Stone-cold bad guys don't worry about lie detectors, because they can only suss out fibs 60 percent of the time -- not much better than someone without one. But there's a new hope for cops. Scientists at the University of Cambridge have used full-body motion capture suits to cajole the truth at a much better clip. They put 90 volunteers in $12,000 Xsens mocap suits, and had them lie to other volunteers. By tracking joint displacements, their algorithms could pick three out of four liars -- a much more useful result for law enforcement. One researcher said "put simply, guilty people fidget more... independent of cultural background, cognitive load and anxiety." The team thinks it can fine tune it for even better accuracy, so police may one day be squeezing perps into skin-tight suits rather than finger sensors.
That is indeed the question, especially considering how inexpensive a standard, non-smart, non-"safe" power outlet is. This nice one from Home Depot costs under $10! What the outlet from Home Depot won't do for you, however, is tell you via smartphone app if it's being used, or which outlets in your house are being used. And it certainly won't kill the power when you're not using it; power outlets, sadly, may be constantly drawing power. If you've got anything plugged in to your standard outlet, even if it's not on, it might still be drawing power. That's both extremely inefficient and a waste of money. There's a company at CES 2015 that's aiming to change that, but what should it charge? Should it even make a "smart" power outlet, or just focus on the "safe" angle? That's still up in the air, but what it's got so far is worth knowing about.
If you work anywhere in or around technology, chances are you've either witnessed or are a member of the standing-desk craze, the natural offshoot of the increasing medical research suggesting sitting in your Herman Miller Aeron chair will actually kill you faster than smoking. But standing's the tip of the iceberg. Treadmill desks, work-walking, whatever you want to call it -- more and more people aren't just standing while they work; they're clocking in 10 slow miles a day on the job. With treadmill desks popping up everywhere from home offices to the cube farms of Google to the open newsrooms of The New York Times, the definition of what it means to be "at work" is changing more than ever before.
Much as we'd love to discover grey aliens with warp drive technology, any extraterrestrial life we're lucky enough to find will likely be pretty basic. But the chemical detection methods used by space probes like Curiosity or Philae are hit-and-miss -- they can't actually tell if something is alive or not. Scientists in France have developed a new nanosensor that may help: a simple cantilever with a laser motion sensor that can accept about 500 bacteria. As long as they're alive, the cells will cause minute vibrations on the cantilever, which are captured by the lasers as a sign of life. After scientists kill the cells, the signals stop.
We have a soft spot for all things outer space here at Engadget, so naturally an EP of tunes constructed entirely with audio clips from said exploration caught our eye... and ears. NASA recently released a massive library of sound files on SoundCloud, including rocket engine sounds and radio transmissions -- even President John F. Kennedy makes an appearance. Two musicians found the collection while working on another space-related project and decided to make 80UA: a four-track EP of "space music" that's constructed using only the space agency's collected audio. Of course, the clips were tweaked to fit each song, but all of the source material comes from NASA's archive. After roping in a few pals to help, Davide Cairo and Giacomo Muzzacato released the effort for free via Bad Panda Records, and as you might expect, SoundCloud was the appropriate landing spot. Head there to download the tracks, or jump past the break for a quick listen.
Pop quiz, hotshot: What do you get when you heat gas above 3 million degrees Celsius? High-energy X-rays, of course -- just the kind that NuSTAR was launched to detect. The space telescope took a break from hunting black holes to snap its first-ever shot of the sun. When that X-ray image (blue and green) is overlaid onto an infrared photo from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (in orange), it shows how X-rays relate to high-temperature solar activity like flares and sunspots. Scientists want to figure out why the sun's corona (outer atmosphere) is 1 million degrees Celsius, while the surface is a mere 6,000 degrees Celsius -- a discrepancy that's like a "flame coming out of an ice cube," according to NASA. Though it might sound risky to point the world's most sensitive high-energy X-ray telescope at the sun, it's actually quite safe -- our star emits plenty of X-rays, but very few of the high-energy type.
[Image credit: NASA/JPL]
Damn the torpedoes (and Teslas)! Two of Japan's biggest automakers are about to make sizable wagers on a different kind of clean fuel tech: hydrogen power. Toyota will launch the $57,500 Mirai fuel cell vehicle (FCV, above) next year, while hydrogen veteran Honda will out a model in 2016. But wait, aren't EVs the last word in green cars? Fuel cell cars are EVs, in a way, but you can fill one up with hydrogen in five minutes rather than waiting hours for a charge. The only way to do that in an electric vehicle (EV) is by swapping the entire battery. So why is there exactly one production FCV available to buy today, but EVs everywhere? That's a tale of efficiency, fuel, pollution and politics.
"One small fact: You are going to die," Death says in the opening of The Book Thief. "Despite every effort, no one lives forever." If you've come to terms with that (or have at least thought of death at one time or another), perhaps you've prepared for the inevitable by getting insured, saving up for those you're leaving behind and writing up a last will and testament. These days, though, you also need to decide what will happen to your online life after death. What can you do to prepare for it, and what can you do to help if someone close to you passes away?
Remember when Google said it'd store your entire genome on its servers? Well, the outfit is putting that to good use and is teaming with advocacy group Autism Speaks to sequence the genomes of some 10,000 autism patients (and their family members). In case you're wondering why, it's so we can hopefully discover the disorder's genetic origins. As Wired notes, this would allow researchers to sort through the roughly 100GB -- per person -- of genetic data in a way that's similar to how we search for things online. Except, of course, the scientists would be looking for genetic commonalities in those with Autism rather than, say, leaked images of a new iPhone.
We've seen haptic feedback in mid-air before, but not quite like this. The folks from Bristol University are using focused ultrasound in a way that creates a 3D shape out of air that you can see and feel. We know what you're probably thinking: How do you see something made of air? By directing the apparatus generating it at oil. As you do. According to the school, the tech could see use in letting surgeons feel a tumor while exploring a CT scan. Or, on the consumer side of things, to create virtual knobs you could turn to adjust your car's infotainment system without taking your eyes off the road. The tech can also apparently be added to 3D displays to make something that's both visible and touchable. If you're curious about what it looks like in action, we've embedded a video just below.
If you ask us, the idea of rewritable paper seems pretty redundant no matter how high-tech it is. Apparently that didn't cross the mind of scientists at the University of California, Riverside. See, that's where Yadong Yin and his colleagues are using special color-switching dyes (called "redox") and an ultra-violet light to put text on a physical medium. In this case, that's a glass or plastic film like the tile above. The school says that these can be rewritten some 20 times without a significant loss in contrast or resolution, and could presumably replace the dead trees we're used to printing documents on. At this point, you're probably wondering how you erase the old text off, and that's fair -- even your favorite rubber pencil-cap won't do a thing here.
What if we could hear the numerous invisible data frequencies that swirl around us every day? That's exactly what a project from hearing-impaired writer Frank Swain and artist Daniel Jones aims to do. Phantom Terrains is the proper name of the effort, and by hacking Swain's Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, the duo has transformed WiFi signals into ambient sounds. So instead of seeing the device as a prosthetic, it's used as a sort of super power. The modification allows him to stroll around and listen to the range of tones electromagnetic signals provide -- like the pattern of a network's security parameters. And of course, no one else nearby can pick them up.