Monday, June 30, 2008

Total Bullwhip

Here's quick tidbit of ear-opening information. The cracking sound that a bullwhip makes when it's properly snapped is actually a mini sonic boom. The end of the whip, called the cracker, moves faster than the speed of sound. This makes the whip the first human invention to break the sound barrier.

The cracker has much less mass than the handle section of the bullwhip. When it is sharply snapped, the energy is transferred down the length of the whip. The velocity of the whip increases with the decrease in mass, which is how the whip reaches the speed of sound and causes a sonic boom.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Building Revolution

Dubai seems to be the hot spot for architectural experiments. This new project, designed by architect David Fisher, will be a remarkable feat known as the Dynamic Tower. The building will swivel in the wind, as its 80 floors rotate independently. The stories will pivot around a central spine, and between each apartment a spinning wind-turbine will have the ability of turning your home into a self-sufficient power generator.

Condo reservations are already being taken, but they won't be ready until 2010, and will cost from $3.7 million to $36 million ($3000/square foot). Penthouses will be able to control the rotation of their own units, but the designers control the lower floor. Another one is being planned for completion in Moscow before 2011, and possibly a third in New York City.

The construction scheme is just as impressive as the building itself. Each story will be made from prefabricated parts. The rooms will be assembled in a workshop, shipped to the site, and attached to the building's spine. Check the video below:

Re: Hydro High Hopes

"Too good to be true" is what everybody was thinking, well they might have been right. It all seemed so simple... The Reuters-released video showed water being poured into an energy system, and the car was shown driving. Why has there been no media attention? Then conspiracy theories arise: "The oil-guzzling governments are suppressing this technology, they don't care about the environment". Not so fast. After further research, leaves were overturned, and the truth was revealed.

It is actually quite simple to make a car appear as if it runs on water. How? Through the use of metal hydrides, which react with water to produce hydrogen, in turn powering the vehicle. But with time these hydrides start to deplete and eventually need to be replaced. So in a way the hydrides are the fuel, not the water. More energy goes into producing such hydrides than they can produce themselves.

Apologies for falling into the trap of presenting misleading information. Perhaps a more suitable title for the vehicle would have been 'Hydride Car'.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Uncontacted Tribe

Global Warming. Technology. Wars. These are common issues that people in the world today are concerned with and keep up with the developments. Is it possible that there are humans living on Earth who are so virgin to whats going on that they are unaware of these themes? Apparently so...

The photograph above shows members of a tribe on the border of Peru and Brazil firing arrows at a passing airplane. Although the name of the tribe is unknown, apparently they have been being monitored by the Brazilian government for decades. That being said, nobody has ever had face-to-face contact with the tribe, so who knows how much they know about the outside world. However, judging by the fact that they think their arrows will do damage to a passing airplane, chances are they don't know too much about what is happening outside of their jungle region.

A few things are known about this enigmatic tribe. They have shaved foreheads and long hair. They plant cotton, or pick it growing in the jungle, and spin it into cloth for skirts. The women make cotton belts and headbands. Also, they make hammocks that are hung below huts covered by thick palm roofs.

"They have big fields, and they grow cassava, maize, almonds, pumpkin, and various types of potato, papaw, yams, and banana," according to José Carlos Meirelles, an official with Brazil's Indian-protection agency (FUNAI). Check the video below for more insight:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Frozen Wave Myth

These massive ice-blue wave formations can be found scattered over Antarctica. Popular belief states that these are created by waves of water instantly freezing as they come in contact with the frigid air of the region. This is untrue. In reality they are typically formed by compacted ice which uplifts due to glaciation. The shape is then altered by the elements. For example, the downward spikes that make the wave appear as if it's crashing down are due to melting - essentially they are icicles.

The photograph above, and the other below, were taken in 2002 by Tony Travouillon at the Antarctic Base of Dumont D'Urville. To dispel another myth, these do not occur on Lake Huron. In March of 2008 these same images were found all over the internet accompanied by text claiming that the waves were found on Michigan's Lake.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Remember This

Think back to high school history or science tests. Remember your classmates who only studied for an hour, but still managed to regurgitate all the information because of their "photographic memory"? Chances are they didn't actually have this type of memory, but our subject for today, Stephen Wiltshire, most certainly does.

He is an autistic savant who has earned the nickname "the living camera". At the age of 11 he drew a perfect aerial representation of London, England after a single helicopter ride. His accuracy was uncanny. This exemplifies the full, yet rarely seen, potential of the human brain. The video below shows Stephen Wiltshire doing what he does best:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hydro High Hopes

Japanese company Genepax Co Ltd have unveiled their H2O-powered vehicle. This new concept car is equipped with their newly developed Water Energy System (WES) which can keep it moving for up to an hour at 80 kmph on just 1L of water from any source, including rainwater and even tea!

The WES extracts hydrogen from the water as it is running, and an on-board generator releases electrons to power the car. Genepax hopes to start mass production with a major car manufacturer. This soon-to-be patented WES should be making quite the splash worldwide, but the lack of media attention is shocking.

According to their low quality English website they are "preparing an English presentation and demonstration for foreign press which will be held in Tokyo soon". Until then, check out the video below to see the car in action.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sound The Horn

This year-old roe deer, nicknamed Unicorn, was born in captivity with a genetic mutation that gave it a single horn on the center of its head. Since then it has been drawing hundreds of onlookers to its home at a nature preserve in Tuscany.

"We have received so many calls from people, and many are coming to see it," said Gilberto Tozzi, director of the Center of Natural Sciences in Prato, northwest of Florence. "Sometimes he comes close to the fence, even if he is very shy."

Single horned deer are very rare, but not unheard of, however its central positioning is unusual. Tozzi suggests that similar mutations in the past might have inspired the unicorn myth.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Conservation works!

Good news for whale lovers. In 1966 the North Pacific ocean was estimated at having about 1400 humpback whales, according to the Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance, and Status of Humpbacks (SPLASH) report.

That same year the international whaling institute banned the hunting of humpbacks, and over the past half-century global conservation efforts have increased dramatically. A new collaborative effort, involving over 400 whale experts in the Pacific region, reveals that the population has rebounded to over 20,000 animals.

"While I agree that conservation concerns are not eliminated, this is fundamentally a good-news story," said Jay Barlow, a co-author from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California.

"If the world had more examples like this, I think that the people of the world would be more inclined to believe that conservation can make a difference."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Return Of The Moth

This mythical black-winged and orange bodied moth is so rare that it has been found on only four previous occasions since 1853. Until very recently near Loch Morie, Easter Ross, Highland in Scotland. While walking through the forest, Andy Scott and Margaret Currie noticed it in a spider's web and rescued it from certain doom.

Since the Ethmia pyrausta's discovery in 1853, two were found again in 1996 on the top of Glas Maol in the Grampians, and a further two found nearby. Butterfly expert Mark Young said "It is now up to us to try and find out where the moth breeds and to make sure that its habitat is safe."