Monday, October 8, 2007, 12:51 AM - Misc TechnoToysMy friend and colleague Jeff Han has been getting a lot of attention in the last year or two with his amazing multi-touch display panel (see various videos here and here, and
his August 2006 TED talks)
Jeff has started a company in New York City called Perceptive Pixel.
The funny thing is that the upscale department store Neiman Marcus is offering Jeff's "online media wall" in the "fantasy" part of its Christmas catalog. The price is "starting at 100,000". If you have to ask.....
There is a nice video on the Neiman Marcus site too.
Monday, September 10, 2007, 06:31 PM - Misc TechnoToysStartup company EEstor claims to have produced ultra-capacitors with en energy density of 280 Watt-hour per Kilo. When you realize that your typical LiPo battery is around 140 Wh/kg your interest level goes up a notch. Given that ultra-capacitors can be charged extremely quickly (in seconds), and have a huuuuge maximum current, this might just be the miracle power source, not just for model ariplanes, but also for (full-scale) cars, which is EEstor's main target.
The main limitation of garden-variety ultra-capacitors (the ones you can get from DigiKey) is that they have a very low breakdown voltage (like 3V). The energy per unit mass sucks. It's enough for those e-charger toy airplanes from AirHog with a 10 second running time, but not for R/C planes. Since the energy stored in a capacitor is quadratic with the voltage (1/2.C.V^2) increasing the breakdown voltage can make a big difference. That's apparently what EEstor has done: they were able to raise the breakdown voltage to 1500V....
EEstor doesn't really have a web site, but there was a nice article on them at Technology Review back in January.
Thursday, March 8, 2007, 02:59 AM - Misc TechnoToysGrand Illusions is an interesting on-line store that sells various techno-toys, particularly focused on optical illusions and bizarre effects.
Sunday, February 18, 2007, 03:45 PM - Misc TechnoToysA really nice blog on Physics, Computation and Philosopy called Strange Paths has a long article on interstellar travel. This very detailed article works out the numbers in terms of energy, time (proper and otherwise), velocity, etc. It also has a design for a self-sustaining "ark". An interesting read. The blog also has an extensive list of online and offline books and other resources on mathematics and physics.
Sunday, January 28, 2007, 11:38 PM - Misc TechnoToysL'Hydroptere, a radical new sailboat design, has exceeded the speed of 47 knots during its third test this week. Last week-end, l'Hydroptere managed to run one nautical mile at an average of 41.74 knots (a non-official record). The pictures and videos of the Hydroptere flying on its hydrofoils are spectacular.
This the 5th version of the Hydroptere, a concept originally proposed by legendary sailor Eric Tabarly, and developed over the last 15 years by Alain Thebault and his team.
They are hoping to beat the 500 meter speed record (48.7 knots, held by Finian Maynard on a windsurfer), the 1 NM speed record (39.97 knots, also held by Maynard), and to eventually circle the globe in less than 40 days (the current record is 50 days, held by Bruno Peyron).
Friday, January 12, 2007, 11:13 PM - Misc TechnoToysThe ThrustPac is a backpack with a 4-stroke engine powering a ducted fan. The mid-range model features a 1.5HP, 35cc engine, can propel a bike at 40km/h, and costs about $900. The only problem is the loud noise, kinda like flying a 1/4 scale model airplane in the street....
Modern outrunner brushless electric motors are powerful enough to replace those noisy gas engines, and way more quiet. It should be possible to have a decent range with LiPo batteries.
Thursday, January 4, 2007, 10:46 PM - Misc TechnoToysVideos of the British TV documentary series The Secret Life of Machines are available on Google Video. I particularly like the one on the fax machine..
Friday, December 29, 2006, 09:59 AM - Misc TechnoToysAstrophotographer Thierry Legault took this amazing picture of the International Space Station and the shuttle Atlantis passing in front of the sun. The exposure was so short (1/8000s) that atmospheric disturbances did not have time to blurr the image. You can see all the details of the ISS, and the tail of the space shuttle from 550Km away!
Speaking of astrophotography, here is a list of the top 10 astronomy pictures of 2006, and here is a nice web site with several beautiful pictures of the sky (not necessarily astronomical).
Thursday, December 28, 2006, 09:23 PM - Misc TechnoToysA couple random sites of Math jokes here, and here.
Q. Where do adders (a common snake in England) multiply?
A. When they are in logs.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006, 01:27 AM - Misc TechnoToysGerman vision scientist Michael Bach has a huge collection of amazing optical illusions. Well worth a (prolonged) look.
Saturday, December 23, 2006, 09:36 PM - Misc TechnoToysI won't say more. Go there, pick an example, stare at dot in the middle of the picture for 20 seconds. Then, keeping your eyes fixed, move your mouse on the picture.
Friday, December 22, 2006, 12:56 PM - Misc TechnoToysThe long-awaited eStarling wireless photo frame is finally available on ThinkGeek. You can email pictures to it, or have it get pictures from an RSS feed on flickr.
Monday, December 18, 2006, 02:51 AM - Misc TechnoToysThis site from the Netherlands has scans of all the Lego instruction manuals ever. The scans are also available through FTP. Too bad the manuals are not in DjVu format.
Monday, December 18, 2006, 02:32 AM - Misc TechnoToysFun videoof a jet-powered bike. It uses two small turbojet engines normally used for model airplanes. Fun.
Thursday, December 14, 2006, 01:36 PM - Misc TechnoToysSuunto offers the reasonably-sized, quasi-reasonably-priced X9i watch with GPS, Altimeter, Compass functions. Most places have it for about $400. Reviews are somewhat varied, some saying that the watch takes a while to grab the satellites, and that it doesn't work too well in urban environments.
Thursday, December 14, 2006, 01:34 PM - Misc TechnoToysArmadillo Run is a puzzle game based on physics simulation. I hven't tried it yet, but it look to me like the Incredible Machine series of old time (with better physics).