American Inventor Presents an Answer to the World’s Water Crisis

Related article: Water crisis to be biggest world risk

(NaturalNews) Dean Kamen is not a new player in the innovator’s arena. He has been inventing and innovating ever since he dropped out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the 70’s. Since then, he invented such things as the insulin pump, a mobile dialysis system, and an all-terrain electric wheelchair called the iBot. His best-known invention is the Segway, a self-balancing, gyroscope-using, automatic-steering, scooter-like device that did not sell well in the U.S. but is expected to do better in Europe.

His newest invention could turn out to be world-changing. The term “revolutionary” comes to mind but may be too overused to express what this device could do for the world’s poor. It could save the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the third world. And it’s really quite simple. This invention answers the question — “How do you get drinkable water to the world’s thirsty?”

The Slingshot, A Revolutionary Water-Purifier

The invention, known as Slingshot, is basically a distiller. Distilling technology is not new. In fact, distillers have been around for decades. What makes this distiller unique is the low price and the large amount of water that can be produced. Other machines like the Slingshot can cost as much as $200,000 to $1 million. The Slingshot is expected to cost only $1,500. And it can filter 1,000 liters a day, using only 500 watts of electricity per hour. To put that into perspective, a toaster uses about 1,000 watts every time you make toast.

Possibly even more exciting than the cost-effectiveness and simplicity of the technology is its power. It can purify any source of moisture, whether ocean water, urine, or mud. And it does it all without filters, charcoal, or any other parts that must be replaced each time you use it.

The Slingshot has been slated for release within the next 12-18 months.

Saving Millions of Lives Every Year

“In the emerging world, in the under-developed world, a gallon of water is so precious that without it, you’re going to die,” says Kamen.

“In some places, the average amount of time per day spent looking for water that’s safe for their kids by women is four hours. And they carry this stuff, which weighs 62 pounds per cubic foot, four or five miles. And if it didn’t turn out to be the right stuff, or they put their hands in it and contaminated it, they spend the next day or two burying the babies.”

What will these women do with their extra 4 hours every day? How many families will be blessed by mothers who have the power to give water to their thirsty children? And with other inventions like the Merry-Go-Round power plant (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQu_Jppvzyk&eurl) , we may start to see our friends in the third-world finding a luxury that we have taken for granted for hundreds of years in the U.S. — fresh, drinkable water.

To see a video of Stephen Colbert questioning Kamen about the Slingshot, go to ((http://www.comedycentral.com/videos/ind…) .

Read moreAmerican Inventor Presents an Answer to the World’s Water Crisis

Pentagon OKs ‘brainwave binoculars’

THE Pentagon has approved $US6.7 million ($7m) to develop binoculars that would tap a user’s brainwaves to home in on threats.

Northrop Grumman Corporation said today it was leading an academic and industry consortium for the project, known as the Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System program, or CT2WS.

The plan featured a custom helmet equipped with electrodes placed on the scalp to record neural responses to the presence or absence of potential threats, Northrop said.

The brain’s input would “train the system’s algorithms, which will continue to be refined over time so that the warfighter is always presented with items of relevance to his mission”, the company said.

The contract was awarded by the Defence Advanced Projects Agency, or DARPA, a Pentagon arm that acts as a cradle of new technology for use by the US military.

The goal is to detect enemy forces and vehicles over 1-10km while surveying a 120deg or greater field of view, according to documents on DARPA’s website.

“At the same time we must look at the projected size, weight and power of the notional system to determine if the capabilities we are aiming for can be constrained into something fieldable by our military,” said DARPA spokeswoman Jan Walker.

Neither Northrop nor the military provided precise details on how the project might work if put into operation.

After the project’s initial 12-month, $US6.7m stage, DARPA has the option to extend the contract for two more phases to develop the subsystems and a final prototype of portable assemblies.

“A prototype is not a product, so if we are three years away from a prototype we might be five years or more away from a device that might be considered a product,” Ms Walker said.

Northrop Grumman said it was striving for “persistent surveillance” in the system to give early notice of any enemy “move-stop-move tactics”.

If and when deployed, such a system could play a role in such things as force protection, defeating roadside bombs, border surveillance and other advanced military and homeland defense applications, the company said.

Read morePentagon OKs ‘brainwave binoculars’

Weapons lab develops world’s fastest computer dubbed Roadrunner

WASHINGTON – Scientists unveiled the world’s fastest supercomputer on Monday, a $100 million machine that for the first time has performed 1,000 trillion calculations per second in a sustained exercise.

