Monday, November 11, 2019

Pronghorn – Second-fastest animal in the world

The Generalist Academy reports: [edited]

The pronghorn, also known as the American antelope, is built for speed. It has shock-absorbing toes, hollow hair, thirteen 'gears' (gaits, i.e. leg movement patterns), and takes huge gulping breaths to fuel its push. The pronghorn is the Maserati of even-toed ungulates.

The cheetah can manage short bursts of up to 112 km per hour, but that doesn’t last more than a hundred metres before it has to slow down. Over longer distances its speed is more like 64 km per hour, and the pronghorn has that beat: it can go 88 km per hour for close to a kilometre, or 56 km per hour for 6 km.

Why does it need to be so fast? The cheetah has to be fast to catch its prey, but the pronghorn is a vegetarian, and there are no predators in North America that are anywhere near as speedy. One hypothesis is that there used to be predators fast enough to catch it – the extinct American Cheetah (Miracinonyx trumani) is a good candidate – so the pronghorn evolved to outrun them. And now that the American Cheetah is gone, they’re left to speed on their own.
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Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Carrera Crossroad Electric Bicycle

Cycling Weekly reports: [edited]

Priced at £999.99 the Crossroad Electric is the first electric bike from a recognised brand to drop below the four figure mark.

The electrical assistance is delivered through a Suntour motor system situated in the rear wheel. The external, removable 312 W/h battery promises to provide enough power to provide a range of up to 40 miles on one charge. A larger 418 W/h capacity battery is available.

Power delivery is controlled by a crank-based torque sensor rather than the less-accurate cadence sensors specced on most ‘budget’ e-bikes.

The Carrera Crossroad Electric features a specifically designed aluminium frame and fork. It features dropped seatstays and mounting points for mudguards and rear rack.

The disc brakes are mechanical Tektro versions. The groupset is a mix of Shimano nine-speed Acera and Microshift. Tyres are 32c volume Kenda Kwik Trax.

The medium size bike weighs 19 kilograms. It is available in small, medium and large, to fit riders from 5’4″-6’2″.
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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

AI allows paralysed man to write with his mind

Science reports: [edited]

Some people who are paralyzed by stroke or neurological disease have trouble trying to communicate even a single sentence. Electrodes implanted in a part of the brain involved in motion have allowed some patients to move a cursor and select onscreen letters with their thoughts. Users have typed up to 39 characters per minute, but that’s still about three times slower than natural handwriting.

In new experiments, a volunteer paralysed from the neck down imagined moving his arm to write each letter of the alphabet. That brain activity helped train a computer model known as a neural network to interpret the commands, tracing the intended trajectory of his imagined pen tip to create letters.

Eventually, the computer could read out the volunteer’s imagined sentences with roughly 95% accuracy at a speed of about 66 characters per minute.

The researchers expect the speed to increase with more practice. As they refine the technology, they will also use their neural recordings to better understand how the brain plans and orchestrates fine motor movements.

Image: Frank Willett
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Thursday, October 24, 2019

'Prime Editing' Crispr Tool

Nature reports: [edited]

For all the ease with which the wildly popular CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing tool alters genomes, it’s still somewhat clunky and prone to errors and unintended effects. Now, a recently developed alternative offers greater control over genome edits.

The alternative method, called prime editing, improves the chances that researchers will end up with only the edits they want, instead of a mix of changes that they can’t predict.

CRISPR–Cas9 and prime editing both work by cutting DNA at a specific point in the genome. CRISPR–Cas9 breaks both strands of the DNA double helix and then relies on the cell’s own repair system to patch the damage and make the edits. This can lead to an uncontrollable mixture of edits that vary between cells.

In addition, the DNA repair system in most cells is far more likely to make those small, random insertions or deletions than to add a specific DNA sequence to the genome. That makes it difficult for researchers to use CRISPR–Cas9 to overwrite one piece of DNA with a sequence of their choosing.

Prime editing bypasses these problems. Although it also uses Cas9 to recognize specific DNA sequences — just like CRISPR–Cas9 does — the Cas9 enzyme in the prime editing tool is modified to nick only one DNA strand. Then, a second enzyme called reverse transcriptase and guided by a strand of RNA, makes the edits at the site of the cut.

The prime editing enzymes don’t have to break both strands of DNA to make changes, freeing researchers from relying on the cell’s DNA repair system — which they can’t control — to make the edits that they want. This means that prime editing could enable the development of treatments for genetic diseases caused by mutations that aren’t easily addressed by existing gene-editing tools.

