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Oct 212014
 
The Hendo Hoverboard

by Gene Turnbow, station manager

A small company called Arx Pax in Los Gatos, California has a working hoverboard called the Hendo, which you can actually buy. That’s the good news. It’s not exactly like the ones we saw Marty McFly riding in Back to the Future II, but it works. It can carry up to 300 pounds, and will float you about an inch in the air. Here’s the bad news:  the board runs out of battery in about seven minutes and costs $10,000. Nor is it silent – it makes a noise like electric fingernails on an electric chalkboard when it’s in use, due to its whirling magnetic field generators. Still, it does actually work, as you can see in the inset video. Unlike an (unfortunately) increasing number of Kickstarter technology pitches, this one actually works.

The Hendo is named after its inventor, Greg Henderson. It has to have a copper-clad metal floor to work against, because it uses powerful magnets to generate an inductive counter-field in the floor. The four load-bearing magnets are literally creating an opposing magnetic field in the floor to push against. It uses the same technology that levitates maglev trains, so it will only levitate over non-ferrous metals like copper or aluminum (but not nickel or iron).

What makes the Hendo such an important advance in magnetic levitation technology is that for the first time, a magnetically levitated object can levitate against a passive surface. A maglev train requires a rail or travel bed loaded with electronics and power conduits to make it work. Henderson’s device will work on a simple metal plate. This makes it less than one-sixth the cost to implement than previous technologies. The Hendo can also individually control its magnetic fields and doesn’t need a rail to move in a controlled direction. There is an engineer’s kit being sold by Arx Pax that runs completely silently, and can lift about 40 pounds. There’s a certain amount of frustration from the scientific community because they haven’t actually worked out all the mathematical equations. They can demonstrate that it works, but the math behind why it works means they still have some work to do.

The board itself is a fun curiosity, but it’s primarily meant to draw attention to the other potential uses of the technology. As an architect, Henderson imagines that such devices could be used to completely isolate buildings from earthquakes. There are applications in aerospace as well. Most of the payload of an aircraft is its fuel, and a plane uses most of its fuel simply taking off from the runway. Imagine what the fuel requirements would be if a plane had no rolling resistance at all.

Using this technology could have a dramatic impact on all sorts of energy-intensive activities that must currently overcome rolling resistance, and in our civilization that’s a lot of possible application. To give you an idea, a helicopter requires about 160 watts per kilogram it lifts, but the Arx Pax maglev technology needs only about 40 watts. Of course, that helicopter can also lift that payload into the sky, but for most loads, one wouldn’t need to do that. The ramifications of this invention are profound. It could quite literally change the world.

If there’s a Kickstarter worth participating in, this is it.

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Oct 162014
 
Dr. Jansens Tricorder Mk1

by Gene Turnbow, station manager

It’s nearly every Star Trek fan’s dream: a real working tricorder. It’s packed with sensors, diagnostic routines – and for the purposes of conveying a sense of function and activity, lots of little blinking lights and interesting sound effects. Every science and medical officer needs one. We’ve reported before on the efforts of Peter Jansen to create real working tricorders that you can actually build and own yourself, and his latest version is a wonder to behold. It’s called the Arducorder Mini, and it runs on – you guessed it – Arduino technology. That makes the open source hardware highly modular and accessible to hardware hackers.

It’s still a prototype, but here’s the full accounting of the suite of sensors in the current prototype:

Atmospheric Sensors

  • Ambient Temperature and Humidity: Measurement Specialties HTU21D
  • Ambient Pressure: Bosch Sensortec BMP180
  • Multi-gas sensor: SGX-Sensortech MICS-6814

Electromagnetic Sensors

  • 3-Axis Magnetometer: Honeywell HMC5883L

Radiation Sensors

  • Lightning sensor: AMS AS3935
  • X-ray and Gamma Ray Detector: Radiation Watch Type 5
  • Low-resolution thermal camera: Melexis MLX90620 16×4
  • Home-built linear polarimeter: 2x TAOS TSL2561
  • Colorimeter: TAOS TCS3472
  • UV: Silicon Labs Si1145
  • Spectrometer: Hamamatsu C12666MA micro-spectrometer, with NeoPixel light source

Spatial Sensors

  • Inertial Measurement Unit: Invensense MPU-9150 9-axis (3-axis accelerometer, gyro, and magnetometer)

Other Sensors

  • Microphone: Analog Devices ADMP401

The Arducorder isn’t a diagnostic instrument, just a sensor pack. It differs in this respect from the tricorders competing for Qualcomm’s Tricorder XPrize in that it doesn’t analyze the information it perceives. That’s up to you. The winner of the Tricorder XPrize, by contrast, will be a medical tricorder like the one Scanadu is building, and will need to be able to diagnose diseases by itself.

