vIndianz.com (20 Jan , 2009) — Time Magazine, the reputed magazine, has once again posted its annual list of the 50 best inventions of the year. The list includes everything from NASA’s new rocket to that “bladeless” fan to $10M light bulb. Some of the other amazing products on the list are below:
The Best Invention of the Year: NASA’s Ares Rockets
Ares 1 rocket is made in the US by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The best and smartest and coolest thing built in 2009 — a machine that can launch human beings to cosmic destinations. The Ares 1 will launch an Apollo-like spacecraft with four crew members — perhaps by 2015.
The Tank-Bred Tuna
Clean Seas, the Australian company operated a breeding facility of bluefin tuna in Port Lincoln from March 12. Scientists believe the breeding population of the highly migratory southern bluefin has probably plummeted over 90 per cent since the 1950s. By coaxing the notoriously fussy southern bluefin to breed in landlocked tanks, Clean Seas may finally have given the future of bluefin aquaculture legs.
The $10 million lightbulb
In September the Dutch electronics giant, Philips Electronics, became the first to enter the U.S. Department of Energy’s L Prize competition, which seeks an LED alternative to the common 60-watt bulb. Sixty-watt lights account for 50% of the domestic incandescent market; if they were replaced by LED bulbs, the U.S. could save enough electricity per year to light 17.4 million households. If Philips wins the L Prize, it will claim a cash award and federal purchasing agreements worth about $10 million. Philips’ LED bulb emits the same amount of light as its incandescent equivalent but uses less than 10 watts and lasts for 25,000 hours — or 25 times as long
The Smart Thermostat
Toyota Priuses have little screens on the dashboard that tells the driver what gas mileage, in real time, as you drive. It crossed Seth Frader-Thompson’s mind that houses should have something similar. So he built the EnergyHub Dashboard, a little device, with a screen, that can talk wirelessly to your furnace and your various appliances and let you know exactly how much electricity (or gas) each one is using and how much it’s costing you. It can also turn appliances on and off and raise or lower the temperature in your house so you can rein in the real power hogs. EnergyHub is currently partnering with utilities for trials and will be available direct to consumers in early 2010.
Microsoft demonstrated a technology, code-named Project Natal, that enables players to control games using only body movements and voice commands, no controller required — the gamer’s body becomes the controller. Project Natal uses several cameras, plus a highly specialized microphone and a lot of fancy software, to track the gamer’s body and interpret his or her voice.
Scientists, of University of Maryland’s Joint Quantum Institute, successfully teleported data from one atom to another in a container a metre away. A landmark in the brain-bending field known as quantum information processing, the experiment doesn’t quite have the cool factor of body transportation; one atom merely transforms the other so it acts just like the original. Still, atom-to-atom teleportation has major implications for creating super-secure, ultra-fast computers.
The Telescope for Invisible Stars
It’s no secret that space is cold. But in some places, it’s so frigid that light can’t radiate in the visible spectrum, which makes celestial bodies invisible. Now the Herschel Space Observatory is exposing them. Launched in May by the European Space Agency, Herschel scans the skies in the infrared spectrum. In order to avoid infrared interference and temperature fluctuations from Earth, it hovers in space at the second Lagrange point, about 1.5 million km away, where the gravity of the Earth and sun balance out. Herschel will operate for at least three years, during which it will watch stars and planets being born, revealing more about how the universe came to be. Herschel is equipped with a mirror 11.5 ft. (3.5 m) in diameter, the largest ever built for use in space. The spacecraft itself is nearly 25 ft. (7.5 m) tall
The AIDS Vaccine
A vaccine is not exactly a novel invention, but one that’s designed to fight HIV certainly is. More than 20 years after the AIDS virus was identified, researchers have devised the first immunization to protect people against HIV infection. A six-year trial showed that the vaccine, which consists of two shots that given individually had failed to protect against HIV, is modestly effective, reducing infection 31% among those receiving the regimen vs. those getting a placebo. Scientists are still trying to figure out how the vaccine decreases infection risk, since the shots did not affect the level of virus in the blood of volunteers. And some experts question whether the small effect is indeed significant. The vaccine is not approved for use yet, but it’s the first to make any headway against HIV, and that’s a start.
