Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Back in 2010, I blogged on the Uni-ball Impact 1.0mm RT Gel Pen. It had replaced the hard-to-find Zebra Sarasa 1.0mm gel pen as my everyday writing implement.

And now the Uni-ball Impact seems to have been discontinued.

Enter the Pentel EnerGel X Retractable Gel Rollerball Pen, 1.00mm. The pen has a cheaper, lighter feel than the Uni-ball, but the rubber grip is decent and the ink flow is reliable, if not quite as dense.

And it is very reasonably priced, available on Amazon at £10.13 for 12.


Monday, December 14, 2020

The Independent reports: [edited]

The makers of a $26,000 solar-powered electric car that they claim never needs charging have sold out the first batch within 24 hours.

California based startup Aptera describes its three-wheeled car as “the world’s first Never Charge solar electric vehicle”, and boasts a range of up to 1,000 miles.

“Aptera leverages breakthroughs in lightweight structures, low-drag aerodynamics and cooling, material science, and manufacturing processes to deliver the most efficient vehicle ever made available to consumers,” the company states on its website.

“Aptera’s Never Charge is built into every vehicle and is designed to harvest enough sunlight to travel over 11,000 miles per year in most regions.”

No mass market electric vehicle currently on the market has a range greater than 500 miles, though Aptera’s huge range and no charge claims have certain limitations. The solar panels covering the car are only able to capture enough energy from the sun to charge 40 miles per day, and even that requires sunny California weather.

“40 miles doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s the equivalent of parking your car and having it magically fill up with two gallons of gas overnight," said Aptero co-founder Steve Fambro.

“So the fact that you can park it at work or wherever and go back to it with more energy in the tank than when you left it – have it charge itself without having to pay a dime to drive it every day. That’s the kind of freedom I think a lot of people would love.”

There is a 110V outlet that allows manual charging, which can be plugged into a standard wall socket. This can provide 150 miles of range from an overnight charge.

330 of the futuristic three-wheelers were available to order in the first batch, with deliveries set to begin in 2021.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

iPhone Pro 12 Camera Analysis

Halide has published an excellent article on the image processing technology behind the latest iPhone Pro range.


Friday, November 20, 2020

CRISPR genome editing destroys cancer cells

Medical Press reports: [edited]

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have demonstrated that the CRISPR/Cas9 system is very effective in treating metastatic cancers. The researchers developed a lipid nanoparticle-based delivery system that specifically targets cancer cells and destroys them by genetic manipulation. The system, called CRISPR-LNPs, carries a genetic messenger (messenger RNA), which encodes for the CRISPR enzyme Cas9 that acts as molecular scissors that cut the cells' DNA.

"This is the first study in the world to prove that the CRISPR genome editing system can be used to treat cancer effectively in a living animal," said Prof. Peer. "There are no side effects, and a cancer cell treated in this way will never become active again. The molecular scissors of Cas9 cut the cancer cell's DNA, thereby permanently preventing replication."

Prof. Peer and his team chose two of the deadliest cancers: glioblastoma and metastatic ovarian cancer. Glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of brain cancer, with a life expectancy of 15 months after diagnosis and a five-year survival rate of only 3%. A single treatment with CRISPR-LNPs doubled the average life expectancy of mice with glioblastoma tumors, improving their overall survival rate by about 30%.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Fairchild K-17 Camera

Petapixel reports: [edited]

This camera was used for aerial photography during World War II. Mounted on the front of the camera is a 610mm f6 lens.

The Fairchild K-17 was designed by Fairchild Camera and Instrument and manufactured under license for the US Air Corps by Folmer Graflex in Rochester, New York in the early 1940s. It shot 9×9-inch (22.86×22.86cm) photos on 9 1/2-inch wide roll film.

