Monthly Archives: February 2015

Home »  2015 »  February

An Ingenious Invention That Turns Beehives Into Flowing Honey Taps Harvesting honey has been a sticky, messy job that’s changed very little from the earliest days of beekeeping. But it’s about to get a whole lot cleaner with the Flow Hive, an ingenious re-engineering of one of nature’s most perfect creations that makes getting that golden nectar as easy as turning on a tap. Beekeepers Cedar Anderson and his father Stuart have, essentially, hacked the honeycomb—a nearly flawless geometric and structural achievements—to make it more mechanically efficient. In a nutshell,  Flow frames have a partially formed honeycomb matrix within a transparent frame. Bees complete the comb, fill the cells with honey and cap them. To harvest the honey, the beekeeper inserts a tool into the top of each frame and twists, a move that splits each cell in the honeycomb vertically, allowing the honey to flow freely. It is collected at […]

Magic: The Story of an Accidentally Founded, Wildly Viral Startup When I moved to Brooklyn, my roommate hooked me up with his weed dealer. He laid out shockingly specific instructions for contacting the guy. First, I had to text a certain number with the message “Is this mm?” Those capitalizations, that punctuation. If I was cool, I’d get a text back from a different (and ever-changing) number with the menu for the day. The prices were non-negotiable, there were no questions; I was to reply with a product name and a number of grams. It was complicated and felt somehow dangerous, but it worked: With just two texts, I summoned a carnival of cannabis to my front door. Magic, a new company that was never meant to launch but this weekend went completely viral, is that text-message delivery system gone global (and legit). This is an awful cliche and I […]

Strategic Defense: Military Uses of the Moon & Asteroids (1983) On the evening of 23 March 1983, President Ronald Reagan addressed the people of the United States from the Oval Office. Citing aggressive moves on the part of the Soviet Union, he defended proposed increases in U.S. military spending and the introduction of new missiles and bombers. He then called for a revolution in U.S. strategic doctrine: Let me share with you a vision of the future. . .What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies? I know this is a formidable technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of this century. . .I call upon […]

An App That Lets Kids Report Bullies Anonymously Amanda Todd was 15 when she committed suicide. It was October 10, 2012, about a month after she posted a heart-wrenching video on YouTube, in which she used a series of flashcards to explain how she had been bullied by classmates and anonymous strangers, online and off, over the years. The post went viral after her death. It’s been viewed more than 10 million times on YouTube and is often cited in the ongoing conversation about the need to criminalize cyber bullying. But for Todd Schobel, punishing bullies once tragedy strikes isn’t enough. What we need, he says, are more ways to catch bullies in the act. Schobel first heard Amanda’s story while listening to the radio in his car. He was inspired to launch Stop!t, an app that lets students anonymously report bullying. Since launching in August, Stop!t has been adopted […]

Neptune: An Almost-Crazy Idea for Upending the Smartphone Ecosystem There are two devices: A smart Hub that resides on the wrist, and Pocket, a screen that looks like a smart phone.  Neptune today, with every other commercial pushing a new phone or tablet, it’s easy to forget how drastically things can change, and how quickly. The iPhone, after all, is just eight years old—and five years ago, almost no one was talking about how mobile computing was going to eat the world. And yet today, the smartphone is the center of our digital lives. Does it have to be? Neptune, a new startup launching today, believes the era of the smartphone is headed towards an end. “The current wearables space is best summarized as a master/slave relationship,” says Simon Tian, Neptune’s boyish founder, who is all of 20 years old. In his formulation, the phone is the master, and all […]

The Pro Dumpster Diver Who’s Making Thousands Off America’s Biggest Retailers Matt Malone doesn’t mind being called a professional dumpster diver. He tells me this a little after 2 am on the morning of July 7 as we cruise the trash receptacles behind the stores of a shopping center just off the Capital of Texas Highway in Austin. Given the image that conjures, though, it’s worth pointing out that Malone has a pretty good day job, earning a six-figure salary as a security specialist for Slait Consulting. He is also founder of Assero Security, a startup that he says has recently been offered seed money by not one but two separate investors. Nevertheless, the 37-year-old Malone does spend a good many of his off-hours digging through the trash. And the fact is, he earns a sizable amount of money from this activity—more per hour than he makes at his Slait […]

This iPad Case Makes Real Buttons Rise Out of Your Keyboard There’s no need to be embarrassed. We’ve all thought it before. You love your smartphone. You adore its spacious screen and its helpful apps. Still, you miss your old Blackberry keyboard.It’s the one place where smartphones were a big step backward: We went from sending no-look texts under the table to appending “sent from my phone, please excuse typos” disclaimers to emails. Even with clever autocorrect algorithms and fancy swipe-to-spell software, typing on a screen doesn’t compare to typing on a real keyboard. So are we stuck here forever? Maybe not. What if there was a touchscreen that could give you real, physical buttons—but only when you need them? That’s what Tactus Technology is trying to build. The California startup’s spent nearly five years developing a technique that makes see-through buttons materialize on top of touchscreens, as if by […]