Tweeting by Thinking
Plenty of people’s Twitter feeds appear to be connected directly to their egos, but one scientist’s is actually wired to his brain. In April, University of Wisconsin doctoral student Adam Wilson — working with adviser Justin Williams, above — tweeted 23 characters just by thinking. He focused his attention on one flashing letter after another on a computer screen while wearing a cap outfitted with electrodes that monitored changes in his brain activity to figure out which character he wanted. His efforts spelled out “USING EEG TO SEND TWEET,” among other messages. The feat marks a major step forward in establishing communication for people with “locked in” syndrome, which paralyzes the body, except for the eyes, but leaves the mind alert. For now, though, it’s slow going: with the speediest brain tweeters reportedly managing just eight characters a minute, it’s a good thing they’re limited to 140.
The Electric Eye
MIT researchers are developing a microchip that could help blind people regain partial eyesight. Though it won’t completely restore normal vision, it will enable a blind person to recognize faces and navigate a room without assistance. The chip, which is encased in titanium to prevent water damage, will be implanted onto a patient’s eyeball. The patient will then wear a pair of eyeglasses equipped with a tiny camera that transmits images directly to the chip, which in turn sends them to the brain. With any luck, human trials are only a few years away.
The Mercury Probe
If the solar system has a flame-roasted planet, it’s Mercury, where the sun pushes surface temperatures to 800°F (426°C). That brutal environment is one reason no NASA probe has visited Mercury since 1975. But Messenger — the space agency’s new Mercury ship — can take the heat. Having just completed a flyby a mere 141 miles (228 km) above the planet’s surface, it’s preparing to enter Mercury’s orbit in 2011. The probe will survey parts of the world never before seen — and will do so in comfort. Covered in an insulating ceramic skin, it will endure temperatures of 700°F (370°C) on its exterior; inside, it will operate at a room-temperature 70°F (20°C).
The Personal Carbon Footprint
Negotiations over carbon emissions resemble the end of a Quentin Tarantino film, when everyone has a gun pointed at everyone else and no one can make a move. Rich nations (like the U.S.) need to make the first cuts, but they won’t until developing nations (like China) do — and vice versa. Researchers from Princeton University suggest working on the individual level instead. It’s the well-off people of the world — in Indiana or India — who are responsible for most carbon emissions. A strategy focused on rich individuals instead of rich countries might just get us out of this.
The Solar Shingle
The Dow Chemical Co. has developed a new roof shingle that doubles as a solar panel. The shingles, which can be incorporated into rooftops alongside traditional asphalt shingles, use low-cost thin-film cells of copper indium gallium diselenide. While Dow expects to profit greatly from the Powerhouse Solar Shingle — the company predicts it will bring in as much as $10 billion in revenue by 2020 — there will be significant benefits for consumers too. The innovative shingle is expected to cost 10% to 15% less than traditional solar panels and will be cheaper and quicker to install.
The Handheld Ultrasound
The stethoscope of the 21st century may have arrived. On Oct. 20, GE unveiled the Vscan, a medical imaging tool as compact as a cell phone and as powerful as a large ultrasound console. Doctors can use it to look inside a patient’s body and instantly see fluid around the heart, for example, or a baby in the breech position. In a field where minutes can make the difference between life and death, the Vscan — not yet commercially available — could improve the way medicine is practiced everywhere, from cutting-edge ERs to makeshift village clinics.