But Liu’s team and others will now need to carefully evaluate how well the system works in a variety of cells and organisms. “This first study is just the beginning — rather than the end — of a long-standing aspiration in the life sciences to be able to make any DNA change at any position in an organism,” says Liu.

Image courtesy of  unsplash-logoDavid Clode
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Monday, October 14, 2019

Uniti One Electric City Car

Auto Express reports: [edited]

The Uniti One is a Swedish-designed, UK-engineered, all-electric city car, which features an unconventional one-plus-two seating layout out and a maximum range of 186 miles. Prices start from £15,100 (after the £3,500 government plug-in car grant), with first deliveries expected by mid-2020.

Standard equipment includes LED daytime running lights, power-adjustable side mirrors, an electrochromic panoramic sunroof, tinted electric windows, a heated front windscreen and a rear-view camera. Inside, buyers get a customisable ambient lighting system, a touchscreen infotainment system and the choice of either dark- or light-coloured upholstery.

The Uniti One is fitted with split-folding rear bench seat as standard, in a bid to maximise its practicality. With the bench in place, the Uniti One offer 155 litres of boot space – but with the rear seat stowed the Swedish EV offers an impressive 760-litres of storage capacity.


Optional extras for the Uniti One EV include LED headlamps, a heated driver’s seat, air conditioning and an upgraded six-speaker stereo system. Buyers can also choose from either a comfort-spec interior (which is clad in carpet) or a utility-spec interior (which features durable rubber matting).

It’s powered by a 12kWh lithium-ion battery pack as standard, which supplies power to a rear-mounted electric motor. The system has a maximum output of 67bhp and 85Nm of torque, which provides a 0–31mph time of 4.1 seconds, a 0–62mph time of 9.9 seconds and a top speed of 75mph.

With the 12kWh battery pack fitted, the Uniti One has a claimed range of 93 miles. However, the Swedish brand offers a larger 24kWh battery pack as an optional extra, which extends the One EV’s maximum range to 186 miles.


Both battery packs can be charged using a domestic 7kW wall box or a commercially available 50kW fast charger. When using the latter system, the 12kWh battery can be charged from 20 percent to 80 percent in just nine minutes, while the 24kWh unit recovers the same amount of charge in seventeen minutes.
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Sunday, October 06, 2019

London - Somerset - London, 05 & 06-10-19


London to Somerset
Soldier Girl - The Polyphonic Spree
You're Moving Out Today - Carole Bayer Sager
California Gurls (feat. Snoop Dogg) - Katy Perry
Drink The Elixir - Salad
Hips Don't Lie - Shakira Feat. Wyclef Jean
Around the World (Radio) - Daft Punk
Why can't we be friends - Sublime
Indestructable - Alisha's Attic
What's Up [Radio Edit] - 4 Non Blondes - DJ Miko Version
Radar Detector - Darwin Deez
Stella - Ida Maria
Don't You Want Me - The Human League
Uptown Girl (Remastered) - Billy Joel
Dreamer - Supertramp
Street Tuff (Scar Radio Mix) - Rebel MC & Double Trouble
Murder on the dance floor - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Jealous (I Ain't With It) - Chromeo
Unwell - Matchbox Twenty
Whiskey In The Jar - Thin Lizzy
Even Better Than The Real Thing [Perfecto Mix] - U2
You Only Live Once - The Strokes
Hi Jo Hi - Deaf School
Right Back - Maxine Nightingale
King Kunta - Kendrick Lamar
Got To Get - Rob 'N' Raz feat. Leila K
You're Not Alone - Olive
Love Shack - The B-52's
Us - Regina Spektor
Nothing To Find - The War on Drugs
Boys - Lizzo
Airport - The Motors
Do I Worry? - The Ink Spots
In The Morning - Razorlight
Suicide Blonde - INXS
What's New Pussycat? - Tom Jones
Strict Machine - Goldfrapp
Sixteen Saltines - Jack White
Echo Beach - Martha & the Muffins
Touchdown Turnaround (Don't Give Up On Me) - Hellogoodbye
Devotion (feat. Cameron Hayes) - Dimension
Shake It Off - Taylor Swift
Brand New Lover - Dead Or Alive
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy - The Andrews Sisters
In For The Kill - La Roux
Pacific 707 (single) - 808 State
This Is The World We Live In - Alcazar