While these cameras were normally clamped into mounts, a pair of handles and a viewfinder could be fitted for hand-held operation. What “hand-held” meant is subject to interpretation, as with a 200 foot roll of film, the A-5 film magazine used with the K-17 weighed 30 pounds. A complete K-17 with 12″ lens cone and a full magazine weighed about 55 pounds. With a 24″ lens instead of the 12″, the weight climbed to 75 pounds.


Monday, November 16, 2020

iPhone 12 Pro Max Camera

Austin Mann's review of the iPhone 12 Pro Max's camera is a good place to start if you need convincing that phone cameras are getting very close to the quality of their 'separates' cousins.


Thursday, November 05, 2020

Using drones to plant trees

Fast Company reports: [edited]

On land north of Toronto that previously burned in a wildfire, drones are hovering over fields and firing seed pods into the ground, planting native pine and spruce trees to help restore habitat for birds. Flash Forest, the Canadian startup behind the project, plans to use its technology to plant 40,000 trees in the area this month. By the end of the year, as it expands to other regions, it will plant hundreds of thousands of trees. By 2028, the startup aims to have planted a billion trees.

The drones can work more quickly and cheaply than humans planting with shovels. Flash Forest’s tech can currently plant 10,000 to 20,000 seed pods a day; as the technology advances, a pair of pilots will be able to plant 100,000 trees in a day. By hand, someone might be able to plant 1,500 trees in a day.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Florida to release 750 million genetically altered mosquitoes

Fast Company reports: [edited]

In the Florida Keys, the local mosquito control agency has just approved the release of 750 million genetically engineered mosquitoes. The test, which is likely to begin in 2021, will be the first time that mosquitoes—designed to be “self-limiting,” meaning that they’ll breed offspring that can’t survive—will be used in the United States.

Oxitec, the U.K.-based company that engineered the mosquitoes, plans to place boxes filled with mosquito eggs in the area, releasing male mosquitoes bred with the self-limiting gene. When they breed with female mosquitoes, female offspring won’t survive. Because only female mosquitoes bite humans, this can help stop the spread of disease. The species they’re targeting is the Aedes aegypti or “yellow fever” mosquito, an invasive species that transmits diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, and Zika.

In previous tests in other countries including Brazil, the company says that the process has worked to dramatically shrink populations. “We’ve had multiyear programs giving over 80% control in every single year,” he says. “And that far exceeds typically what people get trying to control Aedes aegypti with chemicals, because aegypti is very resistant. It’s not usually present in super-high numbers. So it can be difficult to actually reach.”

The startup also claims that it’s a more environmentally friendly way to control mosquitoes, because it’s possible to target only a particular species, and after around 5 to 10 generations, the modified gene will be removed from the population (since the females with the gene die, halving the number of modified bugs each generation), leaving no ecological footprint. Advocacy groups, however, argue that the technology hasn’t been tested enough, and it could potentially have unintended effects.

“If they do work to reduce the number of Aedes aegypti, other mosquitoes might move into their niche,” says Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety. “The most likely one is the Asian Tiger mosquito, which is better at carrying some illnesses like West Nile.” (Oxitec says that as it has tested its mosquitoes in other areas, it hasn’t seen significant increases of the Asian Tiger mosquito.)

Image courtesy of: Jimmy Chan ------------

Thursday, September 17, 2020

iOS 14 Home Screen

Is it just me, or does the iOS 14 home screen look like it is just begging for another line of icons?


London Greenground Map

Time Out reports: [edited]

If 2020 has reignited anything in Londoners, it’s the love of putting one foot in front of the other. In lockdown it became about so much more than getting from A to B – walking is now a way of London life.

Its creator, Helen Ilus, first pitched the idea on Twitter as part of the National Park City campaign. When people responded to the concept, Ilus developed it. It’s now a London-wide map marking 380 parks and open spaces and suggesting green routes to walk or cycle between them all. While it doesn’t detail the exact routes between each park, it helps you plot your way between green spaces, with walking distances between each park also on display so you can calculate your step count.

