Harmful aging considered


Charlie Stross lays out the state of aging: "cognitive functioning burdened by decades of memories to integrate, canalized by prior experiences, dominated by the complexity of long-term planning at the expense of real-time responsiveness...truck by intricate, esoteric cross-references to that which has gone before."

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Gecko Feet Inspire Wall-Climbing Gloves

I love it when nature inspires technology. A group of researchers has developed a glove that will allow humans to stick to and scale walls. This bit of amazingness is being modeled on the feet of geckos.

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Unlike tree frogs, whose sticky toe pads give these amphibians the ability to cling to surfaces, gecko toes instead use friction created by microscopic hair-like structures called setae that hold up the animal's body weight.

This adaptation has been studied before, but so far physics and gravity have prevented any practical application for human use. We're simply too large and heavy. That has all changed now based on the work of Michael Elliot Hawks of Stanford University, who has developed a synthetic nano-fiber "setae" that can hold the weight of a human.

If and when these become available to the public, I'm definitely adding them to my wish list!

How the Enigma code-machines worked


With the release of the Alan Turing biopic "The Imitation Game," interest in the Enigma cipher used by the Axis powers and broken by Turing and the exiled Polish mathematicians at Bletchley Park has been revived.

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Cybercrooks sell stolen rewards points at 99.9% discount

Enough Hilton Hhonors points to cover $1200 worth of stays can be bought for $12, and the crooks who're inside your account can use your associated credit-card to buy more points and more hotel rooms for themselves.

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Tech projects vein maps during blood donations

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service is testing a technology to project a vein map on the arms of blood donors during the phlebotomy.

"Vein visualisation technology uses near infrared technology to project an image of the vein onto the skin," says Dr. Dan Waller, a senior researcher with the organization. "Veins have a lot of deoxygenated haemoglobin that absorbs near infrared light and the device is able to use this information to project the image. The machines have settings to manage individual differences.

"World-first vein viewing tech trial is... not in vain!" (Australian Red Cross)

Big ISPs' efforts to squeeze Netflix lead to slow connectivity for you

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Over at Backchannel, Susan Crawford reveals how the crap Internet speeds everyday people get from the likes of Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T isn't a tech issue but rather a terrible side effect of those companies trying to punish their competitors like Netflix into paying them for access to you.

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Click your Bluetooth heels three times to call an Uber

iStrategy Labs' Dorothy is a mobile app and Bluetooth-based switch (called the Ruby) that slips into your shoe. Click your heels together three times and it triggers an action on your smartphone like calling an Uber.

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Video: flying through a pneumatic tube system

A camera flies through a pneumatic tube system like those found in libraries, banks, or in government buildings (such as this one in Norway.) It's fun to imagine that this is what it will be like riding in Elon Musk's Hyperloop. For more on pneumatic tube systems, check out this talk below by Molly Wright Steenson:

USB charger in a knife form factor

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Brunton saw me coming when they came up with their Power Knife Multi Charger integrating a standard USB to Apple Lightning, 30-Pin, and Micro-USB. Sharp, but spendy at $25.

Steven Levy's Backchannel

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Veteran tech journalist Steven Levy, author of the seminal books Hackers and Crypto, launched his new tech hub Backchannel over at Medium.

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Mini-documentary about the world's largest e-waste dump

Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ghana is the world's largest dump for electronic waste from all over the globe. Meet the teenagers who tend it in this short film, Regolith, directed by Sam Goldwater.

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

Steven Johnson blends the history of science with keen social observation to tell the story of how our modern world came about—and where it’s headed. Cory Doctorow reviews How We Got to Now, also a six-part PBS/BBC series, which ties together a lifetime of work

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Great ideas that changed the world, and the people they rode in on

To inaugurate the publication of his brilliant new book How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World (also a PBS/BBC TV series), Steven Johnson has written about the difficult balance between reporting on the history of world-changing ideas and the inventors credited with their creation

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Twitter funds MIT Laboratory for Social Machines

Twitter committed $10 million to the MIT Media Lab to create a Laboratory for Social Machines that will study social systems, build tools for "social engagement and change," and deploy "social machines — networked human-machine collaboratives."

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Steven Johnson: the flashbulb and urban poverty

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Over at Medium, Steven Johnson, author of How We Got To Now, writes about how the 19th century invention of flash photography shined a light on poverty.

"Flash Forward: How We Got To Know"