Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for March 16th, 2017

Enlarge / The image shows a scanning electron micrograph of 6 tardigrades in their tun state. When tardigrades dry out they retract their legs and heads within their cuticle, forming these little balls. (credit: Thomas Boothby) One of the great mysteries of the microscopic animals known as tardigrades is their uncanny ability survive almost anything: extreme heat, extreme cold, desiccation or drying out, and even the vacuum of space. Now, we are a little closer to understanding how they do it. The key, at least for surviving desiccation, is a special protein that tardigrades use to replace the water in their bodies with a form of glass. Tardigrades are also known as water bears, and they normally live in moist, mossy environments. But when those environments dry up, tardigrades go into a state known as “tun”—it’s a kind of suspended animation, which the animals can remain in for up to 10 years. When water begins to flow again, water bears absorb it and return to life. Tardigrades aren’t the only creatures who do this. Brine shrimp and certain kinds of worms can also dry up and come to life again. But what makes tardigrades different is that they use a special kind of disordered protein, unique to these animals, to literally suspend their cells in a glasslike matrix that prevents damage. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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How WWII Jeeps Were Crated for Shipping

Posted by kenmay on March - 16 - 2017

During World War II, America cranked out some 640, 000 Jeeps produced by both Willys-Overland and Ford. Once assembled, they could be stacked for transport with the assistance of intermediary pallets: However, to get them onto ships for transport across the Atlantic and Pacific, they were broken down and crated for greater space efficiency. Look how small they were able to get these crates: Now you know why the windshields were designed to be folded down. The color photos are obviously of replicas. The giveaway is the American knock-off of the German “jerry-can” design , which would not appear until late into the war. Here’s a video that shows both original production footage from the 1940s, as well as two modern-day mechanics assembling one of the replicas: An even more impressive demonstration is below. Watch these fellows at a Jeep festival completely tear the car down— and put it back together— in under four minutes: I had a devil of a time tracking down where these replicas are produced, but it appears that they’re manufactured by Philippines-based fabrication firm MD Juan and distributed by the France-based Jeep Village company that produced the first video above.

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A Russian military contractor is building huge drone tanks

Posted by kenmay on March - 16 - 2017

A Russian weapons company named after the inventor of the AK-47 has revealed that it’s building a new type of unmanned combat vehicle . The firm states that its upcoming drone tank will carry both machine guns and anti-tank missiles, weighing 20 tons. While it has yet to release a prototype, we can get a vague idea of what to expect from the company’s previous work – the BAS-01G Soratnik. Weighing a fraction of the proposed new tank at just 7 tons, the Soratnik is a machine gun mounted infantry support vehicle equipped with anti-tank missiles. With a top speed of 25 miles, the mini-tank can be operated from a range of up to six miles and is even able to carry out certain tasks autonomously. Unfortunately, the firm is remaining tight-lipped on exactly what the tank can do without human orders. As the zippy 7-ton Soratnik is already on the market carrying similar weaponry, it raises the question of how useful the proposed tank would be if it’s three times larger. Still, with Kalashnikov Concern being partly state-owned, the Russian government’s seal of approval might help encourage others to invest in the bulky behemoth. Source: Popular Mechanics

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YouTube boosts the quality of online VR video

Posted by kenmay on March - 16 - 2017

When you stream VR video online, you usually have to sacrifice visual quality. There’s a lot more data, so something has to give. However, that isn’t stopping Google’s YouTube and Daydream groups from improving what you see. They’re introducing a new projection technique, the equi-angular cubemap (EAC), that promises to increase the practical level of detail for 360-degree footage. Where conventional methods produce pictures that are only sharp in certain areas, EAC is extremely consistent — it distributes an equal number of pixels across all angle changes. It may not be as theoretically sharp in certain areas, but there are no glaring weak points. Google wants to help others improve VR projections, too. To that end, it’s proposing a Projection Independent Mesh standard that would simply tell a video player how to project the raw VR info. The approach would use extremely small amounts of data (just 4KB for EAC), so it wouldn’t require gobs of bandwidth or new hardware. You can find a draft version of the standard on GitHub . At the moment, you’ll have to use an Android device to watch videos that use EAC. Desktop and iOS viewing is coming later, Google says. And unless it’s a specially optimized video, you probably won’t see it — YouTube still ingests clips based on a conventional projection format. This upgrade is more about the long-term future of VR rather than an immediate upgrade. Source: YouTube , Google