It’s like getting your first Big Wheel all over again — and you don’t even have to pedal. An innovative bicycle-design concept derived from the old-fashioned penny-farthing, the YikeBike is a folding electric bicycle out of New Zealand. The rider sits on the seat, holds on at the sides and zooms around at a top speed of 12 m.p.h. (20 km/h). You lean left or right to steer, and it even comes with electronic antiskid brakes. The first 100 YikeBikes will be road-ready by mid-2010 in New Zealand as well as the U.K. and selected other countries in Europe. The YikeBike weighs roughly 20 lb. (9 kg) and runs on a lithium phosphate battery that can be charged to 80% capacity in 20 minutes
Real estate — the one thing we’re not making any more of. That might be good news for landlords but not for the world’s farmers, who have finite cropland to feed a growing global population. The answer: build up by farming vertically. Valcent, a company based in El Paso, Texas, is pioneering a hydroponic-farming system that grows plants in rotating rows, one on top of another. The rotation gives the plants the precise amount of light and nutrients they need, while the vertical stacking enables the use of far less water than conventional farming. But best of all, by growing upward instead of outward, vertical farming can expand food supplies without using more land.
The Planetary Skin
What happens to Earth when a forest is razed or energy use soars? We don’t know because environmental data are collected by isolated sources, making it impossible to see the whole picture. With the theory that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, NASA and Cisco have teamed up to develop Planetary Skin, a global “nervous system” that will integrate land-, sea-, air- and space-based sensors, helping the public and private sectors make decisions to prevent and adapt to climate change. The pilot project — a prototype is due by 2010 — will track how much carbon is held by rain forests and where.
The $20 Knee
Tens of thousands of amputees in the developing world wear an inexpensive prosthetic called the Jaipur Foot. But poor patients who lose a knee joint have few options: a titanium replacement can cost $10,000, and crude models don’t work very well. Now a team of Stanford engineering students has designed a knee that’s not only dirt cheap — just $20 — but also mimics the natural joint’s movements. Developed with the Jaipur Foot group, the JaipurKnee is made of self-lubricating, oil-filled nylon and is both flexible and stable, even on irregular terrain. The device is being tested in India; more than 300 people have been fitted so far. The JaipurKnee comprises five pieces of plastic and four nuts and bolts. It requires no special tools and takes just a few hours to manufacture.
A Watchdog for Financial Products
The Consumer Financial Protection Agency is still just a bill, but if it winds up getting passed and created — as the Obama Administration has been pushing for — Americans will have a bold new ally every time they sign up for a credit card, write a check or take out a home loan. The goal: to make sure that financial products aren’t rigged in favor of the firms selling them and that ordinary people have a shot at wading through complicated contracts and fee structures to really understand what they’re getting themselves into.
The Electric Microbe
Bacteria have always gotten a bad rap. But we should be thankful for one especially talented microbe, Geobacter, which has tiny hairlike extensions called pili that it uses to generate electricity from mud and wastewater. Professor Derek Lovley and his team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have engineered a strain of Geobacter that’s eight times as efficient as other strains at producing power. The next step: creating Geobacter-based fuel cells that can generate cheap, clean electricity.
The Bladeless Fan
Ever since Schuyler Skaats Wheeler introduced the electric fan 127 years ago, there hasn’t been much innovation in the field. The old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind. But who ever said it was perfect? Certainly not James Dyson, which leads us to the bladeless, nonbuffeting Air Multiplier. Air is pulled in through vents in the base and then pushed out by a hidden impeller over a circular airfoil-shaped ramp that runs inside the rim of the halo, creating an uninterrupted stream of cool air. Because it’s bladeless, the Air Multiplier is safer than conventional fans, and it retains normal functions like tilt, oscillation and speed control. It looks cooler too.
The Custom Puppy
In 1997, the year scientists announced they had created Dolly the cloned sheep, Lou Hawthorne began wondering what it would take to create a genetic replica of his mother’s dog Missy. In 2007, his company BioArts did it, and in 2009, Hawthorne delivered puppies to five customers who paid an average of $144,000 for copies of their canines. (The company also created, pro bono, five clones of a search-and-rescue dog that worked at the World Trade Center after 9/11.) BioArts has since said the pet-cloning market is too small to be commercially viable, but for pet owners who jumped at the chance for a second chance, the puppy love lives on.
