ElectricSteve writes: One of the many things that Gran Turismo 5 is particularly good at is displaying the many shortcomings of Sony's Sixaxis and DualShock 3 controllers. Logitech's official Driving Force GT wheel is a fantastic solution for gamers on a budget, but the small plastic pedals leave a lot to be desired for many lounge-room racers. The latest racing wheel with official Gran Turismo cred is the Thrustmaster T500 RS, and it looks to set the benchmark for some time. Unfortunately, the premium device comes with a suitable price tag...US$599.99.
ElectricSteve writes: Picture a production process that has plenty in common with agar jelly (used to culture organic materials in laboratories) and little in common with what we would normally think of as production-line automotive manufacturing. You are starting to get close to what the people at Mercedes-Benz have spawned with the BIOME – one of the most outlandish and ambitious concepts in this year's Los Angeles Design Challenge. In short, the BIOME would be grown in a lab rather than built on a production line.
ElectricSteve writes: RM Auctions recently declared James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 to be “the world’s most famous car,” but there's no doubt another contender for that title – the Batmobile. One thing that muddies the waters a bit is the fact that the term “Batmobile” actually describes at least three different vehicles: the modified Lincoln Futura concept car from the 60s TV series, the vaguely Corvette-shaped 1989-and-beyond movie cars and now the car from the most recent two movies, the military-spec Tumbler. Michigan-based movie props artist Bob Dullam really likes the Tumbler, so he did what any of us would do in his position – he built one of his own from scratch.
ElectricSteve writes: For the past six years, the Los Angeles Auto Show has invited automobile designers to participate in its Design Challenges. The challenge for this year’s show was to come up with a design for “a 1,000lb [453.6kg], four-passenger vehicle that is both comfortable and safe, while delivering satisfactory driving performance without sacrificing the styling consumers’ demand.” Entries are being judged not only for meeting the weight constraint (no more than 1,500 pounds/680 kg with passengers), but also for artistic beauty, comfort, uniqueness of design, roadworthiness, sustainability, performance and user-friendliness. The winner will be announced at the show, on Nov. 18. Gizmag takes a look at some of the higher-profile entries.
ElectricSteve writes: Much as we might hate having to take our shoes off when going through airport security, it’s become necessary ever since a terrorist managed to get a shoe bomb aboard an American Airlines flight in December of 2001. Unfortunately, the X-raying of shoes is not enough to detect triacetone triperoxide (TATP). This easily-made explosive has been used in several bombing attempts, and is very difficult to detect in an airport environment. It doesn't fluoresce, absorb ultraviolet light or readily ionize, and can only be detected with large, expensive equipment and extensive sample preparation. Now, chemists from the University of Illinois have announced a simple new way of detecting even minute concentrations of TATP, using a piece of plastic and a digital camera.
ElectricSteve writes: FUKAI Environmental Research Institute has announced a new technology for obtaining hydrogen that it claims is less expensive and more efficient than anything that's been tried so far. FUKAI's process involves adding aluminum or magnesium to boiling "oefunctional water," a proprietary substance that can be produced simply by running regular tap water through a natural mineral-containing "functional water generation unit." The bonds that join hydrogen and oxygen molecules in regular water, which ordinarily require some energy to break, are weakened in functional water. The liquid yields 2 liters (122 cubic inches) of hydrogen gas per gram of aluminum, or 3.3 liters (201 cubic inches) per gram of magnesium. FUKAI claims that the cost of producing enough hydrogen to generate 1kWh of electricity is about 18 cents US. That cost could be lowered through the use of recycled aluminum.
ElectricSteve writes: It'(TM)s definitely a good thing that so many dog owners scoop their pooches'(TM) poop, but what happens to that waste after it's been bagged and discarded isn't so great... usually it ends up fermenting in a landfill, where it poses a health risk, attracts vermin, and releases harmful methane gas into the atmosphere. Pickling it and turning it into plant fertilizer is one option, but American conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta would like to see it fed into digesters that use it to produce methane gas, which is then used for fuel. To that end, he has created a sort of demonstration project/art installation called Park Spark, at a dog park in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It features a lamp that lights the park at night, powered by nothing but canine doo-doo.
ElectricSteve writes: Celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, Peugeot has unveiled its latest concept car called the EX1 that is based upon the body of the SR1 concept car unveiled earlier this year. Although it’s still a concept car, Peugeot says the striking two-seater roadster has already broken several world records for acceleration from a standing start. The EX1 uses two electric motors, one on each axle, each with a peak output of 125 kW (250 kW/340 bhp in total), and an immediately available constant maximum torque of 240 Nm at the front and rear. Aside from optimizing weight distribution, this setup also allows for four wheel drive.
ElectricSteve writes: Sikorsky Aircraft’s coaxial X2 Technology demonstrator has achieved the 250-knot (287.69 mph) milestone that was established as the goal of the craft from its inception. The speed, which was achieved in level flight during a 1.1-hour flight on Wednesday, September 15, is an unofficial speed record for a helicopter, easily beating the current official world record that stands at 216.46 knots (249.1 mph) set by the British built Westland Lynx ZB-500 in 1986.
ElectricSteve writes: Research conducted at the University of Bristol means a number of quantum computing algorithms may soon be able to execute calculations of a complexity far beyond what today's computers allow us to do. The breakthrough involves the use of a specially designed optical chip to perform what's known as a "quantum walk" with two particles... and it suggests the era of quantum computing may be approaching faster than the scientific establishment had predicted. A random walk – a mathematical concept with useful applications in computer science – is the trajectory of an object taking successive steps in a random direction, be it over a line (with only two possible directions) or over a multi-dimensional space. A quantum walk is the same concept, but translated to the world of quantum computing, a field in which randomness plays a central role. Quantum walks form an essential part of many of the algorithms that make this new kind of computation so promising, including search algorithms that will perform exponentially faster than the ones we use today.
ElectricSteve writes: According to the Pentagon, improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are the number one killer and threat to troops in Afghanistan. Now a new tool that shoots a blade of water capable of penetrating steel is headed to U.S. troops in Afghanistan to help them disable these deadly devices. Developed by Sandia National Laboratories researchers, the fluid blade disablement tool produces a high-speed, precise water blade to perform some precision type destruction on whatever IED it’s up against. The fluid blade disablement tool is a portable clear plastic device that is filled with water, in which an explosive material is placed. When detonated, a shock wave is created that travels through the water and accelerates it inward into a concave opening. So when the water collides, it produces a thin blade. The precision water blade is then immediately followed by a water slug, which performs a general disruption and tears everything apart.
ElectricSteve writes: For many scientists who know about such things, the question isn’t whether the first person to live forever has been born, but how old they are. The basis for this belief is that, if a person can survive the next 20 or 30 years, then breakthroughs in biotechnology will easily allow them to extend their lifespan – not to mention their quality of life – to 125 years. From that point, the advances will keep coming to allow the prolonging of life indefinitely. One of the first steps towards such a reality has just been announced by a group of researchers who have discovered the first compound that activates an enzyme called telomerase in the human body.