The technology breakthrough was accomplished by engineers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the IBM Corp. on a computer to be used primarily on nuclear weapons work, including simulating nuclear explosions.

The computer, named Roadrunner, is twice as fast as IBM’s Blue Gene system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which itself is three times faster than any of the world’s other supercomputers, according to IBM.

“The computer is a speed demon. It will allow us to solve tremendous problems,” said Thomas D’Agostino, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees nuclear weapons research and maintains the warhead stockpile.

Read moreWeapons lab develops world’s fastest computer dubbed Roadrunner

The Future Is Now? Pretty Soon, at Least

Before we get to Ray Kurzweil’s plan for upgrading the “suboptimal software” in your brain, let me pass on some of the cheery news he brought to the World Science Festival last week in New York.

Do you have trouble sticking to a diet? Have patience. Within 10 years, Dr. Kurzweil explained, there will be a drug that lets you eat whatever you want without gaining weight.

Worried about greenhouse gas emissions? Have faith. Solar power may look terribly uneconomical at the moment, but with the exponential progress being made in nanoengineering, Dr. Kurzweil calculates that it’ll be cost-competitive with fossil fuels in just five years, and that within 20 years all our energy will come from clean sources.

Are you depressed by the prospect of dying? Well, if you can hang on another 15 years, your life expectancy will keep rising every year faster than you’re aging. And then, before the century is even half over, you can be around for the Singularity, that revolutionary transition when humans and/or machines start evolving into immortal beings with ever-improving software.

At least that’s Dr. Kurzweil’s calculation. It may sound too good to be true, but even his critics acknowledge he’s not your ordinary sci-fi fantasist. He is a futurist with a track record and enough credibility for the National Academy of Engineering to publish his sunny forecast for solar energy.

He makes his predictions using what he calls the Law of Accelerating Returns, a concept he illustrated at the festival with a history of his own inventions for the blind. In 1976, when he pioneered a device that could scan books and read them aloud, it was the size of a washing machine.

Two decades ago he predicted that “early in the 21st century” blind people would be able to read anything anywhere using a handheld device. In 2002 he narrowed the arrival date to 2008. On Thursday night at the festival, he pulled out a new gadget the size of a cellphone, and when he pointed it at the brochure for the science festival, it had no trouble reading the text aloud.

This invention, Dr. Kurzweil said, was no harder to anticipate than some of the predictions he made in the late 1980s, like the explosive growth of the Internet in the 1990s and a computer chess champion by 1998. (He was off by a year – Deep Blue’s chess victory came in 1997.)

Read moreThe Future Is Now? Pretty Soon, at Least

Study: Surveillance software revenue to quadruple by 2013

Wi-Fi and other technological advances boosting video surveillance adoption

In a new study that has potentially Orwellian implications, ABI Research projects that revenue for video surveillance software will quadruple over the next five years.

According to ABI Vice President and Research Director Stan Schatt, revenue generated from surveillance software will increase to more than US$900 million in 2013, up from current revenues of US$245 million. Schatt says there are several big drivers for this increase, including increased spending on security systems by the government, on theft prevention systems by retail outlets and on surveillance by market researchers. Additionally, he says that the advent of Wi-Fi has made it possible to place wireless cameras just about anywhere while still sending footage back to a central location.

Looking at the broader picture, Schatt says that technological advances are also increasing the scope and the potential uses of video surveillance. He says that one of the more disturbing uses is the ability of store marketing departments to actually monitor the eyeball movements of customers to figure out what products or displays draw their attention.

“When stores have the ability to observe you as you walk through a store, what I can imagine is that more and more stores will try to basically have a pretty in-depth knowledge of their customers,” he says. “So let’s say for instance the store issues you a discount card that also has a radio frequency ID that identifies who you are. And then let’s say they observe you looking at, but not actually purchasing, movies in the adult video section. Well, the next thing you know you’re getting all these promotional materials for racy movies you’re not even interested in.”

Read moreStudy: Surveillance software revenue to quadruple by 2013

Children will learn by downloading information directly

Children will learn by downloading information directly into their brains within 30 years, an education expert has predicted.

Chris Parry, the new chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said “Matrix-style” technology would render traditional lessons obsolete.

He said: “It’s a very short route from wireless technology to actually getting the electrical connections in your brain to absorb that knowledge.”

Read moreChildren will learn by downloading information directly

Big Brother CCTV Cameras In Airplanes

CCTV cameras are bringing more and more public places under surveillance – and passenger aircraft could be next.

A prototype European system uses multiple cameras and “Big Brother” software to try and automatically detect terrorists or other dangers caused by passengers.

