This week’s edition of Science Friday is chock full of goodies. From NASA’s newly received images from Mercury to the future possibilities for Trek tech, to another gadget of the week. Read on!
Real Life Universal (almost) Translator
Recently, Voxtec released their “Phraselator” device to the public which has been utilized by soldiers and police officers already to communicate cross-language. It was originally designed for soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to communicate with locals who spoke Farsi, Dari, Pashto and other languages. It is now being used by police forces in California, Florida, and Nevada to help keep the peace between English and non-English speakers. It is not quite up to par with 23rd century technology yet, however, as it does not do direct voice-to-voice translations, but relies on stored words and phrases in the device’s data base. “It is not quite like that translator thing on ‘Star Trek.’ It’s a step or two away,” Los Angeles police Capt. Dennis Kato told the Los Angeles Times. “But when it comes to crowd control, natural disasters or medical emergencies, it can be a lifesaver.” See Voxtec for more.
The Trek-Like Phraselator
Messages from MESSENGER
Two weeks ago, on January 14th, the MESSENGER spacecraft completed its three and a half year journey to Mercury where it took the first images of a never before seen side of the planet. Not surprisingly, it looks a lot like the other side. Nonetheless, the images are pretty spectacular, and the orbiter will continue to transmit images to NASA for several more years. So far, the spacecraft has only taken a handful of images in a planned set of 99 which it will complete during future fly-bys and when it eventually settles into orbit. It has been over 30 years since an orbiter has sent us pictures of the small rocky planet, and scientists are jumping at the chance to study Mercury for many reasons including a possible insight into terrestrial planet evolution. See NASA for more.
That’s no moon!
Asteroid Zooms Past Earth
Just as MESSENGER did a fly-by of Mercury, Asteroid 2007 TU24 is doing a fly-by of Earth. The space rock was visible last Tuesday in the dark sky, but anyone hoping to catch a glimpse had to break out the telescope, as it is not bright enough to be seen by the naked eye. Don’t let that fool you, though, this asteroid is 2,000 ft. wide at its widest and could easily take out a large city should it decide to alter coarse toward Earth. Astronomers say there was never really any danger of impact as it was 1.4 times the distance of the moon from the Earth. That is, of course, assuming it is not like some other asteroids we know of. See NASA for more.
For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky
Make your iPhone into a Tricorder
Ever dreamed of owning your own Tricorder? Well, now you can show off your true geekiness with the new Tricorder iPhone web app! Just like the real thing (minus any actual scanning abilities) The iPhone’s touch screen interface allows you to “use” the tricorder by pressing buttons to reveal various statistics about your surroundings, nearby life signs, and how likely you are to score a date with the hot Vulcan accross the bar. Show it off to your friends and instantly gain cool points (or loose them depending on your friends)! Access the web app: http://38i.biz/tricorder
The iPhone Tricorder WebApp
Virtual Graffiti: Steps toward a Holodeck?
The “Tagged in Motion” project is an endevour headed by the Jung von Matt agency for interactive and innovative communication in an attempt to bridge the gap between real graffiti art and its virtual depiction. The artist dons the pattented video glasses which shows him or her their creation being applied to a real environment as the backdrop. Stationary cameras track the motion of the artist and their virtual spray can which can be adjusted for color, texture, and strengths of the brushstrokes by the user. The final result is 3-Dimensional artwork which “floats” in real space. Any image can be created, and when watching the video, one can’t help but ponder the future of this technology leading to a Trek-like holodeck environment.
New Software Gives Objects a Virtual Feel
European researchers have just unveiled a software breakthrough that allows users to touch, stretch, pull, and feel virtual fabrics designed to feal as realistic as possible. Deemed the HAPTEX project, the software incorporates the use of a specially designed glove along with a sophisticated computer model and visual representation to reproduce the sensation of cloth with an impressive degree of realism. Perhaps we can combine this technology with the Virtual Graffiti to have a fully-fledged holodeck! See Science Daily for more.
HAPTEX’s Virtual Cloth
Gadget of the Week: Bath-O-Matic Fills Your Tub for $8000
Granted, it does a little more than that, but $8K is a steep price nonetheless. The Bath-O-Matic is a unique automation system built into your bathtub which allows the user, through a touch screen interface, to draw a bath with specific parameters such as temperature, height of the water, and even any combination of oils, bubbles, and fragrances. It can even be automated so you can fill your tub from the comfort of your couch. See Bath-O-Matic.com for more info and a spiffy demo of the UI!
For $8 grand, it better come with the duckie
TrekMovie.com welcomes Kayla Iacovino as our new Science Editor. Kayla is a freelance science writer and experimental petrologist with Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. And, of course, she is a hard core Trekkie.