10 Fascinating Prize Challenges

The idea of a prize challenge to inspire inventors, scientists, adventurists and others has been around for quite some time. One of the most famous was in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh won the Orteig prize (named after a New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig) and received $25,000 for the first allied aviator to fly non-stop from New York City to Paris. All of the challenges I have compiled for this list are still waiting to be met along with over $90 million worth of prize money still up for grabs. So let’s get busy everyone!


Prize: $15,000

Challenge: Launch a satellite weighing between 9.99 and 19.99 grams into Earth orbit, and to track it for a minimum of nine orbits. But most importantly the launch budget must be within £999.99 (about $1500)

This is at the number 10 spot not because of the difficulty of the challenge but because of the rather cheap prize money. The N-Prize (N stands for Nanosatellite or Negligible Resources) was launched in 2008 by Cambridge biologist Paul H. Dear to stimulate innovation directed towards obtaining inexpensive access to space. In order to be eligible for the award, the winning team must complete the challenge before 19:19:09 (GMT) on 19 September 2011. The winning team will receive £9,999.99. (about $15,000)

Interesting Fact: Many believe the biggest challenge facing the participants of this challenge is once a satellite reaches space, it needs to decelerate and be nudged into orbit. This typically requires expensive guidance systems and multiple rocket stages. So far 18 competitors have signed up for N prize Challenge. To learn more about the N prize or you want to be the 19th competitor you can go here.


Prize: $95,000

Challenge: Fly an aircraft by human power 26 miles around two turning points in less than 1 hour.

The Kremer prizes were established in 1959 by industrialist Henry Kremer, and are given to pioneers of human-powered flight. The first two Kremer prizes were won by Dr. Paul MacCready. He won the first in 1977 when his Gossamer Condor piloted by Bryan Allen was the first human-powered aircraft to fly a figure eight around two markers one half mile apart. The second was won in 1979 when his Gossamer Albatross also piloted by Bryan Allen flew from England to France. For the marathon challenge the aircraft must start from rest and fly in a continuous flight for 26 miles in less than 60 minutes and must make a landing satisfactory to the observers. For more details and regulations for this prize challenge you can read about them here.

Interesting Fact: Another human powered flight prize still up for grabs is the Sikorsky Prize in honor of Igor Sikorsky who was highly influential in the development of helicopters. The prize challenge was established back in 1980 and will pay $20,000 to the first person who can stay aloft for 60 seconds in a human-powered helicopter and reach a height of ten feet. If you are more of a helicopter person rather than the fixed- wing type you can get your entry form here.

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Prize: $1 Million

Challenge: Reliably and effectively extend the life of ALS mice by 25%.

Prize4Life is non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the discovery of treatments and a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Prize4Life has launched two major prizes of $1 million each that aim to find solutions to some of the most critical milestones on the way to developing treatments and a cure for ALS. The first prize challenge was for the discovery of a biomarker that can reduce the time and cost of ALS clinical trials. The latest challenge is for the discovery of a therapy that can extend life in the mouse model of ALS. Both prize competitions are open to all, and anyone with an interest is encouraged to compete.

Interesting Fact: To date Prize4Life has awarded $175,000 in smaller prizes for theoretical solutions and progress made thus far in the Biomarker Prize Challenge. To learn more about Prize 4 life you can go here.

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Prize: $1 Million

Challenge: Produce an in vitro chicken-meat product that has a taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh to non-meat-eaters and meat-eaters alike.
Manufacture the approved product in large enough quantities to be sold commercially and successfully sell it at a competitive price in at least 10 states by June 30, 2012.

In vitro meat (also known as cultured meat) is the manufacturing of meat products through tissue-engineering technology. The idea is to produce animal meat without killing an animal. PETA is offering the $1 million prize and claims that cultured meat could also have financial, health, environmental advantages over traditional meat. Judging of taste and texture will be performed by a panel of 10 PETA judges who will sample the in vitro chicken prepared using a fried chicken recipe from VegCooking.com. The in vitro chicken must get a score of at least 80 when evaluated in order to win the prize. I guess it goes without saying that the judges must also declare: “tastes like chicken”.

Interesting Fact: Researchers started working with in vitro proteins in the late 1990s as a way to create food for astronauts on long space missions. Animal-free in vitro meat may also present a partial solution to world hunger. You can read the official contest rules here.