This App Wants You to Borrow Money From Friends, Not Banks Long ago, your parents probably gave you some advice: never borrow money from a friend. More importantly: never let your friends borrow from you. If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that mixing money and friendship rarely ends in anything other than blood and tears. [amazon template=banner easy&asin=0945506562] Skylar Woodward wants you to forget all about that. Woodward is the CEO of Puddle, a recently-launched service that lets you borrow money from your social network instead of through traditional avenues like banks and credit cards. Explained in brief: Throw money into a digital pot and you can take out five times as much as you’ve put in when you need it. So for example, say you throw $10 into your Puddle; that automatically gives you a credit line of $50 that you can dip into whenever you need.  $100 turns into […]

Why the US Government Is Terrified of Hobbyist Drones If you want to understand why the government freaked out when a $400 remote-controlled quadcopter landed on the White House grounds last week, you need to look four miles away, to a small briefing room in Arlington, Virginia. There, just 10 days earlier, officials from the US military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FAA gathered for a DHS “summit” on a danger that had been consuming them privately for years: the potential use of hobbyist drones as weapons of terror or assassination. [amazon template=banner easy&asin=050054199X] The conference was open to civilians, but explicitly closed to the press. One attendee described it as an eye-opener. The officials played videos of low-cost drones firing semi-automatic weapons, revealed that Syrian rebels are importing consumer-grade drones to launch attacks, and flashed photos from an exercise that pitted $5,000 worth of drones against a […]

Don’t Make a Three-Parent Baby. Adopt Instead The experimental IVF procedure recently given a green light by the United Kingdom’s House of Commons and under investigation in the United States, to allow for a mitochondrial DNA surrogate to avoid transmission of mitochondrial disease, has been described as some parents’ “first glimmer of hope that they might be able to have a baby that will live without pain and suffering.” More dramatically, some have hailed the technology as potentially “life-saving”. This is incorrect and misleading: This technology is not life-saving, and it will not prevent cases of mitochondrial disease.Mitochondrial replacement IVF (mtIVF) is not a treatment for an individual with a mitochondrial disease; it is a method for creating a new person with healthy mitochondria. The only circumstance in which this technology will be used is if a woman knows that she has a mitochondrial mutation, and so chooses not to […]

How I Found the Optimal Where’s Waldo Strategy With Machine Learning As I found myself unexpectedly snowed in last weekend, I decided to take on a weekend project for fun. While searching for something to catch my fancy, I ran across an old Slate article claiming they’d found a foolproof strategy for finding Waldo in the classic Where’s Waldo? series. Now, I’m no Waldo-spotting expert, but even I could tell the strategy Slate proposed is far from perfect. That’s when I decided what my weekend project would be: I would pull out every machine learning trick in my tool box to compute the optimal search strategy for finding Waldo. I was going to crush Slate’s supposed foolproof strategy and leave a trail of defeated Waldo-searchers in my wake. Randal Olson Randal Olson is a fourth-year Computer Science & Engineering Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University, specializing in artificial intelligence, evolution, and collective behavior using artificial […]

Well That Didn’t Work: The Rolling Rocket Bomb Designed to Kill Nazis Almost Killed a Dog Instead War has a long history of sparking and accelerating invention. But while many of those ideas change history—the bayonet, aerial combat, the nuclear bomb—there are just as many that flop. The list of failures is long, but must surely be led by a device whose test ended with a dog chasing an errant rocket and generals running for their lives alongside members of the general public. The Panjandrum has to be one of the craziest, most explosively unsuccessful flops in modern military history. Concocted by the British as a means of breaking through formidable German defenses on the beaches of Normandy, the engineering brief reads like something out of an Acme catalog: Install a bunch of rockets on two huge wheels joined by a drum-like axle packed with explosives. Point it at the Germans, […]

Absurd Creature of the Week: This Amazing Little Critter Just Might Be Immortal Listen, I don’t want to live forever. First of all, it’d take a really long time to work enough to save up for that long of a retirement. And I dunno, I’m a writer. I live by deadlines. And there ain’t no bigger deadline than your own inevitable death. [amazon template=banner easy&asin=0500286426] But there’s one creature that doesn’t need to get hung up on retirement or deadlines, and accordingly it could well be immortal. This is the bizarre existence of the hydra, a half-inch tube of jelly that inhabits fresh water all over the world, where it lives a long, long time under the right conditions—and if you don’t assault it. Yet even then, it has remarkable powers of regeneration. Cut it in half and you’ll eventually end up with two hydra. Mix a bunch of them […]

The Smartest, Richest Companies Can’t Crack Mobile. The Future Belongs to Anyone Who Can The world’s smartest and richest tech companies posted their quarterly earnings this week, and if you had to draw one lesson from the results, it’s this: mobile matters—more than anything.The companies seeing the strongest growth—Apple and Facebook—are the ones with the most successful mobile strategies. The companies seeing declines, missing expectations, or falling short of their former glories—Google, Alibaba, and Microsoft—are the ones that can’t quite make mobile work for them. And in that faltering, opportunity opens up for the next great business idea—an idea not weighed down by the legacy of the desktop. Yes, these are all huge companies with many moving parts that make the math behind their business successes and failures complex. But sometimes, applying Occam’s razor can be instructive. [amazon template=banner easy&asin=0500543178] Apple and Facebook On Top Take Apple. It pretty much […]