It includes London’s major parks and well-known nature spots – from Hyde Park to Primrose Hill – but it also maps lesser-known wetlands, commons, moors, woods and reserves all across Greater London.

You can order a fold-out pocket map for £10, here.

Read more about the project and how you can support the map’s development here.

View/download a PDF version of the London Greenground map here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

How Chuck Feeney gave away 8 billion dollars

Forbes has published an excellent article on Chuck Feeney's philanthropy.

Snippets follow:

Charles “Chuck” Feeney, 89, who cofounded airport retailer Duty Free Shoppers in 1960, amassed billions while living a life of monklike frugality. As a philanthropist, he pioneered the idea of Giving While Living—spending most of your fortune on big, hands-on charity bets instead of funding a foundation upon death. Since you can't take it with you – why not give it all away, have control of where it goes and see the results with your own eyes?

Over the last four decades, Feeney has donated more than $8 billion to charities, universities and foundations worldwide through his foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies. When I first met him in 2012, he estimated he had set aside about $2 million for his and his wife's retirement. In other words, he's given away 375,000% more money than his current net worth. And he gave it away anonymously.

His extreme charity and big-bet grants have won over the most influential entrepreneurs and philanthropists. His stark generosity and gutsy investments influenced Bill Gates and Warren Buffett when they launched the Giving Pledge in 2010– an aggressive campaign to convince the world’s wealthiest to give away at least half their fortunes before their deaths. “Chuck was a cornerstone in terms of inspiration for the Giving Pledge,” says Warren Buffett. “He’s a model for us all. It’s going to take me 12 years after my death to get done what he’s doing within his lifetime.” 

At its height, the Atlantic Philanthropies had 300-plus employees and ten global offices across seven time zones. The specific closure date was set years ago as part of his long-term plan to make high-risk, high-impact donations by setting a hard deadline to give away all his money and close shop. The 2020 expiration date added urgency and discipline. It gave the Atlantic Philanthropies the time to document its history, reflect on wins and losses and create a strategy for other institutions to follow. As Feeney told me in 2019: “Our giving is based on the opportunities, not a plan to stay in business for a long time.” 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

London - Somerset - London, 12 & 13-09-20

London to Somerset, 12-09-20
Can't Stop Movin' (Radio Edit) - Sonny J
Cotton Eye Joe (remix) - Rednex
My Perfect Cousin - The Undertones
Who Were You With In The Moonlight - Dollar
Celebration - Kool & The Gang
Rock The Boat - The Hues Corporation
Icarus (Radio Edit) - Madeon
Circles - Kate Tempest
Robert De Niro's Waiting - Bananarama
The Lion & Albert - Jarvis Cocker
Dancing Queen - ABBA
Rock With You - Michael Jackson
Do Re Mi - The Mighty Vikings
Batches & Cookies (feat. Sophia Eris) - Lizzo
You can do magic - America
Futurama Theme - Danny Elfman
Start Wearing Purple - Gogol Bordello
Crying at the discotheque (ext) - Alcazar
I Wanna be a Hippy - Technohead
Sherry - Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Happy Days - Pratt & McClain with Brother Love
I Only Wanna Be With You (Alternative Vocal & Mix) - Dusty Springfield
Love Cliché - Bran Van 3000
Dance With Me - Orleans
London Is The Place For Me - Lord Kitchener
Brother Louie - Modern Talking
Jolene - Mindy Smith Feat. Dolly Parton
Shooting Star - Dollar
Moving On Up - M People
High Hopes - Doris Day
Uncle Sam - Madness
Ain't No Other Man Til You Get Enough - Christina Aguilera v. Michael Jackson
Shame (single) - Evelyn "Champagne" King
The Impression That I Get - The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Baby (feat. Ludacris) - Justin Bieber
Lost Weekend - Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
Mah Na Mah Na - Mahna Mahna and The Two Snowths
Just What I Needed - The Cars
Somebody Else's Guy - Jocelyn Brown
Tonight I Fell In Love - The Tokens
Don't Get Me Wrong - Pretenders
Dance! - The Lambrettas
Le Freak - Chic
Every Other Time (Radio Edit) - LFO
What Is Love - Haddaway
Let your love flow - Bellamy Brothers
It's Getting Better (Single Version) - Mama Cass
Knock On Wood - Amii Stewart
You're Gorgeous - Babybird
It Takes A Muscle - M.I.A.
Hungry Like The Wolf - Reel Big Fish
Mr. Sandman - The Chordettes
I Really Like You (Bleachers Remix) - Carly Rae Jepsen
Bend Me, Shape Me - Amen Corner