Somerset to London
Untouched - The Veronicas
Cinnamon - The Long Winters
Roadrunner - Jonathan Richman
Super Trouper - A-Teens
1985 - Bowling For Soup
A Bar In Amsterdam - Katzenjammer
Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat - Aristocats
I Feel For You - Chaka Khan
B.A.B.Y - Rachel Sweet
Here I Go Again - Whitesnake
C Moon - Paul McCartney & Wings
The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss) - Cher
Pass This On - The Knife
Stutter - Elastica
Me No Pop I - Coati Mundi
You Make My Dreams - Daryl Hall & John Oates
Banquet - Bloc Party
Like Toy Soldiers (clean) - Eminem
Tongue Twisters - Danny Kaye
Young Love (Ft Laura Marling) - Mystery Jets
Song 4 Mutya - Groove Armada Ft. Mutya
The Ketchup Song (Asereje) - Las Ketchup
I Won't Change You - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
The Wire - HAIM
A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off - The Magnetic Fields
Wuthering Heights - China Drum
(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me - Sandie Shaw
Crying At the Discoteque (Radio Edit) - Alcazar
Moonlight shadow (trance remix) - Mike Oldfield
Gonna Get Along Without You Now - Skeeter Davis
Pass Out - Tinie Tempah
Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo) - Black Kids
Don't Bring Me Down - Electric Light Orchestra
I Will Never Love You More - SoKo
Lazy Sunday - Small Faces
Kim & Jessie - M83
Lipstick On Your Collar - Connie Francis
Pump Up the Jam - Technotronic feat. Felly
The First Picture Of You - Lotus Eaters
Seems Fine - The Concretes
I Can't Wait - Stevie Nicks
Don't Look Back Into The Sun - The Libertines
New Sensation - INXS
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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas does Parkour


Boston Dynamics reports: [edited]

Atlas uses its whole body – legs, arms, torso – to perform a sequence of dynamic moves that form a gymnastic routine. We created the moves using techniques that streamline the development process.

First, an optimisation algorithm transforms high-level descriptions of each move into dynamically-feasible reference motions. Then Atlas tracks the motions using a model predictive controller that smoothly blends from one move to the next. Using this approach, we developed the routine significantly faster than previous Atlas routines, with a performance success rate of about 80%.
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Sunday, September 22, 2019

London - Wigan - London, 21 & 22-09-19


Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division

Disorder
Day Of The Lords
Candidate
Insight
New Dawn Fades
She's Lost Control
Shadowplay
Wilderness
Interzone
I Remember Nothing

Nothing But A Burning Light: Bruce Cockburn
A Dream Like Mine
Kit Carson
Mighty Trucks Of Midnight
Soul Of A Man
Great Big Love
One Of The Best Ones
Somebody Touched Me
Cry Of A Tiny Babe
Actions Speak Louder
Indian Wars
When It's Gone, It's Gone
Child Of The Wind

Fat City: Shawn Colvin
Polaroids
Tennessee
Tenderness On The Block
Round Of Blues
Monopoly
Orion In The Sky
Climb On (A Back That's Strong)
Set The Prairie On Fire
Object Of My Affection
Kill The Messenger
I Don't Know Why

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: Pavement
Silence Kit
Elevate Me Later
Stop Breathin
Cut Your Hair
Newark Wilder
Unfair
Gold Sounds
5-4=Unity
Range Life
Heaven Is A Truck
Hit The Plane Down
Fillmore Jive

Bring 'Em All In: Mike Scott
Bring 'Em All In
Iona Song
Edinburgh Castle
What Do You Want Me To Do
I Know She's
City Full Of Ghosts (Dublin)
Wonderful Disguise
Sensitive Children
Learning To Love Him
She Is So Beautiful
Wonderful Disguise Reprise
Long Way To The Light
Building The City Of Light

Sophie Zelmani: Sophie Zelmani
I'd Be Broken
Stand By
There Must Be A Reason
So Good
Always You
A Thousand Times
Tell Me You're Joking
Woman In Me
You And Him
Until Dawn
I'll Remember You
I'll See You (In Another World)

Beautiful Freak: Eels
Novocaine For The Soul
Susan's House
Rags To Rags
Beautiful Freak
Not Ready Yet
My Beloved Monster
Flower
Guest List
Mental
Spunky
Your Lucky Day In Hell
Manchild

Bring It On: Gomez
Get Miles
Whippin' Piccadilly
Make No Sound
78 Stone Wobble
Tijuana Lady
Here Comes The Breeze
Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone
Get Myself Arrested
Free To Run
Bubble Gum Years
Rie's Wagon
The Comeback
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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

iPhone 11

Apple's latest range of iPhones were announced yesterday. They're faster, more power efficient, with brighter, wider colour range screens... for full specs and prices you can visit your region's Apple website. But really, it's all about the camera(s).

