How to Tell If You’re a Neo-Nazi

Internet personalities Baked Alaska and Millennial Matt had a lot of fun at this past weekend’s white supremacist rallies. Well, until Baked Alaska was maced, I guess. They used tools like Twitter and YouTube to bring their online followers into the heart of the racist action. But curiously, the two still insist that…

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Tougher than steel: Wood pulp could make lighter auto parts

KYOTO, Japan — The global push among carmakers to make ever lighter vehicles is leading some auto suppliers in Japan to turn to what seems like an unlikely steel substitute — wood pulp.

Japanese researchers and auto component makers say a material made from wood pulp weighs just one-fifth of steel and can be five times stronger.

The material – cellulose nanofibers — could become a viable alternative to steel in the decades ahead, they say, although it faces competition from carbon-based materials, and remains a long way from being commercially viable.

> Related: Jay Leno drives the Renew cannabis car — hemp you can’t dent

Reducing the weight of a vehicle will be critical as manufacturers move to bring electric cars into the mainstream. Batteries are an expensive but vital component, so a reduction in car weight will mean fewer batteries will be needed to power the vehicle, saving on costs.

“Lightweighting is a constant issue for us,” said Masanori Matsushiro, a project manager overseeing body design at Toyota.

“But we also have to resolve the issue of high manufacturing costs before we see an increased use of new, lighter-weight materials in mass-volume cars.”

A NEW PROCESS

Researchers at Kyoto University and major parts suppliers such as Denso Corp, Toyota’s biggest supplier, and DaikyoNishikawa Corp, are working with plastics incorporated with cellulose nanofibers — made by breaking down wood pulp fibers into several hundredths of a micron (one thousandth of a millimeter).

Cellulose nanofibers have been used in a variety of products ranging from ink to transparent displays, but their potential use in cars has been enabled by the “Kyoto Process,” under which chemically treated wood fibers are kneaded into plastics while simultaneously being broken down into nanofibers, slashing the cost of production to roughly one-fifth that of other processes.

“This is the lowest-cost, highest-performance application for cellulose nanofibers, and that’s why we’re focusing on its use in auto and aircraft parts,” Kyoto University Professor Hiroaki Yano, who is leading the research, told Reuters in an interview.

The university, along with auto parts suppliers, are currently developing a prototype car using cellulose nanofiber-based parts to be completed in 2020.

“We’ve been using plastics as a replacement for steel, and we’re hoping that cellulose nanofibers will widen the possibilities toward that goal,” said Yukihiko Ishino, a spokesman at DaikyoNishikawa, which counts Toyota and Mazda among its customers.

Automakers are also using other lightweight substitutes. BMW uses carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs) for its i3 compact electric car as well as for its 7 series, while high-tensile steel and aluminum alloys are currently the most widely used lightweight options because they are cheaper and recyclable.

“SPRUCE GOOSE”

Yano said he was inspired in his research by a photo of the “Spruce Goose,” the famed cargo plane made almost entirely of wood by U.S. billionaire entrepreneur Howard Hughes, and flown just once, in 1947, with Hughes at the controls. At the time, it was the world’s largest aircraft.

“I thought that if Howard Hughes could find a way to use wood to build a massive plane, why not use wood to make a material that was as strong as steel,” he said.

The cost of mass-producing a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cellulose nanofiber is currently around 1,000 yen ($9).

Yano aims to halve that cost by 2030, which he says will make it an economically viable product, since it would be combined with plastic, and so competitive against high tensile steel and aluminum alloys, which currently cost around $2 per kg.

Industry experts anticipate that carbon fiber prices will fall to around $10 per kg by 2025.

Analysts say high-tensile steel and aluminum will be the more popular alternative for many years to come, considering parts makers would need to overhaul production lines and figure out ways to fasten new materials like cellulose nanofiber onto other car parts.

Anthony Vicari, an applied materials analyst at Lux Research in Boston, said it “would be a big deal” though if Yano’s projections prove to be correct.

But for now, it remains “a very big ‘if’,” he said.

Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu and Maki Shiraki

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Netflix plans to spend nearly $16 billion on content

Netflix’s more than 100 million subscribers will have many new original shows to binge watch in the next few years. The company has $15.7 billion (yes billion!) in obligations committed to streaming content deals.

CEO Reed Hastings said at a conference earlier this year that $6 billion of that is for this year alone.

So will you have to eventually pay more to watch your favorite Netflix shows? Perhaps. Netflix has actually started to raise its monthly subscription fees in some markets.

It clearly needs to differentiate itself as other media companies, especially Disney, start to look at Netflix as more of a foe than friend. That means Netflix will likely spend even more money on content to replace some of the shows it will one day lose.

Just last week, Disney (DIS) announced plans to start its own streaming service in 2019. The House of Mouse will eventually move many Disney movies and TV shows from Netflix to that new, yet-to-be-namok cd streaming venture.

But even though Disney owns the Star Wars galaxy, Netflix is the streaming media empire that is striking back. Netflix (NFLX, Tech30) quickly countered with a move that could potentially hurt Disney’s ABC network.