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Prize: $1.5 Million

Challenge: Create an aircraft that can average at least 100 mph on a 200-mile flight while achieving greater than 200 passenger miles-per-gallon.

NASA is providing the prize money for this challenge and is aimed to bring about the development and convergence of new technologies and innovations that can improve the community acceptance, affordability and safety of future air vehicles. Other requirements include a short take off, quiet operation, and the ability to drive around on the ground. The aircraft will need to meet stringent safety requirements as well as reasonable speed and range. Competitors may not receive government funding for their entries in this challenge.

Interesting Fact: This challenge it is expected that electric, bio-fueled and hybrid-powered aircraft will compete. The competition will not be held until the summer of 2011, so that teams have time to develop and test their aircraft. You get more details on the rules and regulations for this competition here.


Prize: $1.65 Million

Challenge: Launch a vertical takeoff/vertical landing (VTVL) rocket that achieves the total delta-v needed for a vehicle to move between the surface of the Moon and its orbit.

The lunar Lander Challenge has been an annual competition since 2006. It is funded by NASA with sponsorship from the Northrop Grumman Corporation. There are two levels to this competition. The first Level requires a rocket to take off from a designated launch area and then climb to a low fixed altitude and fly for at least 90 seconds before landing on a different landing pad. Level two requires the rocket to fly for 180 seconds before landing on a simulated lunar surface constructed with craters and boulders. The flights for level one and two must then be repeated in reverse. Qualified teams are able to register for prize-winning attempts on a first-come, first-served basis with a small crew of judges and observers traveling to meet the team at a venue of their choosing. Teams may submit registration forms through September 15, 2009. So far 3 teams have registered.

Interesting Fact: In 2008 Armadillo Aerospace of Mesquite, Texas was awarded $350,000 for successfully completing Level 1. There remains an unclaimed award of $150,000 for second place. A $1 million First Place and a $500,000 second place prize remain to be claimed by the winners of Level 2. You can watch a video of the 2008 challenge here.


Prize: $10 Million

Challenge: Design and build production-capable, 100 MPG (miles per gallon energy equivalent) vehicles that people will want to buy and that meet market needs for price, size, safety and performance.

Within the Competition Division, there are two vehicle classes; Mainstream which are typical small, five-passenger, economy mixed-use vehicles and alternative which has fewer performance and design restrictions and provides an outlet for more innovation. The alternate class has 2 separate prizes of $2.5 million, one for side-by-side seating and one for tandem seating. All will have the same requirements for fuel economy and emissions. Teams are also required to submit a business plan which clearly demonstrates an ability to produce 10,000 vehicles per year.

Interesting Fact: On April 7 2009, the X PRIZE Foundation announced that 111 teams had registered by the February 2009 deadline. By July 8, 2009, the number of teams participating had fallen to 95. The next steps are design judging and then performance testing before the challenge prizes are awarded. You can see a list of the registered teams and pictures of some of the cool cars here.


Prize: $20 million

Challenge: Demonstrate in Scottish waters a commercially viable wave or tidal energy technology that achieves a minimum electrical output of 100GWh over a continuous 2 year period using only the power of the sea.

The Saltire prize is named after the cross of St. Andrew on the Scottish national flag and is an attempt to unlock Scotland’s vast marine energy. The prize is also meant to kick start Scotland’s marine renewable energy program and help meet their target of generating 50% of their electricity demand from renewable energy by 2020. The team that is judged to have the best overall technology after consideration of cost, environmental sustainability and safety will win the prize. Entries for the Saltire Prize will stay open until June 2013 with the winner chosen two years later.

Interesting Fact: The potential for renewable energy in Scotland is considerable. They have the potential to generate 25% of Europe’s wind energy, 25% of Europe’s tidal power and 10% of Europe’s wave power. You can watch a video about the Saltire prize here.

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Prize: $25 Million

Challenge: The first person or organization to come up with a way of scrubbing greenhouse gases out of the Earth’s atmosphere to avoid global warming.

