Jan 28, 2015

SkyMall’s demise could save airlines $350K a year on fuel

posted by Larra Morris

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SkyMall is dead, and that’s a bummer, at least for those prone to nostalgia, enamored of garden gnomes, or inept at charging devices before boarding a flight. But the company’s bankruptcy could improve airlines’ bottom lines, because they’ll no longer carry the catalog in every seat-back pocket.

That may not make any sense until you understand that airlines are obsessed with cutting weight, because lighter planes need less fuel, and jet fuel is, depending upon who you ask, an airline’s no. 1 or no. 2 expense. That’s why airlines are investing in thinner seats, lighter trash compactors, and entertainment systems that use sleeker electronics.

So tossing those quirky catalogs into the recycling bin will save airlines like Southwest (which already planned to ditch them), United, and American hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
via Wired

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Image: Tony Gutierrez/AP

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Jan 28, 2015

Scientists figure out how to unboil an egg

posted by Larra Morris

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You can't unring a bell, but you can unboil an egg. Gregory Weiss, a professor of biochemistry at the University of California at Irvine, and his colleagues untangled the proteins of cooked egg whites to return a key protein to its previous uncooked state. A press release quotes Weiss:

“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius and return a key protein in the egg to working order.”

What's the point of this research? The ability to untangle proteins could lead to much cheaper cancer drugs
via Neatorama

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Image: Craig Hatfield

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Jan 27, 2015

The first demonstration of self-propelled nanobots in a living animal

posted by Laura Domela

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Researchers from the University of California have developed acid-fueled micro-machines capable of traveling and delivering cargo directly inside a living creature. It's a breakthrough that's expected to significantly advance the field of medical nano-robotics.

Scientists have developed drug-delivering micro-machines before, but these systems were only tested under in vitro conditions (i.e., cell cultures outside the body). But in this latest breakthrough, Wei Gao and colleagues have shown that artificial micromotors can travel inside a live mouse, deliver its cargo, and produce no toxic effects.
via io9

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Jan 27, 2015

Robot snow plow in Japan scoops up snow in its "mouth" and leaves igloo bricks behind

posted by Laura Domela

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Meet Yuki-taro, a self-guided, GPS and camera equipped robot snowplow that somehow manages to look as cute as Pokemon's Pikachu - this is Japan, after all! 

Snow? In Japan? Yes indeed, and not just on top of Mount Fuji. Some parts of northern Japan can receive a surprising amount of snow in wintertime, enough to block roads and isolate people living in mountain villages. Elderly people in particular are at risk in these areas, both from being shut-in and from trying to shovel all the snow. That's where "Yuki-taro, the friendly snowbot", comes in!
via Inventor Spot

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Jan 27, 2015

Neiman Marcus' digital mirror compares clothes side by side

posted by Larra Morris

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If you've ever wanted to see yourself in a few different outfits before deciding on your next wardrobe, Neiman Marcus now lets you view them side by side. The retailer's Memory Mirror takes video and stills of what you try on for comparison, in addition to 360-degree views so you can see all the angles and items in different colors. As you might expect, snapshots from the digital mirror can be shared, so you can ask your Facebook friends if red really is the best choice. There's also an option to share the session with a salesperson so they can recommend new items next time.
via Engadget

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Jan 27, 2015

Bioluminescent plankton illuminate the waters off Hong Kong

posted by Larra Morris

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Noctiluca scintillans, a species of bioluminescent plankton, illuminated a stretch of coastline near Hong Kong yesterday in a stunning display that was captured in long exposure photos by photographer Kin Cheung. Unfortunately, as The Atlantic reports, the glowing bloom is caused by farm pollution. The plankton is also known as “Sea Sparkle.”
via Laughing Squid

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Image: Kin Cheung/Associated Press

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Jan 27, 2015

The subterranean theme park 390ft down in a Transylvanian salt mine

posted by Larra Morris

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For hundreds of years, workers broke and hauled salt out of the Salina Turda mine in Romania. That stopped in the 20th century. Since 1992, the huge chambers left behind have been a tourist attraction, which became a full-fledged theme park in 2010. The features include a 65-foot-tall Ferris wheel, an amphitheater, bowling alleys, a miniature golf course, and a lake where you can ride a boat, all contained in the huge underground chambers.
via Neatorama

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Image: Cristian Bortes

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