Friday, January 20, 2006

Singularity! XPod Will Key Songs to Listener's Mood

The device is able to monitor a number of external variables to determine its user's levels of activity, motion and physical states to make an accurate model of the task its user is undertaking at the moment and predict the genre of music would be appropriate.

Another Venue for Emotion-Recognition Software? Prisons

Cell microphones are linked to the control centre with sounds analysed by emotion recognition software to alert guards to any violence. "If prisoners are cheering because they're watching a soccer game and someone has scored, it wouldn't pick that up," Mr Janssens said. "But if they're shouting like 'Hey, hey, there's a fight', it would detect that."

DVRs Will Shut Down When Viewer Nods Off

According to Lucent, "the sleep detector may comprise an electronic camera for forming images of the viewer, and pattern recognition means connected to the electronic camera to monitor the physical condition of the viewer. For example, the pattern recognition means determine whether the viewer's eyes are open or shut."

Canadian Computer Algorithm Detects Politicians' Bullshit

According to a new computer algorithm, Prime Minister Paul Martin, of the Liberal Party, spins the subject matter of his speeches dramatically more than Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, and the New Democratic Party leader, Jack Layton.

Coming Soon to ORs: Suspended Animation

Once repairs are complete the patients' blood would be warmed up and pumped back into their bodies, bringing them "back to life".

New Ion Design Ten Times as Powerful as Propulsion Engines


Anonymous Mike said...

The title of the article is a little misleading. The first line of the article corrects the error by explaining that the new engine is ten times more efficient. Kinda like a new gasoline engine getting 10 times the milage, not ten times the (horse)power.

The new engine is kinda cool as far as it goes, but they neglect to mention two little drawbacks of ion engines - electrical power requirements to perform the ionization, and the incredibly tiny thrust levels.

The kicker statement can be found in the second line from the very end of the article, which manages to include both drawbacks in passing:

"Given sufficient electrical power, a cluster of DS4G engines could take a crew to Mars and back, says ESA. Alternatively, the design could be used to slash the time of longer missions to Pluto, or the Kuiper belt."

First, the "Given sufficient electrical power" part. Back in the early 80's, a rather advanced ion engine required approximately 13,000 volts to operate. Working with a conservative value of 10 watts of power per square foot of solar array, you end up needing solar panels rivaling the size of the Mojave Desert to power the engine. OK, so that's a bit of an exaggeration, but they'd still be really, really big. And they'd only be useful close-in, like the afore-mentioned trip to Mars. Outward Bound, their efficiency would drop pretty rapidly as they moved away from the sun. You'd need to go nuclear in a big way to produce the necessary power over the required length of time (realistically, you'd want to do that for a Mars trip too, but nuclear powered spacecraft aren't exactly PC these days).

The second part, "...a cluster of DS4G engines..." is necessary due to the incredibly low thrust of ion engines.

Useful space engine thrust is not just about how fast you toss stuff off the back of the truck, but also about how much stuff you toss off. And ions, no matter how fast you toss 'em off, are really, really tiny, and only get tossed off one at a time. Therefore, the "cluster" of engines part.

Even with clustered engines though, they'd still be useless for getting off the planet. When used in space however, they can accelerate for months (or even years), reaching truly righteous velocities. Just so long as you remember to start decelerating at the halfway point. After all, zipping by your intended destination at a measurable (if small) percentage of the speed of light isn't really useful.

Still, 10 times the efficiency is pretty neat, even if it isn't ten times the thrust. Here's hoping they get it working in my lifetime.

January 21, 2006 8:20 AM  

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