Some have estimated that around two hundred billion metric tons of carbon dioxide have accumulated in the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The Virgin Earth Challenge is intended to inspire inventors to find ways of bringing that back down again to avoid the dangerous levels of global warming and sea level rise predicted by some scientific organizations. The prize challenge was conceived and financed by Sir Richard Branson and Al Gore and will be awarded to the first plan that is capable of removing one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year for 10 years. $5 million of the prize will be paid at the start of removal operations with the remaining $20 million paid after the successful completion of the plan at the end of the 10 year period. So if you are interested in saving the earth from the latest doomsday prophesy and winning $25 million at the same time you can get the entry form and the Virgin Earth Challenge guidelines here.

Interesting Fact: One approach that has been put forth attempts to catch carbon dioxide with artificial trees. The plastic trees are coated with a carbon-catching agent, allowing the carbon to be safely captured and sequestered.


Prize: $30 Million

Challenge: The only thing you have to do here is safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, move it 500 meters over the lunar surface and send images and data back to the Earth.

The goal of this prize challenge is to inspire a new generation of private investment in hopes of developing more cost-effective technologies and materials. The first team to land on the Moon and complete the mission objectives will be awarded $20 million. The second team to do so will be awarded $5 million. Another $5 million will be awarded in bonus prizes. The competition is organized by the X PRIZE Foundation and sponsored by Google. After December 31, 2012 the first prize will drop to $15 million. The final deadline for winning this prize is December 31, 2014.

Interesting Fact: You can pick up an extra $5 million bonus prize for traveling long distances (greater than 5,000 meters), capturing images of manmade objects on the moon, detecting ice on one of the Moon’s craters, discovering the remains of Apollo program hardware, or surviving a lunar night. Before you organize your Lunar X prize team you should probably read more about the rules and competition guidelines here.


Prize: $1 Million

Challenge: Anyone who can show under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power.

This prize is offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). Randi states that both parties must agree in advance as to what conditions of the test constitute a “success” and what constitutes a “failure To claim, one must agree to the testing a protocol and must show in a preliminary test before a foundation representative that they are likely to succeed, and finally make a demonstration in a formal test in front of independent witnesses. To date, over 1,000 applications have been filed but no one has passed the preliminary test.

Interesting Fact: One of the excuses given by a famous psychic to avoid the challenge said “Randi has powerful anti-psychic powers, and his mere presence is sufficient to damp my own powers.” If you think you have the supernatural or paranormal ability to win the 1 million dollars you can start here with the official JREF application form.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2009/09/01/10-fascinating-prize-challenges/

Top 10 Wrongly Attributed Inventions

Many of us have heard of the inventions attributed to Thomas Edison that were, in fact, just improvements on others’ work, but this list goes beyond Edison (though it does include him) to other areas that you may be less likely to know about. This is a list of the many wonderful devices that have been such a huge help to man through modern history, which are not attributed to their correct inventor.


Alleged Inventor: Microsoft (with Windows)
Actual Inventor: Xerox PARC

The concept of a graphical user interface (GUI) and desktop idiom (controlled by a mouse) is most well known to people thanks to Microsoft’s Windows operating system. So much so, that many people now believe that they invented it – but they didn’t. This is a long and complicated tale but it basically goes like this: Xerox invented the system (Xerox Alto personal computer) based on earlier work by Doug Engelbart and showed Apple. Apple loved it and began development of their own system which was clearly heavily influenced by the Xerox system. They released the first commercially successful version of it on January 24, 1984 – the Macintosh. Microsoft on the other hand, did not release Windows until November 1985 and it did not allow overlapping windows (except dialog boxes) because Apple owned the patent. Microsoft’s system was also not an operating system – it was an interface which ran on top of MS DOS.

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Alleged Inventor: Henry Ford
Actual Inventor: Karl Benz

Although several other German engineers (including Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm Maybach, and Siegfried Marcus) were working on the problem at about the same time, Karl Benz generally is acknowledged as the inventor of the modern automobile. An automobile powered by his own four-stroke cycle gasoline engine was built in Mannheim, Germany by Karl Benz in 1885 and granted a patent in January of the following year under the auspices of his major company, Benz & Cie., which was founded in 1883. It was an integral design, without the adaptation of other existing components and including several new technological elements to create a new concept. This is what made it worthy of a patent. He began to sell his production vehicles in 1888. Ford did not create a self-propelled automobile until 1896 – more than ten years after Benz.

