Algae Powered a Computer for More Than Six Months

https://gizmodo.com/computer-blue-green-algae-cyanobacteria-science-aa-1848923354


There’s “green energy” and then there’s truly GREEN energy, or rather, blue-green energy. A colorful colony of photosynthetic cyanobacteria, known as blue-green algae, have successfully powered a computer microprocessor for longer than six months, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

The little bio-based battery-alternative could serve as a way to power small electronics without rare earth elements and lithium, materials in short supply and under growing demand, according to the study researchers. Plus, the system could also help bridge the electricity divide, providing another power supply for people in rural areas or low income countries, said senior author Chris Howe, a biochemist at Cambridge University, in a press statement.

During a pandemic lockdown, the algae-computer system was placed in a the window of scientist, Paolo Bombelli’s, home. It sat there from February to August 2021, and all the while it was working, according to reporting from New Scientist. In the additional months since Bombelli and his colleagues ended the first round of testing, the scientists say the algal device and computer have kept running. To which Gizmodo says: Way to go microbes!

Cyanobacteria harvest energy from sunlight and make it into food for themselves. For this study, the researchers put the power-providing microorganisms (specifically, Synechocystis sp.) into a plastic and steel enclosure, about the size of an AA battery, along with an aluminum anode.

Throughout the experiment, the connected microprocessor was programmed to do a bunch of a calculations, and then check its own work. It did this in 45 minute increments, followed by 15 minutes of standby, continuously for months with the cyanobacteria unit as its only power source.

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The researchers offered two hypotheses for how their system created current. In the so-called “electrochemical” model, the microbes simply produced the right conditions for the aluminum anode to oxidize—or release electrons, which then create an electrical output. In the “bio-electrochemical” model, the cyanobacteria themselves generated electrons which transferred across bacterial membranes to the aluminum anode, making a current. Because the aluminum anode didn’t seem to degrade much over time, the scientists think the latter explanation is more likely than the former.

Even though the algae rely on a light source to feed, the bio-system continued to produce enough power to run the microprocessor in the dark. The scientists basically attributed this phenomenon to leftovers. When there was light, the cyanobacteria cooked up an over-abundance of food, and when it was dark the microorganisms kept munching on the extras.

The computer, a microprocessor called the Arm Cortex-M0+, drew an average 1.05 microwatts, and an electrical current of 1.4 microamps, with a voltage of 0.72 V from the cyano-cube over the course of the experiment. For comparison, a standard AA battery starts out its life with 1.5V, that lessens with usage.

Though the experiment’s results are promising, it’s important to keep in mind that the computer processor tested uses very little energy—requiring only 0.3 microwatts to run. For context, even an energy efficient, LED lightbulb uses about 10 watts. More research is needed to know exactly how much the tiny AA battery sized-device could scale up, Howe told New Scientist. “Putting one on your roof isn’t going to provide the power supply for your house at this stage.”

via Gizmodo https://gizmodo.com

May 13, 2022 at 04:01PM

Lego’s 1500-piece Optimus Prime actually transforms into a truck

https://www.autoblog.com/2022/05/14/lego-optimus-prime-transformer/


Lego has partnered with yet another popular franchise, recreating its IP with little plastic bricks. This time, it’s Transformers, the 1980s toy line of robots that change into vehicles and vice versa. The first set to emerge is none other than series hero Optimus Prime, leader of the good-guy Autobots. Incredibly, like the original toy, the Lego robot also transforms into the tractor half of a semi truck.

The Lego Optimus Prime is comprised of 1,508 pieces and stands 13.5 inches tall in robot form. Thankfully, it’s the original 1980s depiction rather than the needlessly complex version from the Michael Bay reboot movies. In robot mode, it has 19 points of articulation, which is probably more than what the original toy had.

In addition, Optimus comes with a ion blaster gun, an “energon” battle axe, and jetpack. It also comes with a (the?) Matrix, an orb that bestows leadership upon the holder according to series lore, and an energon cube, the glowing Clif Bars digested by the inhabitants of the Transformers universe.

In truck mode, the original Optimus was based on a Freightliner FL86. The Lego kit isn’t an exact match for it, but gets the COE form generally correct. In vehicle mode the Lego version measures 10.5 inches long. There’s no trailer like the original toy had, not even one you can buy separately. It’s probably just as well, because its appearance and disappearance in the cartoon was so nonsensical that fans have had to conjure an entire backstory to explain it.

