Cuil

Google killer! Google killer! Not?
A few ex-Google employees have set up their own search engine named “Cuil” (pronounced, “Cool”). They claim, as of this posting, to have indexed 121 billion web pages. About 3 years ago, Google had claimed only 8 billion.

cuil Google’s own indexing algorithm has been very popular with the masses over the last several years, it ranks pages based on their interconnectedness and adjacency, or at least that is what I’ve come to believe. Cuil apparently uses a method that delves more deeply into the actual content of the page. In other words, nobody really knows the inner workings of the search algorithms, besides the creators themselves.

Cuil is also one of the first search services I have used that spices up the results page. Instead of a vertical link stack, it makes use of horizontal space and relevant images. This makes sense, as monitors become more and more widescreen. It also looks pretty slick.

Also, unlike Google and most of the other search engines (besides maybe Ask.com), Cuil states they will not ever record user searches. For those people very serious about privacy, this could give Cuil an edge. Honestly, I could care less, I don’t mind that Google gives me a few ads targeted at my interests. I’d much rather see good deals on computer processors than hear about a Victoria Secret blowout sale. Or would I?

Go ahead and try it out at www.cuil.com. Come back and tell me what you think.

Fusion (not fission)

Solar panels, yada yada…
Fusion is where it’s really at. Using 192 massive lasers sucking 500 trillion watts, we MAY have ignition!(source)

Fusion power is the other nuclear power. Instead of ripping atoms apart and harvesting the released energy as in fission, fusion takes two atoms and smashes them into one, releasing even MORE energy than fission. We have been using fission for many years, starting with the atomic bomb and leading to the many nuclear plants around the world. While we have touched on using fusion in hydrogen bombs, we have yet to make a viable fusion reactor.

Fusion

The most common candidates for fuel I have seen (since we don’t live in a star and can’t just use everything up to iron on the periodic table) are tritium and deuterium, both isotopes of hydrogen. If we can create a fusion reactor capable of a sustained reaction, then we find the holy grail of energy (until we get to anti-matter). Cheap (relatively) fuel, waste that is only radioactive for decades instead of milennia, very little possibility for nuclear proliferation (neither uranium nor plutonium are directly involved), no possibility for runaway chain reactions,  and the bragging rights that our electric power source uses the same reaction as the sun.

Yes, my friends, fusion. Let’s hope we get there soon so we can all forget about oil and get on with our lives. And for those that are too far from the grid, SOLAR PANELS!

Solar Powered Air Conditioning

Solar Air ConditioningI think EVERYONE has considered how solar powered air conditioning would be a perfect solution to one of our biggest energy needs. As it gets hotter, you get more cooling! Right? Well, sort of, in reality central air conditioners use so much energy (several thousands of watts) that they would quickly overwhelm a standard residential solar panel installation even during sunny summer months.
But Professor Marcelo Izquierdo of the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid realized that there is another way we could solve our solar powered air conditioning problem. Instead of using a standard air conditioner compression system, he considered a technology that has been used by industry for many decades, absorption chilling.

Instead of powering a compressor to condense coolant through a standard air conditioning unit, absorbption chilling uses waste heat (from a turbine, hot garage, sunlight) to drive a circulatory system of cooling fluids. Here is one case where more outdoor heat would result in more indoor cooling. In addition, there could be significant energy savings as a result of the process. Also, these absorption air conditioners contain no ozone depleting coolants, while certain older central air conditioning units are still full of the stuff. (source)

Just a few considerations: How large will the thermal collectors need to be? Do they need to be roof mounted like solar panels? Is absorption chilling more efficient than simply mounting solar PV panels and using their electricity output to drive standard air conditioners?

Learn more about Absorption Cooling here, and here.

Knights of the Old Republic 3 will be an MMO

For anyone who has been looking forward to another great Bioware RPG set in the StarWars Universe, here is your press release, and then some. Not only will the next KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic) game be developed by Bioware, but it will be in MMO form (Massive Multiplayer Online, think World of Warcraft).

KOTOR
The first Knights of the Old Republic was released to critical acclaim.

The first KOTOR was hailed by most critics as 2003’s RPG of the Year. It had a very fulfilling storyline and interesting gameplay. The sequel, while also fairly good, was not developed by Bioware (rather, Obsidian), and lacked the same original oomph of the first game.

I’m excited, but also a little worried. Bioware is known for exemplary single player RPGs, not MMOs. Building a Massive Multiplayer Game is a serious undertaking, and often a futile one in a world dominated by the mighty WoW. I don’t know how this KOTOR3 will continue it’s graceful storytelling and epic feel when there are 5000 protagonists on a single server. Lucas Arts will be partering with Bioware to develop the game, so what is going to happen to the older and not-nearly-as-successful-as-WoW StarWars Galaxies? For now, I’m waiting with cautious optimisim. Blizzard managed to create a successful MMO with no prior experience, and I consider Bioware to be of equivalent talent.

More from E3!

I’ve been embedding from GameSpot for most of my game videos, but I like how easy it is to give people access to GameTrailers high definition videos, so I’ll use those today. If you want to watch a video in high definition, it should be shown as an option before the movie plays.
So, E3! Lots of interesting games coming out, though most of them have already been announced. There will be another Final Fantasy. Big surprise there! There were updates abound for many games, though I wonder what is going on with Alan Wake, I haven’t seen any new information since 2006.

Otherwise, get your butts off the couch and in front of your monitors, it’s time for an hour of game trailers!