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Alleged Inventor: Thomas Edison
Actual Inventor: Wilhelm Röntgen

While it is true that Edison’s Fluoroscope became the standard in medicine, it was not the first example of x-ray photography. on 22 December 1895, Wilhelm Röntgen (a German physics professor) saw a picture of his wife’s hand on a photographic plate formed due to X-rays. His wife’s hand’s photograph (shown above) was the first ever photograph of a human body part using X-rays. His contribution to the science of X-rays and X-ray photography is so significant that they are also called Röntgen rays.

Alleged Inventor: Thomas Edison (in fact his own moving pictures concept was created by one of his staff, William Dickson)
Actual Inventor: Louis Le Prince

The clip above (the first moving picture) was recorded at 12 frames per second by French inventor Louis Le Prince. It was filmed at the home of Joseph and Sarah Whitley, in Roundhay, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England on October 14, 1888 and the people who appear are Adolphe Le Prince (Louis’s son), Sarah Whitley, Joseph Whitley, and Harriet Hartley. Ten days after filming, Sarah Whitley died. Two years later Le Prince vanished mysteriously from a train traveling between Dijon and Paris. Another two years later, Alphonse (the eldest son) was found shot dead in New York after testifying at a patent trial against Edison by the American Mutoscope Company. Edison’s first moving picture (Monkeyshines) did not appear until 1889 or 1890.


Alleged Inventor: Galileo
Actual Inventor: Hans Lippershey

The earliest known working telescopes appeared in 1608 and are credited to Hans Lippershey. Among many others who claimed to have made the discovery were Zacharias Janssen, spectacle-makers in Middelburg, and Jacob Metius of Alkmaar. The design of these early refracting telescopes consisted of a convex objective lens and a concave eyepiece. Galileo used this design the following year. In 1611, Johannes Kepler described how a telescope could be made with a convex objective and eyepiece lens and by 1655 astronomers such as Christiaan Huygens were building powerful but extremely large and unwieldy Keplerian telescopes with compound eyepieces.

Alleged Inventor: Thomas Edison
Actual Inventor: Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville

Thomas Alva Edison conceived the principle of recording and reproducing sound between May and July 1877 as a byproduct of his efforts to “play back” recorded telegraph messages and to automate speech sounds for transmission by telephone. He announced his invention of the first phonograph, a device for recording and replaying sound, on November 21, 1877. But – fully 17 years earlier (1860), Frenchman Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville invented the phonautograph. It could transcribe sound to a visible medium, but had no means to play back the sound after it was recorded. The transcriptions, known as phonautograms, were first successfully played back using computer technology in 2008 and you can hear it above – this is the voice of a woman singing “Au clair de la lune” and it was recorded 149 years ago. At the time, James Buchanan was the US President and France was governed by Emperor Napoleon III.

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Alleged Inventor: Thomas Edison
Actual Inventor: Sir Humphry Davy

In 1802, Humphry Davy had what was then the most powerful electrical battery in the world at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. In that year, he created the first incandescent light by passing the current through a thin strip of platinum, chosen because the metal had an extremely high melting point. It was not bright enough nor did it last long enough to be practical, but it was the precedent behind the efforts of scores of experimenters over the next 75 years until Thomas Edison’s creation of the first commercially practical incandescent lamp in 1879.


Alleged Inventor: Guglielmo Marconi
Actual Inventor: Nikola Tesla

In 1895, Marconi introduced to the public a device in London, asserting it was his invention. Despite Marconi’s statements to the contrary, though, the apparatus resembles Tesla’s descriptions in the widely translated articles. Marconi’s later practical four-tuned system was pre-dated by N. Tesla, Oliver Lodge, and J. S. Stone. Marconi’s late-1895 transmission of signals was for around a mile. The electromechanical engineer Nikola Tesla, who has been called the father of wireless telegraphy, was one of the first to patent a means to reliably produce radio frequency waves. Between 1895 and 1899, Tesla claimed to have received wireless signals transmitted over long distances, although there is no independent evidence to support this. According to Tesla, “The popular impression is that my wireless work was begun in 1893, but as a matter of fact I spent the two preceding years in investigations, employing forms of apparatus, some of which were almost like those of today. . . .”

