Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for March 20th, 2017

eBay takes on Amazon with guaranteed 3-day shipping

Posted by kenmay on March - 20 - 2017

In an effort to deal with formidable rival Amazon , eBay has launched a new program giving shoppers guaranteed three-day shipping on 20 million products. Called ” Guaranteed Delivery , ” it also includes free shipping on “millions” of those items, according to eBay, and will roll out in the US starting this summer. The auction site also revamped its home page today to provide a more personalized experience for shoppers. eBay points has 1.1 billion items listed at any given time, of which 67 percent already ship for free and 63 percent arrive within three or fewer days. With “Guaranteed Delivery” items, however, eBay will either refund the shipping or give you a coupon if they don’t arrive on time. Buyers looking to get items speedily will be able to filter searches based one-, two- and three-day delivery times. The company is also providing qualified sellers with new shipping tools so that they can in turn give buyers more accurate delivery times. Such things have become crucial for consumers in a world where Amazon can deliver an item within an hour and let you track packages to an exact spot on the map. On top of that, eBay has launched a new home page that gives consumers a more, well, Amazon-like buying experience. Rather than forcing customers to follow sellers they like to see preferred products, it will feature stacked horizontal image carousels. Rows will be arranged by items that you’ve viewed recently and put on watch lists curated by eBay’s algorithms. That works much the same way as content on Netflix, and eBay compared its new offering specifically to that service’s home page. It’s not the first time eBay has changed its design — in 2012, it adopted a Pinterest-like list of offerings, and a year later, a look based on the user’s interests. However, both of those designs required some user intervention and “that was a lot to ask a casual customer, ” eBay’s Head of Personalization and Engagement Bradford Shellhammer told Recode . The desktop rollout redesign is now live, but it may not reach your neighborhood until mid-2017, and the mobile refresh is coming at the end of the year — something that should tell you a lot about who eBay’s customers are. As mentioned, the Guaranteed Delivery service will arrive this summer in the US. Via: Techcrunch Source: Ebay

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When you strap on all of the gear required for a modern, immersive, virtual reality experience, you’re all but completely blind to the real world. But interacting with real world objects can often enhance a virtual experience, so Disney’s researchers came up with a way to let users catch a real ball without leaving a… Read more…

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It’s been successfully tested on trucks, as well as UAVs and small rockets, according to a video from Lockheed Martin, which is now shipping the first 60kW-class “beam combined” fiber laser for use by the U.S. Army. An anonymous reader quotes the Puget Sound Business Journal: Lockheed successfully developed and tested the 58 kW laser beam earlier this year, setting a world record for this type of laser. The company is now preparing to ship the laser system to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command in Huntsville, Alabama [according to Robert Afzal, senior fellow for Lockheed’s Laser and Sensor Systems in Bothell]. “We have shown that a powerful directed energy laser is now sufficiently light-weight, low volume and reliable enough to be deployed on tactical vehicles for defensive applications on land, at sea and in the air…” Laser weapons, which complement traditional kinetic weapons in the battlefield, will one day protect against threats such as “swarms of drones” or a flurry of rockets and mortars, Lockheed said. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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1.6 Billion-Year-Old Plant Fossil Found In India

Posted by kenmay on March - 20 - 2017

Complex multicellular life began 400 million years earlier than we thought, according to a Phys.org article shared by Slashdot reader William Robinson: Scientists found two kinds of fossils resembling red algae in uniquely well-preserved sedimentary rocks at Chitrakoot in central India. One type is thread-like, the other one consists of fleshy colonies. The scientists were able to see distinct inner cell structures and so-called cell fountains, the bundles of packed and splaying filaments that form the body of the fleshy forms and are characteristic of red algae… The oldest known red algae before the present discovery are 1.2 billion years old. The Indian fossils, 400 million years older and by far the oldest plant-like fossils ever found, suggest that the early branches of the tree of life need to be recalibrated. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Mark Lopez/Argonne National Laboratory A group of researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory have developed a sponge that will collect oil from bodies of water, which could improve how harbors and ports are cleaned, as well as how oil spills are managed. The Oleo Sponge is made of a polyurethane foam whose interior surfaces are covered with oleophilic molecules that draw oil out of water. The challenge, according to Argonne, was finding a way to “glue” those oil-loving molecules to the sponge’s interior. That issue was tackled with the help of 2011 research from Argonne scientists , who were able to infuse metal oxide with nanostructures. The Oleo creators used that technique to develop a primer for the interior of the sponge that the oleophilic molecules stick to. The result is a sponge that can adsorb up to 90 times its weight in oil . Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Tiny liquid battery cools chips while powering them

Posted by kenmay on March - 20 - 2017

Scientists from IBM and ETH Zurich university have built a tiny “flow” battery that has the dual benefit of supplying power to chips and cooling them at the same time. Even taking pumping into account, it produces enough energy to power a chip while dissipating much more heat than it generates. The result could be smaller, more efficient chips, solar cells that store their own energy or devices used for remote monitoring that don’t require external power sources. “Redox flow” batteries that use liquid electrolytes are normally used on a large scale to store energy. For instance, Harvard Researchers recently created one that can last over ten years with very little degradation, making it ideal to store solar or wind energy. Building them on a scale tiny enough for chips is another matter, however. The team from ETH Zurich and IBM managed to find two liquids that are suitable both as flow-battery electrolytes and cooling agents that can dissipate heat from chips in the same circuit. “We are the first scientists to build such a small flow battery so as to combine energy supply and cooling, ” says doctoral student Julian Marschewski. Using 3D printing, the team developed a wedge-shaped micro-channel system that supplies the system with electrolytes using very little pumping power. The resulting electrodes press liquid into the membrane layer where ions can flow, generating power. The result is a system that generates 1.4 watts per square centimeter, with 1 watt left over to power the battery after taking pumping into account. Moreover, it gets rid of a lot more heat than it makes, pulling off the neat trick of powering and cooling chips at the same time. The battery needs to generate more electricity than it does right now, so the idea now needs to shift from the research into the engineering stages. However, the team thinks that it has a lot of potential for not just chips, but also lasers that require internal cooling, solar cells that store electricity directly in the battery cell and even large flow batteries optimized with liquid cooling channels. Source: Eth Zurich

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