Tom Clancy’s End War, here is a trailer from last year’s Ubisoft Days. This is the first RTS that will incorporate a full voice command system. If it works out well, the voice command system could add lots of fun to the gameplay, especially considering this game will come out on consoles, where controllers generally fail in the RTS genre.

Fallout 3, finally we can return to the romantic Fallout Universe! This has been a long time in waiting, and luckily it has been picked up by Bethesda (Morrowind, Oblivion), so we can be fairly sure this game will rock.

Fable 2, I really loved the first one, as well as every other game Peter Molyneux has ever worked on. Notice the canine companion theme in this game as well. Both Fable 2 and Fallout 3 have a serious focus on working with animals.

Dead Space, a good old fashioned “Deep Space” survival story. Don’t watch this trailer if you are easily creeped out.

Mirror’s Edge, a new acrobatic take on the FPS genre. Throw in a little bit of excessive government oversight, and you’ve got soemthing that reminds me of Ghost in the Shell.

Now go get some sunlight, there will be many sequestered months ahead.

+40 to Solar Power

What if your windows could double as transparent solar panels? Free energy with your sunny view! Scientists at MIT have developed a solar concentrator in the form of a dye that can be applied to windows. The dye redirects sunlight toward the edges of the window, where solar cells pick up the energy. The obvious benefit of such a system is an unobstructed view through glass also generating solar power. Additionally, scientists claim that the dye can be applied to existing solar panels to increase efficiency significantly. (source)

PV Diagram (click to enlarge)

The dye presents a solution to certain bureaucratic barriers preventing solar energy from growing. Where I live, roof mounted solar panels are not allowed. Windows, on the other hand, are allowed. I am confident most other residential and commercial zones also permit the use of windows in buildings (hah), so I see no reason why this dye and solar cell system couldn’t be used in every building. Last time I checked, cars also had windows. Can anyone say free air conditioning? This technology will be implemented in three years, hopefully that means it will be entering the consumer market at the same time.

Hand-Held Diagnosis

House No SpeakResearchers at Harvard have developed a hand-held device capable of detecting anything, anywhere. The device’s primary application will be diagnosis of disease. It borrows technology used in MRI machines, known as NMR, or Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. In an MRI, NMR generates images by exposing the atomic nuclei in your body to magnetic fields and then bombarding them with radio waves, causing a telltale wobble in the atom detected by a current induced in special coils. The new device, instead of generating an image with this data, simply detects if the molecules are present. It does this by taking a small blood sample and carrying it through detector coils. Each coil is filled with a few magnetic nanoparticles bonded to special detector nanoparticles.

Large NMR machines have been around for awhile but have had limited application due to their low sensitivity. The new hand-held NMR device is 800 times more sensitive than its large progenitors, allowing it to detect very minute signs of affliction.

The Harvard scientist in charge of the project, Dr. Weissleder, has already filed for a patent and set up a new corporation, T2 Biosystems, in order to market the new device. Word from T2’s CEO is that the device will “hit shelves” 2 years from now. (source)

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A local commentator (Lone) brings up a good point, “Not only is this REALLY cool, but this is one of the most helpful systems I have even seen. However, wouldn’t this put some med students out of the job, sorta? I mean the only reason to have a doctor after this point is to get a prescription for whatever it is you might have…”

My take:

Technically, yes, this could theoretically do away with some diagnosis work, but doctors are still extremely important in compiling a final diagnosis and course of treatment. The practice of self-diagnosis using the internet is an indicator of what could happen. Some people may be better educated, but many others will often do significant damage to themselves or bombard their doctor with useless and often fraudulent research.

At this point, it is very easy to diagnose a broken bone, but would you attempt to set and pin it together on your own? (yes, Lone, I know you would, but I am addressing normal people).

Mercenaries 2

E3 2008 starts next week, this is a preview of one of the games that will undoubtedly be showcased.
Mercenaries was a great sandbox-style third person shooter released a few years back. It set your character (one of three possible choices) in the middle of a North Korean/UN/Chinese/South Korean conflict, playing each side in pursuit of money and reputation. I greatly enjoyed Mercenaries, which in my opinion offered more open ended fun than the GTA series (though I haven’t tried GTA4 yet).

Mercenaries 2 will be showcased at E3 2008, offering up the same three lovable, money grubbing warmongers, this time scorching earth in South America.

(the video may take awhile to load, my apologies, try refreshing the page if it wont load any video)

Microwave Death Ray or Shop at Walmart

Microwave TankGet ready for your heads to explode! The U.S. military is funding a new weapon that utilizes microwaves to deter violence called MEDUSA – Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio.  The device makes use of a “microwave auditory effect” which has been well-documented by scientists in the laboratory. Microwave beams aimed at pitchfork wielding activists or enemy combatants interact with the bones in the skull to create a debilitating, screaming noise. One might imagine MEDUSA having a “crispy flesh” side-effect, but the real damage could result from the high-intensity shock waves rocking around your brain, causing permanent neurological damage. If the microwave is used at low power, it may also be possible to transmit auditory messages directly into the skulls of consumers. While the messages would be too faint to be picked up by conscious minds, they could wreak havoc on the subconscious, causing you to yearn for a Coke from the local Walmart for no discernible reason. I hope they don’t sell this technology to advertisers: subconscious spam would ensure the downfall of humanity. Think about it, everyone (including women) getting thousands of Viagra ads beamed directly into their heads 80 times a day.

What evil hath we wrought upon ourselves?!

(source)