (46 cm) long and stick one end inside the nose cone with a piece of duct tape. Tie the other end to one of the punched tape ties on the parachute.
To Launch Your Rocket
Fill the rocket with water and, if using the launcher from project 1.1 (see pages 10–13), seal the mouth with the stopper. Place your rocket in the launcher and arrange the nose cone carefully on top of the rocket, balancing it on the tabs. Retreat to a safe distance, pump up the pressure, and fire. As the rocket reaches the top of its trajectory, the nose cone will fall off and the parachute will be pulled out of the top of the bottle. The rocket will drift gently back down to earth.
This isn’t the most reliable model, but although it did suffer from the occasional malfunction, the sense of satisfaction when the parachute deployed successfully was well worth the frustration of the failed attempts.
We’ve all grown up watching pirate movies, seeing hooks, peg legs, marbles substituted for glass eyes, but those aren’t the real deal. In fact, modern prosthetics have gone so far, that the line is beginning to blur, and it’s becoming harder to tell just what the real deal is anymore. Here we take a look at 15 of the most interesting prosthetic bits of genius of all time.
This ancient prosthetic toe goes to show just how much we’ve actually advanced over the last 3,000 years. That’s how old archaeologists believe it to be, since it was found on the mummified remains of an Egyptian noblewoman at a dig in Cairo. It’s made out of wood and leather, and apparently built to last since it still looks usable. Taking a look at this artifact now, you have to wonder, how far did we really come in this field, up until just the last decade?
In 2008 the International Association of Athletics Federations denied double-amputee Oscar Pistorius a chance to compete in the Summer Olympics because he was too fast. Pistorius was defiant, and appealed the decision. He won the appeal, but despite his being seriously awesome he failed to make the cut for the South African team, and didn’t get to run at Beijing. He’s nicknamed “Blade Runner” because his “feet” are made of carbon fiber springblades, which not only weigh considerably less than human feet, but put enormous bounce in every step.
That’s no Optimus Prime, that’s a tortoise on a Tonka truck. Tonka was happily minding her own business in the San Francisco Bay Area when she was attacked by a dog. She lost her leg in the combat but her indomitable will kept her going long enough for inventive local humanitarians to fit her with an old Tonka truck chassis. She took to wheeling around the city immediately and hasn’t stopped since.
In 2007, DARPA unveiled the world’s most advanced bionic arm, and said they wanted to have it done by the end of this year, 2009. The arm, looking more like something out of the Terminator, is in fact intended for military applications (hence DARPA taking the lead on it), but it offers so much more than that to anybody who’s lost their natural arm, civilian or not. The unit is meant to be a completely functional replacement for a regular human arm, able to grasp objects just like an able-bodied person would, only with the hardware involved the option is there to crush bone. This is some cool stuff.
Uzonka, probably the most unique stork in the world, hails from Romania. In this sad case, Uzonka’s beak was severely damaged when she was attacked by some pretty bad people, and she would surely not have survived in the wild. So after several operations, a group of veterinarians were able to fit her with a prosthetic beak. She’s been living the sweet stork life ever since.
Who could forget what was probably their first glimpse at the future of bionic limbs when they saw Luke’s creepy bionic hand damaged in The Empire Strikes Back? To the millions of kids who would later grow up nerds, this was both disturbing and fascinating at the same time, and in one word, awesome. This is the hand itself, on display in the Star Wars exhibition while at Fort Worth, TX.
“Immaculate” is a concept design by Hans Huseklepp that, you have to admit, if gets made a reality would make amputees cooler than you. The idea was basically this: Why should amputees live with disturbing facsimiles of the real thing when they could have something so much better? The joints would be able to spin a full 360º, allowing for some pretty wicked bartender tricks, and the whole time it’s sexier than an iPhone to boot.
A true dual-purpose design here; It’s a prosthetic leg, it’s a machine gun, it’s both. Sure, it’s not real, it has no articulating joint, it’d be illegal just about anywhere and it’s not too pretty. That’s not the point, is it? It’s a gun-leg. It doesn’t exactly hurt that it’s attached to Rose McGowan, either.
Cody McCasland was born under extreme complications, and was lucky to live at all. In the first two years of his life he went through countless surgeries, with a final endgame of having both legs amputated below the knees. Cody fought through it all, and his parents have made sure that he hasn’t missed an experience yet in his young life, regardless of his physical impairment. Using just about any prosthesis applicable, including “Blade Runner” style springboard feet, Cody does it all. The craziest of them: his prosthetic sled, which replaces ice-skates and allows the little guy to play actual hockey. Sound ridiculous? Tell that to Cody.
Rob Spence, attempting to become the world’s first eyeborg as he calls it, wasn’t about to let his prosthetic eye get him down. Taking a cue from Gibson novels, and being himself a filmmaker, Spence wants to install a camera in his fak
e eye. In the meantime, as a test to see about the feasibility of even getting electronics in a prosthetic eye, he’s set up an LED in there with its own power source. If he can accomplish that much, a camera doesn’t look too difficult.
Not that goats don’t deserve the same treatment as humans, or horses, or elephants or event turtles, but if I walk down a country road and see a goat hobble up on a prosthetic leg I’m probably going to laugh inappropriately and then feel guilty about it. It’s just plain weird, isn’t it? Anti-goat prejudices aside, these sort of prosthetics are nothing short of amazing in that, well, we can fix three-legged goats.
Robocop is the epitome of modern prosthetics. We’re talking about full-body prosthesis here, after all. He’s not Murphy anymore, he’s practically a machine, he’s Robocop. All that’s left of the original Alex Murphy here are a few vital organs, some facial tissue and some of his brain. The rest is Detroit’s and Japan’s finest finest technology, all rolled into one seriously awesome package.
With onboard a.i. and smooth-running electronically motorized actuators, Ossur’s POWER KNEE is nothing short of futuristic. They’re testing it now at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and hope to actually have it release to the general public sometime in 2010. This thing is so far ahead of the game, it actively senses the landscape to help the walker maintain balance, and even helps walking up inclines or stairs by anticipating the next step and coaxing the muscles in the leg.
Inspiring far more attempts at mimicry than is safe for the world, Bruce Campbell’s character Ash in Army of Darkness sported a makeshift, emergency-necessitated chainsaw for a prosthetic arm. Throughout the story, this normally very dangerous thing was put to use in pragmatic ways, until finally being replaced by a iron and steel prosthetic arm with full articulation of the wrist and fingers. If only we could accomplish what the ancient Britons could accomplish when Bruce Campbell’s around, maybe we’d have a better world to live in.