The Cyborg Beetle
Man has yet to master nature, but now he can make it turn left. Armed with funding from the Pentagon’s research wing, an engineering team at the University of California, Berkeley, has devised a method of remotely controlling the flight of beetles. By attaching radio antennas and embedding electrodes in the insects’ optic lobes, flight muscles and brains, professors Michel Maharbiz and Hirotaka Sato can manipulate their subjects into taking off, hovering in midair and turning on command. The trick? Wirelessly delivering jolts to a microbattery fastened to a circuit board atop the hapless insects, whose agility and capacity to tote valuable payloads could make the tiny creatures the ultimate fly on the wall.
The Biotech Stradivarius
On Sept. 1, an audience of experts took part in a blind test of five violins. One of the violins was a $2 million Stradivarius, made in 1711 by the greatest stringed-instrument maker of all time. Another was a modern violin made of wood that had been specially treated by Professor Francis Schwarze of the Swiss Federal Laboratory for Materials Testing and Research. Schwarze used two fungi to alter Norwegian spruce and sycamore to closely resemble the wood Stradivarius used, then commissioned a violin maker to build an instrument with them. The listeners were asked to identify the Strad, and 113 picked Schwarze’s violin. The actual Stradivarius got only 39 votes.
One theory has it that Stradivarius’ violins sound better because the craftsman lived in a brief climatic period that produced particularly high-quality wood
The Nissan Leaf
It’s not the world’s first electric car, but the Nissan Leaf, launched in August, is the first fully electric vehicle built for mass production for the global market. To help drivers shift their thinking from gas to green, Japan’s third largest automaker has about 30 partnerships worldwide focused on developing an infrastructure of battery-recharging stations to keep electric vehicles on the roads. The car’s top speed is more than 90 m.p.h. (145 km/h), and its range is 100 miles (160 km) on a full charge. When it moves, it makes a futuristic sound like the flying cars in Blade Runner. Nissan will produce 50,000 Leafs each year at its Oppama plant, southwest of Tokyo, starting in the fall of 2010.
Penguins may be ungainly on land, but they’re speedy swimmers and expert divers. That agility inspired scientists at Festo’s Bionic Learning Network to develop the AquaPenguin, an Adélie-size self-navigating bot that “flies” underwater just like the real birds. Highly flexible, it can maneuver in cramped spaces and turn on a dime. Unlike its live counterparts, the bionic bird can also swim backward. Each AquaPenguin behaves differently, but an intelligent 3-D sonar system similar to that used by dolphins and bats enables the bots to travel in groups without colliding. Festo envisions adapting AquaPenguin for automated production systems. It has already built a gripping device sensitive enough to manipulate fragile objects.
The Universal Unicycle
No, it’s not a Segway or a unicycle. Honda’s U3-X “personal mobility” contraption is a device that combines technology from Honda’s ASIMO robot project with its omnidirectional driving system, which allows riders to scoot in any direction simply by shifting their weight. What appears to be a single-wheeled design actually includes several smaller motorized wheels, which make side-to-side movement possible. Still in the experimental-model stage, the U3-X has a top speed of 3.7 m.p.h. (6 km/h) and weighs less than 22 lb. (10 kg). A fully charged battery can power it for up to an hour.
It took Kutiman just two months to finish ThruYOU, the project that would make him both a musical pioneer and an Internet celebrity. Kutiman — a.k.a. Ophir Kutiel, an Israeli musician — took footage posted on YouTube by amateur musicians and mixed it together (drums, piano, synth, theremin, vocals, whatever he could find) into video jams of amazing funkiness, in the process creating an all-new art form that combines DJing, video montage and found art. Some of the players are just goofing around. Some aren’t even very good. What makes it work is the performers’ unjaded enthusiasm, the hypnotic effect of the looped samples and the sheer serendipitous grooviness that brings it all together as if it were meant to be.
