Global news in pacy bits

     Print Edition: August 2011

SMELL THE COFFEE - ON TV

TV
Okay, TV has already got the third dimension of depth. Now it's time for the next act-smell. American and Korean re-searchers at the University of California have created an appliance that releases odours corresponding to the image you see on TV or your smartphone. Smell the pizza, the perfume, the ice cream, even the malodorous shoes of the athlete that you see on screen.

A small appliance fitted at the back releases the smell in an aqueous solution such as ammonia, which is heated by a thin metal wire in which an electric current passes and generates a gas. The idea is that the device will operate with cartridges, similar to a printer. So when the smell starts to get weak, you change the load. There are problems to be solved before this application become mainline. It is easier to issue more general odours (popcorn, flowers, coffee), but specific smells, say of a particular fragrance, would need a specific cartridge to be installed on the TV.

SOCIAL NETWORKING IN BLACK AND WHITE
Social Web
So here is good news and bad news for those who are avid social networkers. With Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, even email, now a part of our everyday life, it would be interesting to find out how we are being affected by these. First the positive news. Research by Pew Internet and American Life Project established that social net-working creates more trusting people.

A possible explanation: People on social networks are more willing to trust others because they interact with a larger number of people in a more diverse setting. Other findings: A person who uses Facebook several times a day has "more close relationships"; a Facebook user who accesses the site multiple times per day "receives more emotional support and companionship" than those who aren't on the site; Facebook helps users "retain high school ties and revives dormant relationships".

Pew found that an average Facebook member has 229 Facebook friends. And now to take the sheen off social networking. Researchers at Cambridge University claim to have established that family life is being disrupted as parents and kids are overwhelmed by the voluminous emails and social messaging updates they are handling each day. As a result, 43 of the children (aged 10 to 18) and 33 per cent of the adult Britons surveyed expressed desperation to cut down on the use of Twitter and Facebook. More than half of all families said a "technology-free" time is important and a third of parents said tech had disrupted family life.

PEEL THE CAR
Eco car
A car can be a lemon, as anyone who has bought a used car only to find it stalling forever will tell you. But how about a new car that is a pineapple or a banana? Could be possible soon. Scientists at Sao Paulo University in Brazil have developed an effective way to use fibres from fruits and other plants in a new generation of plastics that are stronger, lighter and more eco-friendly than the plastics in use now.

Professor Alcides Leao, talking about the research, said that the fibres used to reinforce the new plastics would come from seemingly delicate fruits such as bananas and pineapples that are actually super-strong. Car parts like dashboards, bumpers and side panels could well be made of nano-sized fruit fibres in the future. These plastics also have other advantages, like greater resistance to damage from heat, spilled gasoline, water and oxygen.


WHEN POWER AND FASHION GO HAND IN HAND
Diffus Design
Never running out of power for your cell phones and iPods is a luxury. Now the word takes on an entirely new meaning with Diffus Design, a fashion studio, releasing a luxury handbag that is also a portable power station. Using one hundred small solar chips as embroidery elements on the bag, the Solar Handbag generates enough electricity to charge a mobile device and a powerful lithium ion battery hidden in a small compartment inside. At night, opening the bag activates optical fibres attached to the inside of the bag that give a diffuse glow and assist in the search for keys, purse or other objects of vital importance.


HI-DEF AND HI-GUZZLER
HD-DVR
Many high-definition digital video recorders consume more power than the TVs they're plugged into, says a study by an American environmental group. Natural Resources Defence Council of San Francisco said that a typical US household with an HD receiver and an HD-DVR consumes around 446 kilowatt hours per year- more than the 416 kilowatts per year used by a standard-sized, energy-efficient refrigerator.

Based on this, the researchers extrapolated that the 160 million DVR, cable and other set-top boxes in US homes consume $3 billion of electricity per year. The devices draw about two thirds of that power when they're not in use because they consume electricity at nearly the same rate while sitting idle as they do when displaying or recording video content, the study found.

OLD KEY TO MODERNITY
Typewriter
Many people still feel nostalgic about the clackety-clack of the typewriter that adorned all offices till the computer took over the world. Perhaps Jack Zylkin was in eternal love with his Smith-Corona or Remington, but he decided that he had to bring that old machine back into use. His USB Typewriter is the result.

Using a USB adapter, any old fashioned manual typewriters can be used as a keyboard for a USB-capable computer, such as a PC, Mac or a tablet. The USB Typewriter can type all letters, numerals and punctuation marks. It also includes shift, space and return carriage. Many non-standard keys, such as F1-F12, esc, ctrl, and so on are available with a special toggle key. Visit usbtypewriter.com for the how-to.


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