Somerset to London, 13-09-20
Dum Diddly - The Black Eyed Peas
Just A Little Bit (Motiv8-Radio Edit) - Gina G
Lovin' Each Day - Ronan Keating
Little Willy - Sweet
National Express - The Divine Comedy
Our House - Madness
Never Ending Story - Limahl
Best Of My Love - The Emotions
Shoulda Woulda Coulda - Beverley Knight
Delilah - Tom Jones
Little White Bull - Tommy Steele
Hocus Pocus - Focus
Summer Girls - LFO
Sandstorm (remix, blade techno opener) - Darude (Blow Your Mind vs Zombie Nation vs Blade)
Down Came The Rain - Mister Murray
Fill My Little World - The Feeling
She's Fresh - Kool & The Gang
Go - The Apples In Stereo
Private Number - Judy Clay & William Bell
The Streak - Ray Stevens
Wipe Out - The Surfaris
January - Pilot
You Get What You Give - New Radicals
Twist - Goldfrapp
Brimful Of Asha (The Norman Cook Remix Single Version) - Cornershop
Ooh Stick You - Daphne & Celeste
(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher - Jackie Wilson
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! - Erasure
Rock this town - Stray Cats
Stronger than me - Amy Winehouse
Basket Case - Green Day
To Earth With Love - Gay Dad
West Side Story - LFO
Y.M.C.A. - Village People
Disco Inferno - The Trammps
Young Girl - Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
Dance Floor - The Apples In Stereo
Can You Dig It - The Mock Turtles
Centerfold - J. Geils Band
Sad Eyes - Robert John
Along Came Jones - Ray Stevens
I Can't Give You Anything But My Love - Stylistics
Birthday - Katy Perry
Me & You & A Dog Named Boo - Lobo
Tank! (Cowboy Bebop) - Yoko Ishida
I'm Blue - 5,6,7,8s
Whip It - Devo
Shang-A-Lang - Bay City Rollers
Red Dragon Tattoo - Fountains Of Wayne
California Love - 2Pac (feat. Dr. Dre)
Out Of My Heart - BBmak
Video Killed The Radio Star - Erasure
All Over The World - Electric Light Orchestra
Love Is in the Air - John Paul Young

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Google Pixel 4A Review

The Verge has published an excellent review of Google's latest budget smartphone. For the ultra-impatient, a one line summary would read 'good stills camera, average screen and processor'.

Excerpts below:

"As you read this review know that as I wrote it, I wanted to put the following line after nearly every sentence: 'I should remind you that the Pixel 4A costs $349.'”

"The Pixel 4A and Pixel 4’s photos are virtually impossible to distinguish. They both have the signature Pixel look: almost dramatically high contrast, sharp detail, and cool color tones."

"I also got a chance to use the 4A’s astrophotography mode, getting the below shots of the Milky Way and even (just barely) the Neowise comet. Using the Pixel 4A reminded me how much I love Google’s Pixel cameras."

"There are sacrifices, though. Because the Pixel 4A lacks the extra image processor you get on the Pixel 4, images take noticeably longer to process before you can view them. Google also tells me that sometimes its HDR Plus algorithm will utilize fewer shots than the Pixel 4, but I couldn’t tell any difference in practice."

