We’re back with another list of the coolest developments in tech, science, and general nerdery. This week, we discuss entire buildings used to filter polluted air, bacteria that can create electricity, an attempt to quantify bigotry, and much more!
Holy automaton Robatman!
Despite the fact that bats aren’t actually blind, many do utilize sound to navigate their environment. In a process called echolocation, our fuzzy flying friends bounce sound waves off the surrounding area to paint a picture of what’s around them.
This gave researchers at Tel Aviv University the inspiration to create the “Robat.” A fully-autonomous terrestrial vehicle, the “Robat” uses echolocation to successfully drive around a given area. The machine’s sonar even maps the environment— it has a 70 percent accuracy rate for determining if obstacles lie in its path.
I sing the bacteria electric
You may not want to think about it, but your body is filled with bacteria. In fact, microorganisms make up between 1 and 3 percent of your body’s total mass. While many of these invisible cohabitors are beneficial, some, like the diarrhea-causing bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, most definitely are not.
But in addition to its “special” effects on the human digestive system, L. monocytogenes, possesses another unique property—it can produce electricity.
Listeria monocytogenes isn’t alone in this regard. Other bacteria, both good and bad, also produce electricity as they “breathe.” Discoveries like these might one day allow for green batteries that can generate electricity from the bacteria in waste treatment plants.
Delhi has a major pollution problem. India’s capital city is so far gone that it even has a pollution season. While many efforts are underway to lower the amount of pollution produced, one solution is strikingly simple – just filter the air.
At least, that’s the proposal from Znera, an architecture company in Dubai. The firm’s concept would install 100-meter-high buildings around the city to suck up polluted air, process it, and release it when it’s breathable. Up to 3.2m cubic metres of clean air could be produced each day.
Encrypting information to keep it safe from the hands of enemies has been around for centuries. After all, the word “crypt” comes from the Greek word kryptos, meaning hidden or secret. These days, we use advanced technologies to secure our data. Sadly, high-tech doesn’t always mean perfect, and that can lead to major security flaws like those discovered by F-Secure.
The security firm found that firmware security measures in a vast majority of consumer laptops failed examinations into their ability to prevent data theft. Both Windows and Mac computers are vulnerable to an easy to exploit ‘cold boot’ attack.
While such a flaw requires the hacker to have physical access to the laptop, this vulnerability could allow hackers to steal passwords and corporate login information. In such a scenario, it only takes one unattended laptop to bring down a whole system.
Bias—whether based on gender, race, religion, or other factors—is a very real problem facing society, but finding a reliable metric to connect bias to actions has proven difficult. However, one scientist is working to change that.
Professor Ming Hsu of the University of California, Berkeley has created a computational model that can predict racism based on “perceptions of warmth and competence.” The model will allow researchers to quantify and compare different types of discrimination across different social groups. In the future, Hsu believes this model could help even the playing field in everything from job callbacks to college admissions.
Love the robotic skin you’re in
Made from sensors embedded in plastic sheets, these robotic skins can stretch over any object and induce motion. This research was conducted in partnership with NASA to help astronauts on future space missions to accomplish multiple tasks with the same material. Think of it as the duct tape of robotics.