Here's some snippets from Digital Photography Review:

"All three devices offer a standard 12MP camera and a second 12MP ultra wide camera with a 13mm equivalent F2.4 5-element lens, which provides a 120 degree field of view. A new feature uses the ultra-wide camera to show you what's beyond the frame when using the main camera, helping you decide whether to switch to the wider field of view."

"Portrait mode is now available with the wider 26mm field of view, since a depth map can be generated using the main and ultra-wide cameras, and portrait relighting brings a new 'High-Key Light Mono' for high contrast black-and-white portraits that mimic studio lighting."

"The 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max continue to offer the telephoto camera of previous generations. This is also a 12MP sensor paired with a faster F2.0 lens with optical image stabilisation."

"'Night mode' turns on automatically in dim conditions and uses 'adaptive bracketing' to capture and fuse multiple exposures. A new 'Deep Fusion' mode, promised later in the year, captures up to 9 frames and fuses them into a higher resolution 24MP image. Four short and four secondary frames are constantly buffered to ensure short shutter lag, and one long exposure is taken after the shutter press. These are then intelligently combined to produce a blur and ghosting-free high resolution image."

"The front facing 'TrueDepth' camera on all three iPhones have been upgraded, now with a 12MP sensor. It takes 7MP selfies in portrait orientation, but automatically switches to a wider field of view with 12MP capture when you rotate the phone to landscape orientation. Also new is the ability to record slow-motion selfie video clips at up to 120 fps."

I'll conclude with a pertinent comment from LoSPt1

"It's really easy to hate on iPhone 11 Pro simply because of how expensive it is, but if you solely look at the camera technologies used on this phone, you start to realise why compact digital cameras are falling behind phones in terms of sales. No compact cameras are capable of:

— Always on, zero shutter lag HDR with local pixel aligning that introduces far less ghosting artefacts than the traditional image stacking method
— Handheld pixel shift HDR shots
— Handheld long exposure HDR shots (Night Mode)
— 4K 60 HDR video with real time effects being shown in the viewfinder
— Audio zoom during video recording
— Portrait mode with very easy-to-use pseudo aperture control

The iPhone 11 Pro also comes with the best OLED viewfinder of any cameras in the same price range, dual pixel autofocus, and class-leading performance as a mobile phone."
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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII Review

Digital Photography Review has published a comprehensive review of Sony's flagship compact zoom. Snippets follow:

Key Specifications
— 20MP 1"-type stacked-CMOS sensor with phase detection
— 24-200mm equivalent F2.8-4.5 zoom
— 20 fps continuous shooting with autofocus/auto-exposure
— Seven frame, 90 fps 'single burst' mode
— Retractable 2.36M-dot EVF
— 3" touchscreen LCD (flips up 180°, down 90°)
— Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC

Conclusion

The RX100 VII is the most capable pocket camera ever made, both in terms of video and stills. It doesn't seem to offer much over the RX100 VI [but] a vastly improved AF implementation and general usability improvements make the VII easier to operate and enjoyable to use.

The RX100 VII not only has the easiest-to-use autofocus implementation of any compact, it also has the most reliable. Real-time Tracking AF does a great job of sticking to whatever you point the camera at. The silent, fully electronic shutter mode used in bursts introduces little to no rolling shutter. But there's no zooming while AF is engaged. Image quality is excellent in good light, files display pleasing colour and good detail capture.

The RX100 VII takes the speed and AF accuracy/usability of a high-end sports camera and puts it in a body that not only offers an incredibly versatile zoom range, but also fits in your pocket. For parents or travel photographers seeking a camera that will 'just get the shot,' regardless of the distance or movement of the subject, this is a fantastic choice.

Price: £1200
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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Pamu Slide Bluetooth Earphones

The Pamu Slide is Pamu's third Indiegogo offering. I went for the 'basic' version, which cost me £45 including carriage. The finished item arrived a week ago (click here for unboxing images), and first impressions are very good.

I am not a lover of earphones, my travelling headphones of choice are the Bose Quietcomfort 35s, but having worn the Pamu Slides for a few 2-3 hour sessions, they are very comfortable, and sit securely in my ears (there is a wide range of alternative size 'buds' provided).

