The Light Side

Light Friday: Whiskey PC, Tea and Bots, Biodiesel Boy ...

Mar 16, 2007

... Highway Havoc (Tech AND Unicorns), Marble Meteor, Pedal-Powered Roller Coaster, and MORE.

Schooled on Biodiesel

A 12-year-old Portland, Oregon, boy is betting on biodiesel to help save the planet and save money for his college fund. Forest (apt name, no?) is attempting to earn money to help pay for his tuition at Reed College by modifying old Toyota Land Cruisers so that they can run on biodiesel, according to The Oregonian (via Wired).

Although the sixth-grader has fixed up several vehicles, he has yet to sell any in an effort to save money toward school, which currently runs $44,000 per year.

Like father like son, Forest's father's business recycles discarded building materials.

Lacuna, Inc. for Real

Scientists can now pinpoint and destroy a painful memory while leaving others intact.

According to results of a study published in Nature Neuroscience, a single, specific memory has been wiped from the brains of rats, leaving other recollections intact. "The study adds to our understanding of how memories are made and altered in the brain, and could help to relieve sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of the fearful memories that disrupt their lives," Nature news reports.

No thanks; we saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and we'll take the "brain damage comparable to a night of heavy drinking."

In Honor of Paddy's Day: Whiskey PC

It isn't only a whiskey bottle. According to TechEBlog, a casemodder packed a 1.75-liter Ballantine's whiskey bottle with an Intel P3 733EB processor, 256MB notebook RAM, 40GB hard drive, and 60W mini-ITX power supply unit. To solve cooling problems, he drilled several holes at the side panel and glued an old VGA card cooler to the bottleneck. (via Digg)

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More pics HERE and HERE

… and a Rainbow Was Riding Shotgun

Officials apparently didn't believe Phillip Carston Holliday Jr. when he told police that "the unicorn was driving."

The man was arrested earlier this month after a one-vehicle accident near an intersection in Billings, Montana. Two police officers witnessed the crash, which occurred when a truck drove through a red light and nearly struck another truck in the intersection.

According to court records, the driver then made an erratic U-turn through a gas station and proceeded to crash into a light pole. The two nearby police officers said the driver "got out of the truck and fell down," reports The Billings Gazette. "The man got up and tried to run away, but fell again after about 30 feet," at which point he was arrested.

Holliday's criminal history includes five prior DUI convictions, four felonies, 35 misdemeanors and 53 traffic violations, including 28 convictions for driving with a suspended license.

Yeah, This Should End Well

A company called SameLane has developed proprietary software that, if embraced by the general public, is sure to help increase havoc on the highway. The new gadget allows you to punch in the license plate of the vehicle in front of you and chitchat with those in that vehicle while driving.

AutoWeek reports:

Think of the opportunities SameLane presents. A stalker can breathe heavy while ogling a sexy Nissan driver up ahead. A sports fan can rag a rival while bobbing and weaving through traffic — plus he gets to pump up his blood pressure, too. If you're scoping for a hook-up, that guy in the pink VW cabrio looks mighty cute… ring his chimes!

Which should come in handy, considering the following news item.

Legislators are Cracking Down on Texting While Driving

An insurance-industry study says 19 percent of drivers text-message while operating their vehicles.

Four states and Washington D.C. ban cell-phone use while driving; 38 states are considering other regulations, with fines ranging up to $720, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The argument against regulation: Texting causes fewer accidents than other activities do, such as eating. Argument for regulation: Texting, unlike eating, is increasing.

Insurers are the chief promoter of regulation, while wireless carriers are the chief opponent.

Tea and Robots

Japanese friends I've known are pretty serious about their tea. And being pretty serious about their robotics, it was only a matter of time until Japanese A humanoid with camera eyes pours tea from a bottle into a cup, PIC via AP.jpgrobotics researchers combined tea and robots.

In a demonstration earlier this month, a Kawanda Industries biped humanoid robot with camera eyes poured tea from a bottle into a cup, which was then delivered to humans in another room by a second, wheeled robot. The Associated Press further reports.

Another robot on wheels [then] delivered the cup of tea in an experimental room that has sensors embedded in the floor and sofa as well as cameras on the ceiling, to simulate life with robot technology.

Marble Meteor

What do you do if you want to model how meteoroids hit the Moon? If you are a NASA scientist, you start by shooting marbles at 16,000 MPH.

NASA scientist Bill Cooke is firing quarter-inch diameter clear shooters — Pyrex glass — at soil rather than at other marbles. And he has to use a new one on each round because every 16,000-mph shot destroys his shooter. "We are simulating meteoroid impacts with the lunar surface," he explains in a NASA feature this week (via Fark).

Cooke and others in the Space Environments Group at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center have recorded the real thing many times. Their telescopes routinely detect explosions on the Moon when meteoroids slam into the lunar surface.

A typical flash involves "a meteoroid the size of a softball hitting the Moon at 27 km/s and exploding with as much energy as 70 kg of TNT."

PSA: New Mexico Bans Cockfighting

Cockfighting, the blood sport in which roosters armed with blades on their legs fight to the death or until one is seriously wounded, is now illegal everywhere in the United States but Louisiana.

One Number TO RING THEM ALL

A new service, now in its final weeks of public beta testing, can unify your cell phone with phones at work and home and perform other simple-but-cool tech tricks.

At GrandCentral.com, you choose a new, single, unified phone number. Whenever somebody dials your new uninumber, reports Pogue's Posts, all of your phones ring simultaneously and no one will have to track you down by dialing each of your numbers.

Moreover, all messages land in a single voice mailbox. You can also play your messages on the Web and download them as audio files (for posterity's sake?). You can even be notified via e-mail.

If you have only two numbers to consolidate, all of this is free. A premium plan at $15 a month offers more of everything.

Pedal-Powered Japanese Amusement

The Sky Cycle is a pedal-powered amusement park ride (Roller coasters go up and down, right?) at Washuzan Highland Park in Okayama, Japan.

That is, you pedal your way through the amusement ride fun. Which really sounds more like work to us.

And sure, the side-by-side tandem pedal-powered carts have seat belts (not to mention a cute pink basket), but this does not strike us the slightest bit as safe. We'd likely still try it.

Skycycle coaster 1.jpg

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I don't think so.

More pictures HERE, via Trend Hunter


Cheers.