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Alleged Inventor: The Wright Brothers
Actual Inventor: Richard Pearse

The Wright Brothers are generally regarded as the first to make a powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, but in fact, nine months prior to their famous takeoff on the 17th of December, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, New Zealander Richard Pearse performed the same feat in timaru, New Zealand (31 March 1903). Although it lacked an aerofoil section wing, Pearse’s flying machine resembled modern aircraft design much more than did the Wright brothers’ machine: monoplane rather than biplane; tractor rather than pusher propeller; stabiliser and elevators at the back rather than the front; and ailerons rather than wing-warping for controlling banking. It bore a remarkable resemblance to modern microlight aircraft.

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Alleged Inventor: Al Gore (note: he actually never said that he “invented” the internet; but he did say: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”
Actual Inventor: The true fathers of the Internet (the direct creators of the ARPANET from which the Internet grew) are Vinton Cerf, with Lawrence Roberts, Leonard Kleinrock, Robert Kahn.

Vinton Cerf (born June 23, 1943, pictured above) is an American computer scientist who is the “person most often called ‘the father of the Internet’.” His contributions have been recognized repeatedly, with honorary degrees and awards that include the National Medal of Technology, the Turing Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During his graduate student years, Cerf studied under Professor Gerald Estrin, worked in Professor Leonard Kleinrock’s data packet networking group that connected the first two nodes of the ARPANet, the predecessor to the Internet, and “contributed to a host-to-host protocol” for it. While at UCLA, he also met Robert E. Kahn, who was working on the ARPANet hardware architecture. Cerf has worked for Google as its Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist since September 2005.

This article is licensed under the GFDL because it contains quotations from Wikipedia.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2009/04/10/top-10-wrongly-attributed-inventions/

10 Unconventional Uses Of Nanotechnology

It’s hard to envision the future without the presence of nanotechnologies. Manipulating matter at an atomic and sub-molecular level has paved the way for major breakthroughs in chemistry, biology, and medicine. Yet, the unfolding applications of nanotechnology are far broader and more diverse than what we’ve imagined.

10Film Making

Without the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) in the 1980s, the field of nanotechnology might have remained science fiction. With its atomic precision the STM has enabled physicists to study the structure of matter in a way that was impossible with conventional microscopes.

The astonishing potential of STM was demonstrated by researchers at IBM when they created A Boy and His Atom, which was the world’s smallest animated film. It was produced by moving individual atoms on a copper surface.

The 90-second movie depicts a boy made of carbon monoxide molecules playing with a ball, dancing, and bouncing on a trampoline. Consisting of 202 frames, the animation takes action in a space as tiny as 1/1000 the size of a single human hair. To make the movie, researchers utilized a unique feature that comes with the STM: an electrically charged and extremely sharp stylus with a tip made of one atom. The stylus is capable of sensing the exact positions of the carbon molecules on the animation surface (which is the sheet of copper in this case). Therefore, it can be used to create images of the molecules as well as move them into new positions.

9Oil Recovery

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The global expenditure for oil exploration has risen exponentially during the past decade. However, efficiency in oil recovery has remained a major issue. When petroleum companies shut down an oil well, less than half of the oil in the reservoir is extracted. The rest is left behind because it is trapped in the rock where it is too expensive to recover. Luckily, with help from nanotechnology, scientists in China have discovered a way to work around this.

The solution is enhancing an existing drilling technique. The original technique involves injecting water into the rock pores where oil is located. This displaces the oil and forces it out. However, this method reveals its limitation as soon as the oil in the easily reached pores has been extracted. By then, water begins emerging from the well instead of oil.

To prevent this, Chinese researchers Peng and Ming Yuan Li have come up with the idea of infusing the water with nanoparticles that can plug the passages between the rock pores. This method is intended to make the water take narrower paths into the pores that contain oil and force the oil out. With successful field studies conducted in China, this method has proven highly efficient in recovering the 50 percent of the black gold that otherwise remains out of reach.

8High-Resolution Displays

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The images on computer screens are presented via tiny dots called pixels. Regardless of their sizes and shapes, the number of pixels on a screen has remained a determining factor of image quality. With traditional displays, however, more pixels meant larger and bulkier screens—an obvious limitation.

While companies were busy selling their colossal screens to consumers, scientists from Oxford University have discovered a way to create pixels that are just a few hundred nanometers across. This was achieved by exploiting the properties of a phase-change material called GST (a material found in thermal management products). In the experiment, the scientists used seven-nanometer-thick layers of GST sandwiched between transparent electrodes. Each layer—just 300 by 300 nanometers in size—acts as a pixel that can be electrically switched on and off. By passing electrical current through layers, the scientists were able to produce images with fair quality and contrast.