The Arducorder Mini is an Arduino-compatible handheld sensing device with a 80Mhz PIC32 family processor, 128k of RAM, 512k of flash storage, and a 128×128 pixel 1.5 OLED display, combined with a touch wheel interface.

To find out more about this project, visit tricorderproject.org and tricorder.xprize.org

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Oct 092014
 
LastContactPoster1
Science fiction isn’t always about flash-bang action. Sometimes all you need is a really good question. For example, what if your little HAM radio actually somehow reached an extraterrestrial, and they answered? This sci-fi short subject was created and produced by Valiant Dead, a small film production company in Indianapolis, Indiana, which is dedicated to the creation of engaging motion pictures with diverse original talents on both sides of the camera.

The challenge of a short film is to create a story worth watching in a completely self-contained, credible world.  Doing this with science fiction just ups the ante, which is why there are so few really good sci-fi shorts out there. Last Contact has only two characters, and one of them doesn’t even appear on camera, yet, the film is emotionally engaging, artful without being intrusive, poignant without being sappy, and thoughtful in a way that good science fiction needs to be.

The film stars Valiant Dead’s CEO, James Treakle.

This is how significant careers get started. Watch Last Contact. We think you’ll see what we saw: real film-making magic.

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Oct 082014
 
Frank_Herbert_-_1984

by Michael Brown, staff writer

Frank_Herbert_-_1984Happy birthday to the late Frank Herbert, who would have been 94 today. The man whose name would become synonymous with epic science-fiction was born October 8, 1920, in Tacoma, Washington. After a brief stint as a journalist, he joined the United States Navy’s Seabees for six months as a photographer before being medically discharged. He then went on to attend the University of Washington, studying Creative Writing. He didn’t graduate because he wanted to only to take the curriculum that interested him, and so he returned to journalism, working at the Seattle Star, the Oregon Statesman, and finally becoming writer and editor of the venerable San Francisco Examiner.

In 1959, Herbert threw himself into researching a novel he called Dune, a sci-fi tale that came about after a failed article on Oregon sand dunes that gave him a nearly inexhaustible supply of material. Six years of work later, Herbert submitted his finished product to several different magazines, all of which but one rejected him. Chilton Book Publishers took it, and their editor had commented, “I might be making the mistake of the decade, but …”

That “mistake” would go on to be a critical success, earning the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award. Herbert would eventually quit newspaper writing to focus on his new career as a science-fiction writer. Throughout the 1980s, he wrote his sweeping Dune saga, and even helped launch Terry Brooks into stardom with Brooks’ first novel, Sword of Shannara. The year 1984 saw the release of the film version of Dune. While it was received poorly in the U.S., it was an instant hit in Europe and Japan. A later Sci-Fi Channel remake in 2000 titled Frank Herbert’s Dune met with more success. A sequel miniseries titled Children of Dune, based on the novels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, followed. Both received Emmy awards and generated the highest ratings ever seen on the network up to that time.

In 1985, after his wife’s death, Herbert finished what would be his last single work, Chapterhouse Dune, which tied up many of the saga’s story threads.

Frank Herbert died February 11, 1986, in Madison, Wisconsin of a massive pulmonary embolism while recovering from surgery for pancreatic cancer.

In recent years, Frank Herbert’s son Brian Herbert and author Kevin J. Anderson have added to Herbert’s Dune universe, after finding notes left behind by Frank Herbert and discovered over a decade after his death. Brian Herbert and Anderson have written two prequel trilogies, Preludes of Dune,  and Legends of Dune, exploring the history of the Dune universe before the events within Dune, as well as two post-Chapterhouse Dune novels, titled Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune, that complete the original series based on Frank Herbert’s own Dune 7 outline.

