A blend of cool projects, great gadgets and awesomellany from Word of Mouth Internet Sherpa Brady Carlson
Melinda Taber via Flickr/Creative Commons
Ever used one of those machines at the gym where you can place your hands on the grips and it'll track your heart rate? German scientists - probably the ones who spend a lot of time working out - wondered if they could put those sensors in the steering wheel of a car to detect driver stress.
The sensors in the steering wheel can measure vital signs of the driver Heart rate. Check. Stress. Check. Blood pressure. Check. While the system can be used to check for vital signs, it may also be used to detect more serious conditions like a heart attack.
"When a stress situation is detected by means of skin conductance values, phone calls can be blocked, for instance, or the volume of the radio turned down automatically. With more serious problems the system could turn on the hazard warning lights, reduce the speed or even induce automated emergency braking,” Lueth said.
Very clever use of technology, but I can see a catch here. If you're stressed out and your car decides to respond by turning the radio down, will you a) calmly recognize you're in a potentially hazardous situation and pull over to seek help, or b) flip the heck out because your stupid car is turning the volume down right in the middle of the solo in "Rock You Like a Hurricane"? Exactly.
Actually it would be ironic for a car designed by German scientists to turn the volume down during a Scorpions song. But that's probably beside the point.
Doggie52 via Flickr/Creative Commons
The atomic clock is so accurate that, had it been running since the Big Bang, 13+ billion years ago, it would only be off of "real" time by four seconds.
Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology want to build a nuclear clock that, when asked for comment on the atomic clock's accuracy, shrugs and says, "that's totally b-list."
[The idea would be to use the atomic nucleus like a tuning fork A nucleus will jump to a higher energy state, then fall back down, and jump up again, only if it is hit with a very specific frequency of light. Tuning a laser so that it prompts these jumps is a way to set its frequency with a phenomenal level of precision. The frequency can then be used like a clock's tick to keep time.
A thorium clock controlled in this way would drift by just 1 second in 200 billion years, the team claims - that is more than 14 times the age of the universe.
So in the face of all this jaw-dropping accuracy, I'm gonna keep saying, "It's, like, mid-afternoon, I think."
Wm Jas via Flickr/Creative Commons
Swear jars are designed to help you put the brakes on your potty mouth - every time you say a bad word, you put a quarter in, and I guess you throw yourself a profanity-free party with the results. The Twitter equivalent is Digital SwearJar, which scours your Twitter feed for cussing; users pledge to send a set amount per outburst to a charity that helps people affected by the famine in East Africa. So if you're an actor in a David Mamet film, you're golden
I've seen several clever twists on charitable giving lately; Fast Company wrote about charity:water, where users ask their Facebook friends to donate a little something toward clean water projects in developing countries. It uses a "pay it forward" psychology that encourages participants to essentially start a new round of giving - after all, no one likes to be the last link in the chain.
Another notable effort is Amit Gupta Needs You! Amit is a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco who needs a bone marrow donor to fight his recently-discovered leukemia. Trouble is, people of South Asian descent are underrepresented in bone marrow registries. So the entrepreneurial set on the web has mobilized to encourage South Asians to register.
There's even money in it, twenty grand if you match - and you could then use that money to donate to water projects or famine relief. Providing you swear a lot, of course.
laffy4k via Flickr/Creative Commons
I remember when Lucky Charms cereal added purple horseshoes to their menagerie of marshmallowy shapes, which speaks to either my vivid long-term memory or my sheltered upbringing.
Anyway, I mention this because inventor Tom Lombardi has developed a Lucky Charms Sifter to weed out those crunchy pieces and leave you with a bowl of nothing but sweet, sweet charms. It's one of the many nifty little devices people are developing using 3D printers these days, a few of which don't involve cereal
Tom's most important caveat, by the way: "Be careful to hide the sifter because it may anger others." This is especially true if you live in a leprechaun colony.
Fans of NotAlwaysRight.com will enjoy the Twitter handle @GuestsFromHELL, a collection of purportedly real quotes from real tourists in New York City. You'll note that I use the word "real" in the vein of "someone really just asked that question?"
Buzzfeed features 25 Most Ridiculous Tweets from @GuestsFromHELL, which includes chestnuts like "we want to go to a vegan restaurant, but they have to serve meat also" and "I'd like to file a complaint with the manager about the terrible traffic in the city" Not included in the list (but definitely worth including): "Why is it raining?"
courtesy Blyzz via Flickr/Creative Commons
Let the sun shine! Or not. Spain's Gemasolar plant will generate electricity either way.
It's true. Gemasolar is a heliostatic plant, meaning it doesn't use the photovoltaic panels we see in so many solar installations in the US. Instead, it takes in the raw solar heat and points it at a giant "battery" of molten salt. The superheated salt heats water in tanks, which moves turbines and makes power. It's got enough salt heat storage capacity (wow, what a phrase) to last 15 hours Which is probably overkill given that it's in Andalucia, and they get plenty of sun there.
Colorful, isn't it? It's an art installation called RGB, and it's by Carnovsky, an art duo based in Milan.
RGB, of course, refers to the colors red, green and blue; TVs and computer monitors mix those three colors together to make most of the colors you see. Which brings me to the most interesting part of the installation: look at the piece again with a special set of light-filtering goggles, and you see an almost entirely different piece
Each successive layer shows a different aspect of the whole. Some even play off each other - one RGB image has a skeleton on the red layer; on the green layer, in the same location, there's a set of muscles.
Carnovsky's website says RGB is "about the exploration of the surface's 'deepness.'" Right now it's installed in London, but if you want to dig deeper you can see some of the images on the web.
changsterdam via Flickr/Creative Commons
I wanted to wait a few days to see if there were any notable tributes to Apple's Steve Jobs on the web, and there were plenty - GeeksAreSexy has a pretty good roundup of Jobs tributes you might not have seen yet.
My favorite so far? Steve Jobs' obituary fed into the iPhone's Autocorrect, which, as we all know, misses a word or two from time to time:
Shortly after defacing and fighting a debilitating and fetal bout with pancake cancer in 2004, Apple flounder Sieve Joes spoke before a graduating calls at Sanford and Son University in 2008, giving the fresh faced studios the consummate redress.
He told the crowd of eagle young facets of his struggle with the dis ease and subservient recovery that his brush with deaf helped him underwear the fragility of file, a drive that served Joes well in and around Apple to a new restitution in touchy-feely technology and excess agility.
The iconic flounder and C3P0 of Apple Inc. who encouraged his legion of “Mac-n-Cheeseheads” to “Think differentially” passed away on Wed., Oct. 5, 2011 surrounded by his flammability. He was 56 years mold.
Also worth a visit: Regretsy, which found someone who appears to have put a dessert tray up for sale and added "Steve Jobs" to the search terms, just to give it a little more visibility. An A for effort, if not for Apple.
Let's slow things down a little bit here. Ok, a bit more. A bit more... and a little bit beyond that. Perfect. We're now going to watch little ripples of oil at 1000 frames a second.
Next up, we'll watch a sloth waking up at 6000 frames a second. Hope you don't have any plans tonight!
The Occupy Wall Street protests have been fueled by a lot of web activity, but even the webbiest trends can and must be remixed. Thus, the Occupy Sesame Street hashtag, with tweets like "The Counting Vampires are destroying America" and "Why isn't Reporter Kermit covering this?"
Tauntrcom ups the ante with photoshops. Elmo in handcuffs. A very grumpy Bert being led away by the authorities.
Banner illustration courtesy hartboy via Flickr/Creative Commons