The nano-pixels will serve a variety of purposes where the conventional pixels have become impractical. For instance, their tiny size and thickness will make them a great choice for technologies such as smart glasses, foldable screens, and synthetic retinas. Another advantage of nano-pixel displays is their lower energy consumption. Unlike the existing displays that constantly refresh all pixels to form images, the GST-layer-based displays only refresh the part of the display that actually changes, saving power.

7Color-Changing Paint

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While experimenting on strings of gold nanoparticles, scientists at the University of California have stumbled upon an astonishing observation. They’ve noticed that the color of gold changes when a string of its particles is stretched or retracted, producing what one of the scientists described as a beautiful bright blue that morphs into purple and then red. The finding has inspired the scientists to create sensors out of gold nanoparticles that change colors when pressure is applied to them.

To produce the sensors, gold nanoparticles have to be added to a flexible polymer film. When the film is pressed, it stretches and causes particles to separate and the color to change. Pressing lightly turns the sensor purple while pressing harder turns it red. The scientists noticed this intriguing property not only in gold particles but also in silver where the particles change into yellow when stretched.

The sensors could serve a variety of purposes. For instance, they could be incorporated into furniture, such as couches or beds, to assess sitting or sleeping positions. Despite being made of gold, the sensor is tiny enough to overcome the cost issue.

6Phone Charging

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Whether it’s an iPhone, Samsung, or different type of phone, every smartphone that leaves the factory comes with two notorious downsides: battery life and the time it takes to recharge. While the first is still a universal problem, scientists from the city of Ramat Gan in Israel have managed to tackle the second problem by creating a battery that requires only 30 seconds to recharge.

The breakthrough was attributed to a project related to Alzheimer’s disease that was carried out by researchers from the University of Tel Aviv. The researchers discovered that the peptide molecules that shorten the brain’s neurons and cause disease have a very high capacitance (the ability to preserve electric charges). This finding has contributed to the foundation of StoreDot, a company that focuses on nanotechnologies that target consumer products. With help from researchers, StoreDot has developed NanoDots—technology that harnesses the peptides’ properties to improve the battery life of smartphones. The company demonstrated a prototype of its battery in Microsoft’s ThinkNext event. Using a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, the battery was charged from zero to full in less than a minute.

5Sophisticated Drug Delivery

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Treatments for diseases such as cancer can be prohibitively expensive and, in some cases, too late. Fortunately, several medical firms from around the world are researching cheap and effective ways of treating illnesses. Among them is Immusoft, a company that aims to revolutionize how medicines are delivered to our bodies.

Instead of spending billions of dollars on drugs and therapy programs, Immusoft believes that we can engineer our bodies to produce drugs by themselves. With help from the immune system, cells of a patient can be altered to receive new genetic information that allows them to make their own medicine. The genetic information can be delivered via nano-sized capsules injected into the body.

The new method hasn’t been tested out on a human patient yet. Nevertheless, Immusoft and other institutions have reported successful experiments conducted on mice. If proven effective on humans, the method will significantly reduce the treatment and therapy costs of cardiovascular diseases and various other illnesses.

4Molecular Communication

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There are circumstances in which electromagnetic waves, the soul of global telecommunication, become unusable. Think of an electromagnetic pulse that could render communication satellites, and every form of technology relying on them, useless. We are quite familiar with such terrifying scenarios from doomsday movies. Furthermore, this issue has been contemplated for years by researchers from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and the York University in Canada before ultimately coming up with an unexpected solution.

The researchers observed how some animal species, particularly insects, employ pheromones to communicate across long distances. After collecting the data, they were able to develop a communication method in which messages are encoded in the molecules of evaporated alcohol. The researchers successfully demonstrated the new technique using rubbing alcohol as a signaling chemical and “O Canada” as their first message.

Two devices were employed with this method including a transmitter to encode and send the message and a receiver to decode and display it. The method works by keying in a text message on the transmitter using Arduino Uno (an open-source microcontroller) that comes with an LCD screen and buttons. The controller then converts the text input into a binary sequence which is read by an electronic sprayer containing the alcohol. Once the binary message is read, the sprayer converts it into a controlled set of sprays where “1” represents a spray and “0” equals no spray. The alcohol in the air is then detected by the receiver which consists of a chemical sensor and a microcontroller. The receiver reads and converts the binary data back to text before displaying it on a screen.