The earphones have touch controls for controlling volume, music playback control as well as activating Siri/Google Assistant. They are IPX6 certified, so should survive sweat and light rain.

The charging case's lid slides back to reveal the storing/charging area. The earphones are held in the correct place by magnets. When removed the earphones automatically pair with one another, and then connect to the device you have paired them with.

The sound is clear and balanced with controlled bass and the stereo imaging is impressive, significantly better than Apple's standard wired earbuds. Unlike many bluetooth earbuds, they are capable of decent volume levels without distorting. I wore the Pamu Slides on a tube trip to London and they were the most comfortable buds I have ever worn. Compared to my Bose headphones, the only thing I really missed was the active noise cancelling, especially when a hen night troupe boarded half-way through the journey.

I don't usually wear headphones to the gym, but they remained comfortable and secure during a 50 minute cardio workout, including running, rowing and cycling. The Bluetooth connection did not drop or glitch.

I haven't had the chance to test the battery life, but current reviews put them at around 9 hours on a single charge, nearly double that of Apple's Airpods. The case supports fast charging of the earphones, 5 minutes in the case provides another hour of playback.
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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Protein from air

World Economic Forum reports: [edited]

Finnish company, Solar Foods, is planning to bring to market a new protein powder, Solein, made out of CO₂, water and electricity. It's a high-protein, flour-like ingredient that contains 50 percent protein, 5–10 percent fat, and 20–25 percent carbs. It looks and tastes like wheat flour, and could become an ingredient in a wide variety of food products after its launch in 2021.

Solar Foods makes Solein by extracting CO₂ from air using carbon-capture technology, and then combines it with water, nutrients and vitamins, using solar energy to promote a natural fermentation process similar to the one that produces yeast and lactic acid bacteria.

Solein production is not dependent on arable land, rain, or favourable weather. The company is working with the European Space Agency to develop foods for off-planet production and consumption (the idea for Solein began at NASA).

Image source: unsplash-logoKristiana Pinne

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Thursday, August 08, 2019

Equation provides solution to lens imperfections

gizmodo reports: [edited]

It’s a problem that plagues even the priciest of lenses, manufactured to the most exacting specifications: the centre of the frame might be razor-sharp, but the corners and edges always look a little soft.

On paper, a curved glass lens should be able to redirect all the rays of light passing through it onto a single target known as its focal point. But in the real world, it just doesn’t work that way. Differences in refraction across the lens, as well as imperfections in its shape and materials, all contribute to some of those light rays, especially those entering the lens near its outer edges, missing the target. It’s a phenomenon known as spherical aberration, and it’s a problem that even Issac Newton and Greek mathematician Diocles couldn’t crack.

But that’s all going to change thanks to Rafael G. González-Acuña, a doctoral student at Mexico’s Tecnológico de Monterrey. After months of work, he came up with an equation that provides an analytical solution for counteracting spherical aberration, which had been previously formulated back in 1949 as the Wasserman-Wolf problem.

For lens makers, it can provide an exact blueprint for designing a lens that completely eliminates any spherical aberration. It doesn’t matter the size of the lens, the material it’s made from, or what it will be used for, this equation will spit out the exact numbers needed to design it to be optically perfect.

It promises to help improve scientific imaging as well in devices like telescopes and microscopes. But even the average consumer will benefit from González-Acuña’s work. It will allow companies to manufacture simpler lenses with fewer elements which cost considerably less while offering improved image quality in everything from smartphones to professional cameras.

Thanks to Brook for the link.

Image courtesy of  unsplash-logoDustin Lee
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Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Mighty Vibe

Mighty Audio reports: [edited]

Mighty Vibe allows you to take your Spotify music offline, without a phone.

— Storage Capacity: 1,000+ tracks (8GB)
— Battery Capacity: 5+ hours of listening time
— Buttons: Power, shuffle, fwd/back, volume, playlist selector
— Water-resistant
— Connectivity: Bluetooth for playback, WiFi for syncing
— Compatible With: Bluetooth and wired headphones and speakers
— Content Supported: Playlists and podcasts
— Playback Requirements: Spotify Premium account
— App Support: iOS 9 and above, Android 6.0 and above
— Dimensions: 3.8cm x 3.8cm x 1.78cm
— Weight: 20g

Price: £80

Thanks to Brook for the heads-up.
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