Technology That Redefines Our World

New Asbestos Detection Device allows for Real-Time Asbestos Detection

New Asbestos Detection Device allows for Real-Time Asbestos Detection

May 21, 2013

A new product called Alert has been announced in the UK, which is a portable device that tests for airborne asbestos particles and gives results in real time. In most instances, testing a building’s air for asbestos can be a long endeavor, which either means that individuals cannot remain in the building until results come back, or that individuals could be unknowingly exposed to asbestos fibers in the air. Fortunately, this incredible device will allow for fast results, allowing individuals to remove themselves from a potentially dangerous environment as soon as possible.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was used extensively prior to the 1970s in a variety of building materials, especially roofing tiles and insulation. While asbestos is usually safe when it is undisturbed, if asbestos fibers are released into the air, they can be inhaled and lodge themselves into a person’s lungs, which can result in the development of mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer. As such, buildings that contain asbestos that could be disturbed and fragment into the air usually have to have professionals come to remove this dangerous material.

This important new product hopes to be available in the UK as soon as the beginning of 2014.

How to Become Invisible

How to Become Invisible

Apr 1, 2013

Researchers at the University of Texas are currently in the process of developing a material similar to the invisibility cloaks of science-fiction and fantasy. In a recent experiment, a research team led by Andrea Alu and others was able to successfully camouflage a roughly 18” tube from detection by microwaves by cloaking it in the material they have developed. It does so by disrupting, rather than merely redirecting, the waves.

At present time, however, this technology is far from being the kind of invisibility device that would match the popular imagination’s conception. The cloak works by having a miniscule pattern on its outside, which neutralizes the electromagnetic waves which bounce off of it. However, the pattern must roughly match the wavelength in order to function correctly, and as a result, only the tiniest of objects, those which are already so small as to be invisible to the naked eye, could be rendered invisible through this technique.

Nevertheless, the steady advance on this front suggests to many scientists that this type of technology may eventually become viable for use in camouflaging, especially for military uses. Of course, it could also lead to a national epidemic of [theft and robbery], so maybe it’s for the best that the invisibility cloak remains, for now, largely a figment of the imagination.

The Future of Transportation: Self-Driving Cars

The Future of Transportation: Self-Driving Cars

Mar 31, 2013

Google has a number of different projects in development right now, but clearly none is more exciting than the potential for self-driving cars to revolutionize how we live. While the technology is still a significant distance from being completed to the point of being safe for public use, Google has already test-driven some of these vehicles over a distance of hundreds of thousands of miles without an accident to this point. In fact, there is wide agreement that, in order for driverless cars to be commercially viable, they must be programmed to the point of being much less likely to be involved in a [car accident] than a car piloted by a human driver.

Still, a number of roadblocks remain before driverless cars can become a realistic possibility for the average user. For one, driverless cars have a hard time driving in inclement weather, particularly rain and snow, which can make roadways more difficult to analyze. Perhaps more importantly, driverless cars haven’t yet reached the point where they can react appropriately to unforeseeable conditions, such as police officers directing traffic when streetlights are out of service or cars stalled in the roadway. For these reasons, engineers at Google and other companies will continue to refine driverless car technology for some time yet.

In spite of these potential problems, I have to say that, from a personal standpoint, there are few technologies currently in the works that I’m aware of that make me more excited than this possibility. The combined benefits of reduced travel times, dramatically fewer auto accidents, and increased freedom for drivers (all benefits which have been credibly assessed to driverless car technology) all make this technology something I’m eagerly looking forward to trying out. Think about how great it would be to be able to read a book or eat breakfast during your commute instead of screaming at traffic and huffing at red lights. This is a future I can definitely get behind.