A fast-spreading fungus is ravaging the world’s rubber trees. But thanks to researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, there’s now an alternative: dandelions. Scientists have long known that the weed’s sap contains latex, but it’s difficult to harvest because dandelion ooze polymerizes — goes gummy — when it hits the air. The Fraunhofer team overcame that sticky problem by switching off a key enzyme. The new, improved dandelion produces 500% more usable latex than the old weed does.
It’s odd to think of putting sticks of wood inside people as a revolutionary medical procedure, but that’s exactly what a group of Italian scientists is working on. They’re using wood — red oak, rattan and sipo work best — to create an artificial bone replacement called carbonated hydroxyapatite. Because of the sponginess of the wood, live bones are expected to grow into the structure faster than with traditional titanium or ceramic implants, decreasing the time it takes to mend a broken bone. The procedure isn’t quite ready for human testing, so sheep are currently testing the artificial bones.Researchers say that with the bone substitute, which takes approximately one week to process, they can create virtually any size or shape
The Living Wall
Patrick Blanc specializes in vertical gardens: verdant patches that climb the walls of office buildings, shopping malls, museums and public spaces around the globe. His newest creation is the green-bearded exterior of the Athenaeum Hotel, on which some 260 species of plants (more than 12,000 in all) form a forest façade rising eight stories over London’s ritzy Mayfair district. Recognizing that not all plants need soil to grow, Blanc affixes synthetic felt to a frame onto which roots can cling. Part gardener, part botanist, Blanc uses automated irrigation and fertilization systems to keep his specimens healthy and arranges them so that each enjoys optimal growth conditions.
The School of One
This past summer, in a sixth-grade math class, New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein piloted a small program in which individualized, technology-based learning takes the place of the old “let’s all proceed together” approach. Each day, students in the School of One are given a unique lesson plan — a “daily playlist” — tailored to their learning style and rate of progress that includes a mix of virtual tutoring, in-class instruction and educational video games. It’s learning for the Xbox generation.
The No-Punt Offense
As Sports Illustrated explained in a recent story, Kevin Kelley, coach of the Pulaski Academy football team in Little Rock, Ark., has called for only a single punt in the past two years. Like a seasoned gambler, Kelley has figured out that punting on fourth and long near your own end zone decreases the odds of the other team’s scoring by only a relatively slim amount. So going for it will pay off in the long run: Pulaski won a state championship last year and is in the hunt this year too.
The Human-Powered Vending Machine
When it comes to building a healthier vending machine, lesser minds have considered only swapping out the sodas and Snickers for apples and granola bars. But Pep Torres has a better idea. At his Barcelona workshop, Stereo-Noise, he attached a stationary bicycle to a vending machine so a customer who wants a product would have to pedal a certain distance to get it. Thus far, Stereo-Noise has had just one taker — a Spanish baked-goods company — but Torres has high hopes for the device. “We’d like to see it in subway stations and schools,” he says. “That way, people can eat their potato chips and still get in shape.”
The Handyman’s X-Ray Vision
Home-improvement projects are daunting enough without the worry of hidden wires and pipes. Walleye Technologies may have the solution: a handheld microwave camera that lets you see through walls. The device weighs less than 3 lb. (1.4 kg) and will cost less than $500 — it’s smaller and cheaper than previous microwave imaging equipment — and it emits less radiation than a cell phone. It will be in hardware stores in 2010.
