On Tech Brief today: fast cars, oil-eating robots and shoes from the future.
• A team from Ohio State University may have just set a new record for the fastest electric car on the planet. The Buckeye Bullet was clocked on Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats at speeds averaging 307 mph. And it might have gone faster on a later run if they hadn't had a technical hitch, they say on their blog:
"Our last attempt yesterday was all set to be the best run yet, everything was looking great, but midway through the first mile, we busted our clutch. Too much torque from our motor ripped apart the half inch steel teeth that keep the motor connected to the gearbox. After a late night of trying to disassemble the motor and reinstall another type of clutch, we decided to call it: our last record will stay the best."
• Who owns the word book? Well, it depends where you use it, according to David Kravets at Wired who reports on Facebook, which is suing a website for teachers called Teachbook:
This begs the obvious question: Would Facebook sue a social-networking site for priests named Goodbook? Or a librarian-networking site named Librarybook? Barry Schnitt, a Facebook spokesman, pointed out that 'we have no complaint against Kelly Blue Book or Green Apple Books or others'."
• The Wall Street Journal breaks down the ABCs of e-books. It says the devices are changing people's habits and, contrary to expectations, people are reading more:
"Among early adopters, e-books aren't replacing their old book habits, but adding to them. Amazon, the biggest seller of e-books, says its customers buy 3.3 times as many books after buying a Kindle, a figure that has accelerated in the past year as prices for the device fell."
• The deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico has highlighted the need for better technology to deal with spills on that scale. An estimated 4.9m barrels of oil leaked into the waters of the Gulf over the course of 87 days, with only 800,000 barrels being captured. Now, researchers at MIT have unveiled technology that could help with similar disasters: swarms of oil absorbing robots:
"The Seaswarm robot uses a conveyor belt covered with a thin nanowire mesh to absorb oil. The fabric, developed by MIT Visiting Associate Professor Francesco Stellacci, and ... can absorb up to twenty times its own weight in oil while repelling water. By heating up the material, the oil can be removed and burnt locally and the nanofabric can be reused."
• Cheating at school used to involve writing answers on the palm of your hand or trying to get a glimpse of the class swots answers. But the Local reports that things have now gone hi-tech. Two schoolgirls from Stockholm have been taken to court for trying to bug their teachers. And they would have got away with it, if they had not revealed all on Facebook:
"The girls, who attend a middle school in the capital, planned to listen in on a meeting the following day at which teachers would decide their grades. They were hoping to glean information that would enable them to get their grades improved."
• And finally, it seems sportswear manufacturer Nike has been catching up on the Back to the Future trilogy. Laura June from Engadget reports on a patent it has filed for auto-lacing trainers. Next up the hoverboard and then, just maybe, a flux capacitor:
"The shoes appear to boast a charging system and lights in addition to the lacing component, and while so few patent apps ever lead to a real retail product, we're really rooting for this one."