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Netflix offers 20 classic ‘MST3K’ episodes to the world

Posted by kenmay on March - 16 - 2017

In the not-too distant future (April 14th, 2017 AD), a brand-new season of crowdfunded Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes will hit Netflix . Before then, however, 20 classic episodes of the show have been added to the streaming service globally both to whet appetites and create new fans of the cult classic. The episodes include fan favorites as Manos: The Hands of Fate , Time Chasers and Space Mutiny . It’s not the first time that Netflix has used such a strategy, offering a show across its global audience in time for a revival. For instance, while Gilmore Girls was available in the US since October 2014, Netflix released the show worldwide on July 1st. That paved the way for the Year in the Life revival series, which made its global debut the subsequent November. Similarly, a handful of MST3k episodes have appeared on US Netflix, but this could be its widest rollout since. Owing to the mishmash of varying rights holders, it’s never been easy to watch MST3k episodes outside the US. By releasing 20 of the show’s finest episodes, including Space Mutiny , the number of people who can recall that weird show with the puppets talking through movies should increase substantially. We’d pepper this closing line with in-jokes, but let’s be honest, it is just a show, and we should really just relax.

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From 1945 until 1962, the United States conducted 210 atmospheric nuclear tests—the kind with the big mushroom cloud and all that jazz. Above-ground nuke testing was banned in 1963, but there are thousands of films from those tests that have just been rotting in secret vaults around the country. But starting today you… Read more…

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Forget Tekken 7 , 2017’s hottest new fighting game has just arrived – only it’s 22 years later than originally expected. After being cancelled in 1995, Kotaku reports that Atari’s long-lost Primal Rage II has found its way onto the internet . Downloading an emulator will allow 90’s fighting fans to dive straight into a competent build of the ill-fated beat ’em up. While some menus are still incomplete and it has its fair share of bugs, players will find that the dino-brawling itself works. For the uninitiated, Primal Rage made a name for itself in the ’90s thanks to its cutting-edge stop motion animation. The prehistoric fighter soon found it’s way onto almost every home gaming console available at the time, prompting the announcement of a sequel. Just a year into development, however, Atari’s financial troubles gave them cold feet, causing the company to pull the plug on Primal Rage II. This isn’t the first time a canned gaming project has appeared online . With video games often costing huge amounts of money to produce, it’s no surprise that countless brilliant concepts have fallen by the wayside over the years. Thanks to the ease of communication afforded by the internet, however, not all canceled titles are doomed to the scrapheap of history. Now, let’s see more of that promising looking Star Wars 1313 please, LucasArts. Source: Kotaku

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A San Francisco startup plated some fairly familiar dishes at a tasting yesterday, like fried chicken with collared greens and duck l’orange. But these meats didn’t come from gutted bird corpses. They were all lab-grown, and our lab-grown meat experts are bummed we were not invited to taste, too. Not that we would… Read more…

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Security researchers just announced the discovery of major vulnerabilities in WhatsApp and Telegram, two popular messaging apps with end-to-end encryption, when used in an internet browser. In related news, you can use WhatsApp and Telegram in an internet browser. Read more…

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The TRAPPIST-1 system has totally entranced Earthlings since NASA announced its discovery last month. For both astronomers and tinfoil hat believers (*raises hand*), TRAPPIST-1 is a sign of hope for finding alien life, since three of its planets are located in the habitable zone which supports liquid water. With… Read more…

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