Netflix has signed Shonda Rhimes, the writer/creator responsible for mega hits “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder, to a multi-year deal.

Terms of the Rhimes deal weren’t disclosed. But it’s reasonable to wonder if Netflix may need to boost its monthly subscription rate to help pay for this and other new programs.

In its most recent quarterly earnings filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Netflix said that “we expect that from time to time the prices of our membership plans in each country may change.”

Related: Shonda Rhimes is leaving ABC for Netflix

In the U.S., the company currently has three tiers of pricing. A basic streaming plan costs $7.99 per month, a standard streaming plan is $9.99 and a premium plan is $11.99.

So another price hike in the U.S. seems unlikely anytime soon — no matter how much Netflix is spending on “Shondaland” shows, a new Western from the Coen Brothers and other original programs.

Netflix did increase prices in Australia earlier this summer and just raised prices in Canada last week as well.

On the one hand, the company may not need to raise prices too much if it keeps adding subscribers and racking up more revenue and profits. Netflix is expected to report a more than 25% increase in sales for 2017 and that earnings will double.

Netflix shares are still up about 40% this year. The company’s market value is nearly $75 billion, making it worth more than traditional media companies Fox (FOXA), CBS (CBS) and Viacom (VIAB) and only slightly less than CNNMoney owner Time Warner (TWX).

However, shares of Netflix have taken a bit of a hit in the past week since Disney announced its own streaming plans. Keep in mind that Netflix will have to continue to spend a lot of its own money if it intends to add more A-list talent for original programs.

Though Netflix’s cash levels are up in the past few months, it is also piling on more debt. The company finished the second quarter with $3.4 billion in long-term debt, up from $2.9 billion at the end of December.

John Janedis, an analyst with Jefferies, said in a report that Netflix is “aggressively shifting to owned original content” and added that the company’s recent deal to buy comic book publisher Millarworld “further exemplifies the importance of owned IP.”

Translation: Netflix will need to keep raising cash if it wants to still have hits once shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards” finally end their runs.

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In the future, homebuyers may Hyperloop ’til they qualify

Because it’s not about how fast you can get somewhere, it is about how far you can go in a given time.

Some of the promoters of the Hyperloop like to say “We’re selling time”. But Emily Badger, writing in the New York Times, reminds us of the very important point that in fact, they are selling space. That’s because every time technology evolves and provides faster transportation, people naturally spread out.

When you give people greater speed, they don’t use it to save time; they use it to consume more space. As a result, cities have spread outward as transportation technology has evolved. Horse-drawn carriages enlarged pedestrian towns. Streetcars enabled streetcar suburbs. Highways made exurbia possible.

miss blacktopWisconsin Historical society/Public Domain

It all comes down to how far you can get in 30 minutes. There is even a general law about it, knowns as Marchetti’s constant.

Mr. Marchetti noted supporting historical clues: Ancient Rome, Persepolis and Marrakesh were about five kilometers across, or the maximum distance most people can travel in an hour on foot. He diagramed the growth of Berlin, which appeared to expand concentrically as transportation advances enlarged the land people could cover.

So what happens when the Hyperloop or other technology can take you hundreds of miles in 30 minutes?

new york trainEly Beach/ Columbia University/Public Domain

Philadelphia and Washington could become linked the way Manhattan and Brooklyn are today, if the travel costs are comparable (recall, before approval of the New York subway, that the two boroughs were separate cities).

You don’t need a Hyperloop either, just high quality fast trains like the Shanghai mag-lev. Then you get from New York to Washington in about the same time it takes to subway from Times Square to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Car as living room© Steven M. Johnson

Badger then looks at what self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles do the the picture. She wonders, “If a car becomes a traveling office, will people even mentally measure their commutes as ‘travel time’?” I suspect that the AV will be less like an office and more like a living room, and it will render the concept of commute time meaningless.

In either scenario, the result is probably the same: endless sprawl. When it comes to housing, the next generation will probably Hyperloop ‘till they qualify.

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The Newest Way to Propel Nanosatellites? Water.

Although maneuvering nanosatellites in space is a complex procedure, a new micro-propulsion method features the simplest of ingredients: water.

The system from Purdue University uses tiny nozzles to release precise bursts of water vapor. The development supports future efforts to steer the miniature “CubeSats” in space.

A Compact Idea

Nanosatellites, which NASA specifies as having a mass of 1 to 10 kilograms, have been increasingly employed to perform a variety of tasks, including high-resolution imaging, Internet services, environmental monitoring, and military surveillance.

Purdue University graduate student Katherine Fowee and postdoctoral research associate Anthony Cofer work on a new micro-propulsion system for miniature satellites called CubeSats. (Image Credit: Purdue University)

Many missions require a particular instrument, such as a camera, spectrometer, or antenna, to be pointed in a specific direction. Purdue’s miniature propulsion system allows a CubeSat, a type of nanosatellite used as a platform for space research, to rotate 360 degrees and stop at any given angle.

“The main benefit this system offers is its compactness,” said postdoctoral research associate Anthony Cofer, who spoke to Tech Briefs and helped to develop the technology. “A complete thruster with 1 gram of propellant can be made as small as 2 cubic centimeters, or a little larger than a sugar cube.”