Krypton Radio fondly remembers Frank Herbert today, and we are thankful for his epic, tour de force, classic science-fiction juggernaut.

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Sep 252014
 
Big_Hero_6_(film)_poster

We realize this probably won’t be the last trailer we see for Disney’s Big Hero 6, but we’re looking forward to seeing this so much that we just can’t resist sharing it with you. It’s based very loosely on a relatively obscure Marvel Comics title from 1998, with nearly the entire storyline being rewritten. Purists will be disappointed, but there’s little ground for grumbling, really, because this treatment has almost nothing to do with the original book. The story revolves around a 14-year-old robotics prodigy named Hiro who lives in the fictional city San Fransokyo. It’s still about a team of superheroes, though, and in this new trailer we get to see them suit up, and we learn a little more about Beymax, a medical robot created by Hiro’s elder brother.

It’s also the first collaboration between Disney Animation and Marvel Studios since Disney bought Marvel in 2009. While every bit as bright and light hearted as other Disney films, it does deal with some rather heavy emotional themes. It looks like nothing Disney has ever done before, and separates itself even further from the usual Disney fare by not being a musical.

If you want to listen to the theme music for the movie, go to the official web site. It’s about as epic as the score for The Avengers.  

Ryan Potter plays Hiro Hamada. Beymax is voiced by Scott Adsit. Big Hero 6 releases in the United States on November 7, 2014. U.K. residents don’t get to see it until January 15. We have no idea why they have to wait that long, and a delay like this between the U.S. release and the U.K. release is very unusual.

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Sep 252014
 
10615528_352123494945495_1256525863434578373_n

by Michael Brown, staff writer

10615528_352123494945495_1256525863434578373_nFor months now, filmmakers/actresses Patty Jean Robinson and Kim Turney have sweated over an Indiegogo campaign, hoping to generate enough fan-fueled cash to launch the pilot of their cinematic vision. Well, they’ve done it. And all the better for us. Turney and Robinson are the masterminds behind Pike and Trident, a new action/comedy/adventure/science-fiction/fantasy web series. Besides being the technical geniuses behind the series, the duo are also its stars. Turney plays Myrtle Pike, a museum curator from the year 3535, and Robinson plays Trudy Trident, her hapless assistant.

In the year 3535, Pike is the curator of a museum full of historical artifacts. After getting into a brouhaha with her hated assistant, Trident, an accident occurs that scatters priceless historical artifacts throughout the timestream. Furious, their boss sends them both on a mission to retrieve the artifacts from wherever in time they’ve ended up. In the pilot, called “A Viking We Will Go,” the duo have landed in the Viking ages where they’ve been tasked with retrieving an “automobile floor preserver,” known to us as, simply, a floor mat. The pilot starts off with Trident returning to camp with the artifact after having fought off some Vikings. With a little exposition, we are treated to their origin story, and then all heck breaks loose. Trident is frustrated with Pike, who is having a meal while Trident gets her hands dirty, and Trident has had enough.

What follows is a really well-choreographed, slapstick fight that ends with — well, I’m not saying. Other than to say that as far as anticipated web series go, this one is a favorite. Turney, a noted fight choreographer herself, teamed up with Jan Bryant, whose fight choreography resume includes Master and Commander, Hidalgo, and the Mask of Zorro, to include some pretty good fight sequences. Robb Padgett’s score is also fantastic and fits the series well.

And it’s fun. It’s just straight up fun. It’s a funny, seven-plus minute romp that had me laughing out loud. Turney and Robinson, who are friends in real life, have a great chemistry that allows one to continuously play off the other. This is a labor of love for Turney and Robinson, and I have no doubt that they’ll put everything they have into their series. In an interview I did with them earlier this year, they said they had it all planned out. The characters will meet and mingle with historical figures, maybe even getting a visit from Nikola Tesla himself.

Pike and Trident: A Viking We Will Go is a great start to what I hope is a continuing series. I suppose that depends on the money Turney and Robinson have raised to be able to film further episodes. It would be a tragedy if the adventures of Pike and Trident were to end here. Let’s hope not.  To check out A Viking We Will Go, click the link here.

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