The researchers were able to send and receive the “O Canada” message across several feet of open space. As a result, a number of scientists have expressed confidence in the method. They believe it might be helpful in environments such as underground tunnels or pipelines where electromagnetic waves become useless.

3Computer Storage

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During the past few decades, computers have grown exponentially in both processing power and storage capacity. This phenomenon was accurately predicted by James Moore around 50 years ago and later became widely known as Moore’s Law. However, many scientists—including the physicist Michio Kaku—believe that Moore’s Law is falling apart. This is due to the fact that computer power cannot keep up with the exponential rise of the existing manufacturing technologies.

Though Kaku was emphasizing processing power, the same concept applies to storage capacity. Luckily, it’s not the end of the road. A team of researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne are now exploring the alternatives. Led by Dr. Sharath Sriram, the team is on the verge of developing storage devices that mimic the way the human brain stores information. The researchers took the first step and built a nano film that is chemically designed to preserve electric charges in on and off states. The film, which is 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, might become the cornerstone for developing memory devices that replicate the neural networks of the brain.

2Nano Art

2 Art
The promising development of nanotechnology has earned a great deal of admiration from the scientific community. Nevertheless, breakthroughs in nanotechnology are no longer confined to medicine, biology, and engineering. Nano art is an emerging field that allows us to view the tiny world under the microscope from an entirely new perspective.

As its name implies, nano art is a combination of art and nanoscience practiced by a small number of scientists and artists. Among them is John Hart, a mechanical engineer from the University of Michigan, who made a nano portrait of President Barack Obama. The portrait, which was named Nanobama, was created to honor the President when he was a candidate during the 2008 presidential elections. Each face in Nanobama measures just half a millimeter across and is entirely sculpted from 150 nanotubes. To produce the portraits, Hart first created a line drawing of the iconic “Hope” poster. He then printed the drawing on a glass plate coated with the nanoparticles needed to grow nanotubes. Using a high-temperature furnace, it was only a matter of time before the portrait was ready for a photo shoot.

1Record Breaking

1 Book
Humanity has always sought to build the strongest, fastest, and largest things. But, when it comes to building the smallest, nanotechnology emerges on the stage. Among the tiniest things ever created using nanotechnology is a book called Teeny Ted From Turnip which is currently regarded as the world’s smallest printed book. Produced in the Nano Imaging Laboratory at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, the book measures just 70 micrometers by 100 micrometers and is made of letters carved on 30 crystalline silicon pages.

The book’s story, written by Malcolm Douglas Chaplin, features Teeny Ted and his triumph at the turnip contest at the annual county fair. Over 100 copies of the book have been published. But to buy one of them you will need a deep pocket—a single book costs over $15,000. An electron microscope will also be required to read it, adding even more to the cost.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/12/01/10-unconventional-uses-of-nanotechnology/

Top 10 Fascinating Firsts in Motoring

Cars have become an essential object for most people these days – and there are probably few (if any) people still alive who remember the days before automobiles were on the roads. This list takes a look at some of the interesting “firsts” in motoring.


In 1883, 27 year old Edouard Delamare-Deboutteville built the very first petrol driven automobile. The motivation for doing so was to find a good alternative to horse transport for his father’s cotton mill. He was helped by his father’s mechanic, Charles Malandin. They modified an 8HP stationary gas engine for use with petrol as a fuel and fitted it to a four wheeled hunting-brake. [Image: a small scale model of the car built by Delamare-Deboutteville and Malandin]


The first instance of mass-produced petrol driven motorcars occurred in the USA. The car in question was the curved-dash Olds. It was the first car to be produced in quantities greater than 10 per week, making its appearance in public in April 1901. By the end of the year the total number of cars made was 433, and this number rose to 5,508 per year in just three years. The car retailed at $650 – significantly less than other cars at the time. [Image: 1901 curved-dash Olds]


The first car radio was fitted to the passenger door of a Ford Model-T by 18 year old George Frost, president of the Lane High School Radio Club in Chicago in May 1922. In November that year, the first radio was installed in a Daimler limousine by the Marconi-phone company and displayed at the Olympia Motor Show in London, England. [Image: 1922 Ford Model-T]