Lego is certainly plumbing the depths of 1980s nostalgia, with kits for the Ghostbusters Ecto-1, and the Back to the Future DeLorean time machine comprising other recent releases. The Lego Optimus Prime will cost $169.99 when it goes on sale June 1.

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via Autoblog https://ift.tt/x1svoyX

May 14, 2022 at 10:20AM

Erin Winick’s Clever Customizeable Glasses Are Out Of This World

https://makezine.com/2022/05/12/erin-winicks-clever-customizeable-glasses-are-out-of-this-world/


Science writer and creative maker Erin Winick has come up with a simple yet fantastic project for some customizable glasses.

Like most great ideas, hers started small. She realized that she could make accessories to fit the existing magnets on her Pair Eyewear. Having a 3D printer and easy access to tiny magnets via amazon, she got to work and came up with these delightful little 3D printed Saturns that she can pop on when the perfect moment presents itself.

Before I carry on, I must insist that you indulge in a bit of satisfying magnetic click appreciation.

Ok, now that the click enjoyment is out of the way, let’s carry on. Winick got plenty of feedback on twitter. Many of those folks were saying that she had to go bigger.

Taking their advice, she found this masquerade ball mask on thingiverse and adjusted things a bit to get them to fit her glasses.

a more clear view of her tiny Saturns.

She points out that these don’t interfere with the proper functioning of the existing customizable glasses, which is great. While tiny decorations are ultimately what I’d end up using these for most of the time, I can’t help but start to brainstorm more things she could make attach magnetically. How about a jeweler’s loupe? Maybe a tiny headlight? The possibilities are endless.

Be sure to follow Erin on TikTok and/or Twitter for more.

via MAKE https://makezine.com

May 12, 2022 at 10:01AM

Google TV is Getting a Neat Picture-in-Picture Mode

https://gizmodo.com/google-tv-android-13-picture-beta-new-feature-io-keyboa-1848914270


Picture-in-picture mode on Google TV is making my dreams come true.
Image: Google

I don’t know about you, but my favorite demonstrations at the electronics store back in my childhood were the TVs up on the wall showcasing their picture-in-picture abilities. Being able to tune into two TV shows simultaneously on two different channels felt like such a futuristic idea. The dream of the ‘90s lives on in the next version of Google TV. The Android 13 Beta for TVs launched days before Google I/O kicked off this week. Google used the second day of its developer conference to offer more insight into what’s coming to Google TV and Android TV OS later this summer.

Picture-in-picture has been available on Android smartphones for many years, beginning with Android 8. Google is only now fully extending the ability to Android’s TV interface. Just like on an Android phone or tablet, you’ll be able to use two separate apps at the same time: one that takes up most of the screen, and a second one available in the corner. Google encourages developers to use its keep-clear API to avoid overlaying critical parts of the interface that you need to navigate the screen.

The speckling of other new features in the Android 13 Beta for TVs is mostly minor. For one, you’ll be able to use the Google TV app on your smartphone to start casting from a particular app, so you don’t have to even bother with the TV remote to find something to watch. The beta also includes a new API called AudioManager, which developers can implement so that devices like your Chromecast with Google TV or Android TV can identify different audio sources. It’s an extension of an existing API that Google added to the Android 13 Beta on phones, just as picture-in-picture is an extension of a smartphone-first feature.

If you often fall asleep with the TV on (that’s me every night!), Google has introduced a new API called MediaSession. Developers can implement this into their Google TV apps to better react to HDMI state changes. Once you turn off the TV (or it shuts off automatically after you’ve been zonked out too long), your Google TV-enabled device recognizes there’s no screen to cast to, so it shuts off, too.

For folks who rely on differing input methods to access their TVs, Android 13 Beta for TVs supports different keyboard layouts as part of the InputDevice API. Game developers can use this feature to swap between QWERTY and AZERTY keyboards. And for those with accessibility needs, Google TV will enable audio descriptions across apps and the interface.

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These changes aren’t live in Google TV yet, but they are a glimpse at what’s to come later this year when the company finalizes the next version of Android.

via Gizmodo https://gizmodo.com

May 12, 2022 at 11:08AM

Scientists grow plants in soil from the Moon for the first time

https://www.engadget.com/scientists-plants-moon-soil-university-of-florida-160712950.html?src=rss

Scientists from the University of Florida have completed a world (and lunar) first by growing plants in soil from the Moon. The researchers used samples obtained by the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions, but they didn’t have much to work with.