The European Union’s Security of Aircraft in the Future European Environment (SAFEE) project uses a camera in every passenger’s seat, with six wide-angle cameras to survey the aisles. Software then analyses the footage to detect developing terrorist activity or “air-rage” incidents, by tracking passengers’ facial expressions.

The system performed well in tests this January that simulated terrorist and unruly passenger behaviour scenarios in a fake Airbus A380 fuselage, say the researchers that built it.

Systems to analyse CCTV footage – for example, to detect violence (with video) or alert CCTV operators to unusual events – have been designed before. But the SAFEE software must cope with the particularly challenging environment of a full aircraft cabin.

Threat indicators

As crew and passengers move around they often obscure one another, causing a risk the computer will lose track of some of the hundreds of people it must monitor. To get around this, the software constantly matches views of people from different cameras to track their movements.

“It looks for running in the cabin, standing near the cockpit for long periods of time, and other predetermined indicators that suggest a developing threat,” says James Ferryman of the University of Reading, UK, one of the system’s developers.

Other behaviours could include a person nervously touching their face, or sweating excessively. One such behaviour won’t trigger the system to alert the crew, only certain combinations of them.

Ferryman is not ready to reveal specifically which behaviours were most likely to trigger the system. Much of the computer’s ability to detect threats relies on sensitive information gleaned from security analysts in the intelligence community, he tells New Scientist.

Losing track

But Mohan Trivedi of the University of California, San Diego, US, is sceptical. He has built systems that he says can track and recognise individual people as they appear and disappear on different floors of his laboratory building.

It correctly identifies people about 70% of the time, and then only under “optimal conditions” that do not exist inside an airplane cabin, he says.

“[Ferryman’s] research shows that a system detects threats in a very limited way. But it’s a very different thing using it day in and day out.” Trivedi says. “Lighting and reflections change in the cabin every time someone turns on a light or closes a window shade. They haven’t shown that they have overcome these challenges.”

Ferryman admits that his system will require thousands of tests on everyday passengers before it can be declared reliable at detecting threats.

The team’s work is being presented this week at the International Conference on Computer Vision Systems in Greece.

Read moreBig Brother CCTV Cameras In Airplanes

Computer trained to “read” mind images of words


The predicted fMRI images for celery and airplane show significant similarities with the observed images for each word. Red indicates areas of high activity, blue indicates low activity. A computer has been trained to “read” people’s minds by looking at scans of their brains as they thought about specific words, researchers said on Thursday.
REUTERS/Carnegie Mellon University/Handout
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A computer has been trained to “read” people’s minds by looking at scans of their brains as they thought about specific words, researchers said on Thursday.

They hope their study, published in the journal Science, might lead to better understanding of how and where the brain stores information.

This might lead to better treatments for language disorders and learning disabilities, said Tom Mitchell of the Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who helped lead the study.

“The question we are trying to get at is one people have been thinking about for centuries, which is: How does the brain organize knowledge?” Mitchell said in a telephone interview.

“It is only in the last 10 or 15 years that we have this way that we can study this question.”

Mitchell’s team used functional magnetic resonance imaging, a type of brain scan that can see real-time brain activity.

They calibrated the computer by having nine student volunteers think of 58 different words, while imaging their brain activity.

Read moreComputer trained to “read” mind images of words

Military Recruits Thousands More Warbots for New Unmanned Surge

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In December, after all the lawsuits, the private eyes and the backroom deals, iRobot finally wrestled away the biggest ground-robotics contract in military history from its former employee and his secret partner. This “unmanned surge” was worth up to $286 million and 3,000 machines. And it didn’t look like it would be topped any time soon.

But appearances can be deceiving in the world of military robots. Turns out, there’s been a second unmanned surge. And yesterday, iRobot’s rival, Foster-Miller, announced that it had won the contract to supply it.

The five-year deal is worth up to $400 million. And it will cover thousands of Talon bomb-handling robots and spare parts — maybe between 2,000 and 4,000 robots, F-M executive Bob Quinn tells Xconomy.

That would more than double the 2,000 Talons already in the field, finding and getting rid of improvised explosives. If all the robots are actually ordered under this “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity” contract, that is.

Once the absolute darling of military bomb squads, the rugged, easy-to-drive Talon now has a more serious competitor in iRobot’s upgraded Packbot. With the number of bombs dropping overall in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with a beefed-up rival, is there really room to double the number of Talon machines?

Read moreMilitary Recruits Thousands More Warbots for New Unmanned Surge