Many of the current propulsion options being explored for CubeSats are scaled-down versions of larger systems. On the micro-scale, certain physical effects such as surface tension, viscosity, and hydrophobicity become so dominant that the systems become inefficient and unreliable.

“We wanted to try to use these effects instead of fighting them,” said Cofer.

The new technology, called a Film-Evaporation MEMS Tunable Array (FEMTA) thruster, uses tiny capillaries to handle the flow of water. The microscale nozzles are manufactured on silicon wafers via nanofabrication techniques.

Pure silicon’s water-repelling qualities and high surface tension combine to produce a thermal valve with no moving parts. Because the capillaries feature a tiny, 10-micrometer width, the surface tension keeps the fluid from flowing out, even in the vacuum of space.

Tiny heaters, located near the ends of the capillaries, trigger vacuum boiling. The result: water vapor and thrust at lower-than-normal temperatures.

The system allows the capillaries to act as valves that turn on and off with heat activation. The thruster technology is similar to an inkjet printer, said the researchers, which uses heaters to push out droplets of ink.

A ‘Micro’ Test Run

CubeSats generally consist of several units, each measuring 100 cubic centimeters. The Purdue researchers integrated four FEMTA thrusters, filled with approximately one teaspoon of water, into a one-unit CubeSat prototype. The system was then tested in Purdue’s High Vacuum Facility’s large vacuum chamber.

The thruster demonstrated a thrust-to-power ratio of 230 micronewtons per watt. A 1U CubeSat requires about 60 micronewtons to spin 180 degrees in a minute, said Cofer.

The 500-gram prototype contained electronics and an inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor to monitor the thruster’s performance. The IMU sensor handled 10 separate measurements needed to steer the satellite, and an onboard computer wirelessly received signals to fire the thruster and transmit motion data.

The ultra-purified water used by the Purdue-developed system offers efficiency benefits compared to current propulsion options, according to the engineers.

“Water is the very definition of ‘green’ propellant, which eliminates costly equipment and procedures needed to deal with toxic and combustible propellants,” said Cofer. “It is also stored at low pressure so bulky propellant containment systems are not needed like with cold gas.”

There have been substantial improvements made in micro-propulsion technologies, but further reductions in mass, volume, and power are necessary for integration with small spacecraft.

“We are hoping to fit the specifications of our design with a specific space mission,” said Cofer.

What do you think? Will water improve propellant technologies? Share your comments below.

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Even Amateur Filmmakers Can Afford This Tiny Motion Control Camera Rig

Motion-controlled rigs capable of repeatedly recreating smooth, controlled camera movements usually cost tens of thousands of dollars, and they require trained operators to set up and use. But Edelkrone’s new SurfaceONE costs just $690 and apparently can be configured in just a few minutes using a smartphone app as a remote control.

The rigs used in Hollywood, often for complicated special effect shots that require multiple takes, aren’t going to be replaced by the SurfaceONE anytime soon. Edelkrone’s creation can only move in two-dimensions as it rolls around on a flat surface, the camera itself can’t autonomously tilt or swivel. But thanks to a built-in laser pointer that makes it easier to set up a shot, you can ensure your subject will always be in frame as the camera slowly arcs around it.

Because it’s not locked to a track that’s securely bolted to the floor of a soundstage, the SurfaceONE is also limited when it comes to how accurately it can reproduce a specific movement again and again without tiny shifts or deviations in its movements. It’s not ideal if you intend to layer multiple takes in a piece of compositing software afterwards, but that’s not how Edelkrone intends for this accessory to be used.

The SurfaceONE is instead designed to replace cumbersome camera dollies and tracks for capturing smooth tracking, panning, or dolly shots with a DSLR, mirrorless camera, or even a smartphone. Movements can be programmed and adjusted using the accompanying app, including how slowly the camera needs to move.

As a result, the tiny motion-controlled device seems especially useful for capturing timelapse footage where the camera isn’t static, as movements can be programmed to play out for as long as 60 days. But the SurfaceONE’s most important feature is that it may simply help democratize filmmaking, making it easier for storytellers to create compelling films and capture footage that looks like it was created by a multi-million dollar Hollywood film crew.

[Edelkrone via DPReview]

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Car ownership could decline thanks to Uber and Lyft

While it may seem logical that people will own fewer cars as ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber gain more traction, there hasn’t been a way to study any potential effect. Then Uber and Lyft left Austin, Texas for about a year. A group of researchers from University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), Texas A&M Transportation Institute, and Columbia University found that the presence of ride-sharing companies can change car ownership behavior, which could eventually lead to fewer personal cars in the future.

41 percent of those surveyed used their own cars to get around, while nine percent bought a car to cover Lyft and Uber’s absence. Only three percent took public transit while 42 percent of respondents went with local ride sharing companies that filled the gap while Lyft and Uber were gone. Austin residents didn’t rush to sell of their personal automobiles when the companies returned to the city, of course, but the study shows that personal car ownership could actually decrease as ride-sharing and autonomous vehicle usage increases.

Via: The Verge

Source: Reuters

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