While a total of 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of soil and rocks has been brought back to Earth from the Moon, the researchers received just 12 grams of so-called "lunar regolith" from NASA. Still, that was more than the four grams they requested. Scientists Rob Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul had to be patient to get their hands on the soil as well — they applied three times over 11 years for the samples.

The team used thimble-sized wells in plastic plates, which are typically used to culture cells, as pots. The scientists placed a gram of soil into each of these, added a nutrient solution and then placed a few thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) seeds. They planted the seeds in other types of soil as part of a control group, including simulated Martian soil, soils from extreme environments and a substance that mimics lunar soil.

Nearly all of the seeds planted in the lunar regolith sprouted, but the plants eventually showed some differences from the ones grown in the control group. Some of the Moon dirt plants grew slower or were smaller. There was more variation in sizes than with the control group cress as well.

The scientists, who published their research in the journal Communications Biology, found that differences in the makeup of the lunar soil samples appear to have impacted the growth of the plants. They determined the cress that struggled the most was grown in what’s known as mature lunar soil, which is exposed to more cosmic wind.

In particular, as The Guardian notes, samples from Apollo 11 were deemed the least effective for growing plants. Those were obtained from the older surface of the Sea of Tranquility, which had a couple of billion years more exposure to the environment. The researchers wrote that "further characterization and optimization would be required before regolith can be considered a routine in situ resource, particularly in locations where the regolith is highly mature."

Still, the success of the experiment paves the way for the possibility of growing plants on the Moon for food and oxygen, ahead of NASA’s Artemis Program taking humans back to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. “Artemis will require a better understanding of how to grow plants in space,” Ferl, one of the paper’s authors and a distinguished professor of horticultural sciences in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said.

via Engadget http://www.engadget.com

May 13, 2022 at 11:15AM

Korg’s DIY oscilloscope comes paired with a coffee table book

https://www.engadget.com/korg-nts-2-oscilloscope-kit-patch-and-tweak-book-143124726.html?src=rss

It’s relatively easy to find coffee table books on music, but how many of them give you the tools to make that music? Korg’s does. The company has introduced a bundle that pairs its new NTS-2 do-it-yourself oscilloscope kit with a Patch & Tweak with Korg book from Bjooks (which also made books for Moog and Roland) that explores semi-modular synthesis. You’ll find the usual history and artist interviews, but you’ll also find guides to help you use the NTS-2 in tandem with synths and other equipment.

The NTS-2 is a companion of sorts to the NTS-1 synth and similar hardware. The pocketable box helps you visualize the signals and voltages from your music-making gear (up to four signals at once), tune inputs, analyze spectrums or generate dual waveforms. You can generate the exact sound you want rather than having to play it by ear. The device runs on either battery power or USB-C, and the DIY design practically begs for customization.

The bundle is a limited edition, and will be available soon for $230 through retailers like B&H. That’s not trivial if you’re just getting started on music creation, but might be easy to justify if you’re hoping to elevate your production skills — and find something to read during your downtime.

via Engadget http://www.engadget.com

May 11, 2022 at 09:40AM

Google Maps adds an ‘Immersive View’ of major cities

https://www.engadget.com/google-maps-adds-immersive-view-of-major-cities-172303086.html?src=rss

Google Maps is getting an "Immersive View" that will offer users digitally rendered looks at major US cityscapes, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai told the audience at Google’s I/O 2022 keynote on Wednesday.  

The new feature uses computer vision and AI to blend Maps’ existing Street View function with aerial photography to create high-resolution models of the various buildings and urban features of a given location. "With our new immersive view, you’ll be able to experience what a neighborhood, landmark, restaurant or popular venue is like — and even feel like you’re right there before you ever set foot inside," wrote Miriam Daniel, VP of Google Maps, in a blog post. What’s more, Maps’ other tools and features can be applied to the view as well, enabling users to see what the area looks like at different times of the day and varying weather conditions.

Immersive View will first be available for Los Angeles, London, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo later this year, with more cities to follow. The company also notes that its recently released eco-routing feature, which lets drivers in the US and Canada to pick the most fuel efficient route for their trip, has already been used to travel 86 billion miles and prevented the release of roughly half a million metric tons of carbon emissions.

Google isn’t the only company making its navigation systems more readable and user friendly. At WWDC 2021 last June, Apple rolled out a higher-fidelity version of its Maps app, offering added detail like elevation gradients, brighter road colors, more prominent location labels, and hundreds of custom icons for local landmarks.

Follow all of the news from Google I/O 2022 right here!

via Engadget http://www.engadget.com

May 11, 2022 at 12:33PM