“Fifty years hence … we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.” When Winston Churchill wrote those words in 1932, in vitro meat was science fiction. Now a team of Dutch scientists is closing in on culturing stem cells from pigs and growing muscle in a petri dish. The in vitro meat project is the brainchild of Willem van Eelen, a Dutch businessman who nearly starved to death in a Japanese prison camp and became convinced that artificial meat would solve world hunger.
ohannes Schneider may not have the coolest invention on this list, but it sure is practical. The University of Mainz researcher and his team developed an algorithm that broke the record for fitting a given number of different-size discs into the smallest circle. The algorithm improves on its competitors (yes, there are competitors) in that it’s better at detecting false starts and backtracking when it hits on an inelegant configuration. Schneider believes that his algorithm could benefit packaging and shipping companies by helping them use their resources more efficiently.
The Foldable Speaker
Taking an entertainment center on the road can be a pain, as even the smallest portable speakers weigh a pound or two and take up valuable space. Chicago-based OrigAudio has come up with an ingenious solution: self-powered, 1-watt speakers made of heavy-duty recycled paper. Assembly is easy: simply fold the paper into a 3-in. (7.6 cm) cube. For travel, unfold it and slip the flat sheet into your laptop sleeve. Sold through the company’s website, Origaudio.com, and at select retailers, the speakers ($16 a pair) can be hooked up to any audio device with a headphone jack. Part of the proceeds supports the nonprofit Music National Service, which brings music to public schools and low-income communities. Origami has never sounded so good.
The Levitating Mouse
A few very disoriented mice could hold the keys to safer space travel. Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, led by Yuanming Liu, have figured out how to make the tiny critters float in midair using magnets. The effects of the levitation on the mice could provide insight into how to prevent adverse health effects — like bone loss — on astronauts who spend long periods of time in low gravity. According to the scientists who conducted the experiment, the weightless mice were initially confused and flung themselves into rapid spins. The scientists sedated the rodents, which helped, but said eventually even fully conscious mice were able to acclimate to the weightless conditions enough to eat and drink normally.
The Edible Race Car
If it’s impossible for a race car to be “good” for the environment, maybe it can at least be a little friendlier. Meet the WorldFirst F3 project, a Formula 3 race car developed at England’s University of Warwick: it has carrot fibers in its steering wheel, potato starch in its side mirrors and cashew-nut shells in its brake pads. The whole thing runs on a biodiesel mix of chocolate and vegetable oil.
In a small effort to make the car even greener than it already is, the designers coated the radiator in a substance that converts ozone emissions into oxygen
The High-Speed Helicopter
Helicopters are good for hauling cargo and rescuing mountaineers. But if you need to cover a long distance fast, you’d be better off taking a plane, as helicopters today struggle to top 180 m.p.h. (290 km/h). Sikorsky’s X2 Technology helicopter aims to annihilate that speed barrier. Unlike ordinary choppers, which pair a single rotor on top with an antitorque tail rotor, the X2 has two main rotors spinning in opposite directions and an airplane-like propeller at the rear. This highly stable setup should allow the X2 to cruise at a zippy 290 m.p.h. (467 km/h) — about the same speed as some small turboprop planes. Don’t expect to see this real-life Airwolf hovering above your house anytime soon, however: the chopper will be tied up in tests for the next decade.
Arena, an Italian waterwear brand, has created the unthinkable: a high-tech swimsuit that outraced Michael Phelps — and it doesn’t even have some kind of motor. At the world championships in Rome this summer, German Paul Biedermann, wearing Arena’s Powerskin X-Glide racing suit, handed Phelps his first major individual international defeat in four years, in the 200-m freestyle. The light, polymeric surface of Arena’s full-body supersuit traps air to boost a swimmer’s buoyancy, reducing drag in the water. Biedermann admitted the suit gave him an advantage, and Phelps’ coach threatened to pull the phenom from future meets if it wasn’t banned. Starting Jan. 1, the X-Glide and other swimsuits made from plastic derivatives are no longer permitted in international competition.