"The biggest sacrifice isn’t specific to the 4A but to all Pixel phones: video isn’t great. It’s not just that, on a technical level, Pixel phones can’t shoot in all of the frame rates common to modern phones, either. The iPhone SE and even the average Samsung phone do a better job with dynamic range and overall quality."

"As OLED screens go, it’s not able to stand up to the screens on phones that cost more. There’s some red shift in the dark, significant drop-off when viewed at an angle, and it barely manages to get bright enough to stand up to direct sunlight. It’s also covered by Gorilla Glass 3, which is four generations old at this point."

"The body itself is plastic with the fingerprint sensor on the back. It feels sturdy enough, but the lack of wireless charging frustrating. However, Google kept the 3.5mm headphone jack. I’m also glad to see stereo speakers, something that’s often cut at this price point. You can’t squeeze the phone for Google Assistant, but you can swipe in from the bottom corners or say “Hey Google.”

"Google’s version of Android is as unassuming as the Pixel’s hardware. It lacks a lot of fancy features, but it makes up for that by being simple and easy to understand."

"There are a few “Pixel-first” features, the kind of things that should make their way to other Android phones eventually. The best among those is probably the safety features like car crash detection, but the most useful day-to-day is the ability to get speech-to-text in phone calls."

"Google has put in enough RAM (6GB) to run Android well and put in enough storage (128GB) to accommodate most users without hassle or annoyance. It is fast enough for day-to-day use. Out of the box it’s the kind of phone I would be happy to use every day. It takes longer to open apps, and there’s some wonky scrolling in Chrome and Twitter, but it’s not slow.

"The 4A has a 3,140mAh battery, which is larger than the one on the smaller Pixel 4. Combine that larger battery with that more power-efficient Snapdragon 730G processor, and you end up with acceptable battery life."

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Proteus - Super Tough Material

Interesting Engineering reports: [edited]

Researchers claim they've manufactured the world's first non-cuttable material – and at only 15% of the density of steel they say it could be used to construct lightweight armour or bike locks.

The material consists of ceramic spheres arranged in a cellular aluminum structure to resist angle grinders, drills, or similar brute-force cutting tools. Stemming from the UK's Durham University and Germany's Fraunhofer Institute, the novel material takes inspiration from the durable, cellular skin of grapefruit and the rock-hard, fracture-resistant aragonite shells of mollusks.

Proteus initially gives way to drill bits or angle grinders, but when either reaches the embedded ceramic spheres the material begins to vibrate in a way that blunts the tool as fine particles of ceramic dust fill in the gaps of the matrix-like structure of the metal.

These, in turn, make it even more difficult to cut — since the faster one grinds or drills the harder cutting gets. Due to interatomic forces between the ceramic grains the force and energy of the drill is turned back on itself, and it is weakened and destroyed by its own attack.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

CityQ Car-eBike

electrek reports: [edited]

[There is] a significant downside to bikes, which is that riders aren’t protected from the weather. That’s a problem that CityQ is hoping to solve with the CityQ Car-eBike.

The CityQ Car-eBike features doors and a cargo space for carrying luggage, groceries, and other necessities. The doors and windows can be set up for either fully enclosed or semi-enclosed riding. The micro EV has seating for either two adults or one adult and two children.

The CityQ Car-eBike’s pedals aren’t connected to any gears or chains. There’s no direct drive — only software to enable a drive-by-wire system that powers the vehicle’s 250W electric motor up to its Euro-spec top speed of 25 km/h (15.5 mph).

The bike is designed to fit into the EU’s cargo and four-wheeled e-bike laws, meaning it could theoretically share the bike lane, at least legally speaking.

The CityQ Car-eBike measures 87 cm (34 inches) wide, which isn’t that much wider than a mountain bike. Though at 70 kg, it weighs more than even the heaviest of electric mountain bikes.

With a pair of batteries, the Car-eBike can travel around 70-100 km (43-62 miles) per charge.

After three years of development, the CityQ Car-eBike is now available for pre-order. The purchase price is expected to be north of €6,000.