Growing bricks from…pee

The world’s first bio-brick made using human urine was unveiled at UCT this week. In picture are (from left) the Department of Civil Engineering’s Dr Dyllon Randall and his students,Vukheta Mukhari and Suzanne Lambert. Credit: University of Cape Town
The world’s first bio-brick made using human urine was unveiled at UCT this week. In picture are (from left) the Department of Civil Engineering’s Dr Dyllon Randall and his students,Vukheta Mukhari and Suzanne Lambert. Credit: University of Cape Town

Being a civil engineer (BSCE ’78) myself, it’s always fun to find out about new building materials. Would you believe that a master’s candidate from the University of Cape Town (UCT), Susan Lambert, has figured out a way to “grow” bricks from human urine? Continue reading “Growing bricks from…pee”

Rebooting the Hubble Space Telescope

Artist's rendition of the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit. Credit: CC0 Public Domain
Artist’s rendition of the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit. Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Hey, you’ve gotta hand it to the folks at NASA, who used a time-honored trick to get the 28-year-old Hubble Space Telescope back in operation. Earlier in October, a gyroscope used to point HST at observing targets failed and a backup didn’t start up properly. The fix? Basically turning various systems on and off as well as making some maneuvers. Think of this as the spacecraft equivalent of rebooting your computer or whacking it on the side… Continue reading “Rebooting the Hubble Space Telescope”

Deer are slowly killing the world’s largest organism ↗️

From Sciencemag.org:

The Pando aspen grove, located in central Utah, is the largest organism on the planet by weight. From the surface, it may look like a forest that spans more than 100 U.S. football fields, but each tree shares the exact same DNA and is connected to its clonal brethren through an elaborate underground root system. Although not quite as large in terms of area as the massive Armillaria gallica fungus in Michigan, Pando is much heavier, weighing in at more than 6 million kilograms. Now, researchers say, the grove is in danger, being slowly eaten away by mule deer and other herbivores—and putting the fate of its ecosystem in jeopardy.

Aspen groves are amazing and beautiful single organisms that can spread over hundreds of acres and weigh as much as 6 million kilograms. I think a few deer should be sacrificed to save the Pando grove…

You can now pre-order your flying car ↗️

Terrafugia, the company that’s been touting their Transition and TF-2 flying cars, is finally taking orders for the Transition:

Terrafugia is accepting Letters of Intent to Purchase the Transition Flying Car. If you are interested in becoming an owner, please contact us by clicking the button below and we will contact you directly. Become one of the early adopters of the Mobility Revolution!

The Transition and TF-2 aren’t very Jetson’s-like. The Transition is just a road-capable airplane with folding wings, while the TF-2 looks like a minivan that attaches to a wings and motors. But if you’re a pilot and want bragging rights, you can shell out your money…

How a small genealogical DNA site is helping police to solve cold cases ↗️

From The New York Times:

Last month — two decades after the crime — the Sacramento district attorney’s office tried something new to finally crack the case of this serial rapist, who had attacked at least 10 women in their homes. Investigators converted the assailant’s DNA to the kind of profile that family history websites such as 23andMe are built on, and uploaded it to GEDmatch.com, a free site open to all and beloved by genealogical researchers seeking to find biological relatives or to construct elaborate family trees.

Within five minutes of reviewing the results, the investigators had located a close relative among the million or so profiles in the database. Within two hours, they had a suspect, who was soon arrested: Roy Charles Waller, a safety specialist at the University of California, Berkeley.

The arrest marked the 15th time that GEDmatch had provided essential clues leading to a suspect in a murder or sexual assault case,starting with the arrest in April of Joseph James DeAngelo, a former police officer, for the rapes and murders committed across California in the 1970s and 1980s by the notorious Golden State Killer.

It sounds like something from a TV police procedural, but the tiny GEDMatch website is giving law enforcement a powerful tool for finding criminals through their blood relatives.

Google Maps adds EV charging stations ↗️

From Android and Me:

The United States is starting to develop a grid of EV chargers for electric vehicles, thanks to the automobiles starting to become more prevalent on the streets. So of course Google is going to try and help with finding charging stations as people drive from one location to another.

That assistance comes in the form of Google Maps which, beginning today, will show EV charging stations within the app. All you have to do is search for something like “EV charging stations” and the locations in your area will pop up.

Nice to see. In my neighborhood Teslas are as common as fire hydrants, so it will be useful for those thousands who just picked up their Model 3s at the Littleton (CO) Tesla dealership.

Tangible Tech Podcast Episode 7: Drones 101, or “How do those things stay in the air?”

Tangible Tech podcaster Steve Sande is not only a science and tech guy, but he’s a licensed drone pilot. When he’s out flying, one of the common questions he gets from bystanders is “How the (#&$ do those things fly without having wings, a rudder, and that other stuff you see on airplanes?”

In this episode of the Tangible Tech podcast, Steve explains how quadcopters (those drones you see just about everywhere) are able not only to take off and land, but do some pretty amazing maneuvers as well.

Don’t worry; you won’t need a degree in aerospace engineering to understand what Steve’s saying, just an imagination and your hand… You’ll understand what I’m saying once you listen to the podcast. 😀

If you like the Tangible Tech podcast, won’t you consider supporting it by becoming a subscriber? Listen on Anchor.fm and you’ll see a little purple “Support This Podcast” button which you can use to send a few bucks our way.

Pardon our absence

Hey, you probably noticed that there were few updates for the last week. That’s because yours truly and the missus were on a road trip. The highlight of the trip was the twice-annual open house at the Trinity Site — the site of the first atomic bomb explosion — so you could say that the trip had a definite sci-tech flavor to it.

We’re back, and there’s a podcast on the way…soon. I promise!