Rob Spence, a 37-year-old Canadian filmmaker, sustained permanent damage to his right eye when he was 9. Fast-forward to 2009, when Rob’s quest to regain vision in his right eye takes an unusual spin. With the help of Kosta Grammatis, John Polanski, Martin Ling, Phil Bowen and camera provider OmniVision, he is attempting to replace his prosthetic eye with a battery-powered, wireless video camera, thereby making himself into an “Eyeborg,” with the power to record exactly what he’s looking at as digital video.
Spiders spin webs with a stretchy material that’s stronger than steel and far more flexible. But attempts to use the creepy crawlers for making fabrics have had little success — until now. This year British textiles expert Simon Peers and American fashion designer Nicholas Godley unveiled an 11-ft.-long (3.4 m) spider-silk cloth made in Madagascar. Creating it wasn’t easy. Each day 70 people collected thousands of golden orb spiders. Workers carefully spooled out the saffron-hued filament from each spider before releasing it. All told, the feat took four years, half a million dollars and more than a million spiders — and, yes, they sometimes bite.
The Sky King
In early April, Takuo Toda, chairman of the Japan Origami Airplane Association, set the world record for the longest flight by a paper airplane: he bested the previous record of 27.6 sec. by 0.3 sec. Toda’s record-breaking design, called the Sky King, was made from a single sheet of paper, with no cuts and no gluing. He aspires to launch his planes one day from space — and then retrieve them once they’ve sailed to Earth.
The Smart Bullet
You fire a bullet, and it explodes where you tell it to. That’s the essence of the XM25, a gun that fires explosive rounds able to neutralize enemies camped out behind cover. Using the gun’s laser range finder and the bullets — which are equipped with microchips capable of registering distance according to the number of times they’ve rotated — a soldier can program a round to detonate beyond an obstruction — no impact required. The practical value? Soldiers in urban environments can fire over or past walls sheltering their enemies, and the bullets will explode on the other side. The weapon is currently under development for the U.S. military by Alliant Tech systems, Heckler & Koch and L-3 Brashear.
The Fashion Robot
It might have the diet of a model — and at 95 lb. (43 kg), the weight — but at 5 ft. 2 in. (1.6 m), the HRP-4C robot model lacks the height of the Giseles and Naomis of catwalk fame. That didn’t stop the HRP-4C from making its debut in March, modeling a wedding dress by designer Yumi Katsura on its black-and-silver frame. Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology developed the $2 million HRP-4C, which is equipped with doelike eyes and shoulder-length hair, as well as sound-recognition sensors and motors in her face to mimic human expressions. But with the HRP-4C’s unusually long arms, rigid gait and expected price of about $200,000, flesh-and-blood models needn’t worry about losing their jobs to futuristic fashionistas quite yet.
The 3-D Camera
This year the maker of the world’s first digital camera, Fujifilm, introduced a 3-D digital camera: the FinePix Real 3D W1. The 10-megapixel FinePix has two lenses, set about as far apart as human eyes, which snap shots of an object from slightly different angles. Those images are then combined into one, creating the illusion of depth. Its 3-D images can be viewed — without clumsy 3-D glasses — on the camera’s back LCD screen or displayed in a special digital photo frame.
The Newest Cloud
Members of the international Cloud Appreciation Society are buzzing about a new kind of cloud. Known as undulatus asperatus, this ominous-looking formation has been described as resembling a rolling seascape — seen from below. It has been proposed for membership in that most exclusive of meteorological clubs, the International Cloud Atlas. The last cloud admitted? Cirrus intortus, in 1951.
The World’s Fastest (Steam-Powered) Car
On Aug. 25, Charles Burnett III smashed a record that had stood for more than a century: the land-speed record for a steam-powered car. On a track at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Burnett was clocked at up to 151 m.p.h. (243 km/h) in his British Steam Car, which is 25 ft. (7.6 m) long, has 12 separate boilers and contains more than 2 miles (3 km) of tubing. It’s affectionately nicknamed “the fastest kettle in the world.”
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