No 2 3.75Hp Peugeot

The first car theft in history occurred in Paris, France, in June 1896, when Baron de Zuylen’s Peugeot was stolen by his Mechanic from the manufacturers where it was undergoing repairs. Fortunately for Baron de Zuylen, both the thief and the car were found later at the nearby town of Asnieres. [Image: 1896 Peugeot]

Place Du Havre, Paris

The first vehicle registration plates were introduced in France by the Department of the Seine under the Paris Police Ordinance of 14 August 1893, which stated: “Each motor vehicle shall bear on a metal plate and in legible writing the name and address of its owner, also the distinctive number used in the application for authorization. This plate shall be placed at the left-hand side of the vehicle – it shall never be hidden.” In a general decree of 30 September, 1901, this rule was extended to include the rest of France. [Image: Camille Pissarro’s The Place du Havre, Paris, 1893]


The first death by motoring happened on August 17, 1896, at the Crystal Palace, London, when Bridget Driscoll of Croydon was run over and her skull fractured by the wheel of the offending car. The driver (Arthur Edsell) was employed to give joy rides in a Rogers-Benz on the terrace of the Crystal Palace. Driscoll was crossing the road when she saw the automobile hurtling toward her at the speed of 4 mph. She took fright and stood still in the path of the oncoming car. The death was ruled accidental. [Image: 1896 Benz]


The first traffic lights were installed on a 22ft cast iron pillar at the corner of Bridge Street and New Palace Yard off Parliament Square in London and began operating on 10 December 1868. The installation was made at the direction of the Metropolitan Police in order to make it easier for politicians to enter the Houses of Parliament. The lights consisted of a revolving lantern and a red and green signal. The lantern was turned by hand. The sign was (not surprisingly) not popular with the general public, and one man is quoted as complaining that it was “another of them fakements to wex poor cabbies”. It remained the only traffic light in London until its removal in 1872. Traffic lights were not re-introduced to London for another 50 years. [Image: site of the world’s first traffic light]


The first traffic signs were erected in Britain in December 1879. They were installed by the Bicycle Union and consisted of a wooden post with an enameled iron plate bearing the warning: “To cyclists – this hill is dangerous”. In 1901 the first signs directed specifically at motorcar drivers were introduced in Gloucester. The first internationally standardized signs (a red triangle surrounding a plate with an agreed symbol) were agreed upon in 1909 in France. [Image: first motoring traffic sign design, still in use today]


The first parking meter was devised by Carlton Magee, the editor of a leading Oklahoma City Newspaper. Magee was the chairman of a committee set up in 1933 to inquire into methods of imposing stricter parking controls in town. Magee created the Dual Parking Meter Company (so called because of the fact that the meters served two purposes: parking control and revenue generation). The first meters came in to service on July 16, 1935. [Image: Magee’s parking meter – the first in the world]


The first bulk-storage petrol filling station was operated by the Automobile Gasoline Co., founded by Harry Grenner and Clem Lessing at St Louis, Mo. in 1905. The petrol was dispensed through a garden hose connected to a gravity-feed tank. The first station with a forecourt and projecting canopy (the form mostly in use today) was opened by Standard Oil of California in Seattle, Washington, in 1907. [Image: the first gas station – best quality copy available on the internet]

Contributor: Maman

Read more: http://listverse.com/2008/07/12/top-10-fascinating-firsts-in-motoring/

10 Unsettling Facts About Microsoft

Everyone’s heard the jokes about how evil Windows is, though admittedly most of these snarky comments come from Apple users. Here are 10 facts about Microsoft that are actually pretty disturbing.


1- lawsuits
All companies tend to be slightly trigger-happy when it comes to suing other people. But Microsoft really decided to sink low when they sued a 17-year-old boy. The multimillion-dollar company threw a fit in 2004 when Mike Rowe created his own website and named it MikeRoweSoft, as he thought it would be a clever, but innocent, pun. Microsoft felt differently and threatened to sue Rowe for copyright infringement. Mike Rowe asked for a settlement if he was forced to give up his website, and Microsoft offered him a measly sum of $10. He countered with $10,000, claiming that he was offended by their suggestion.

That’s when things got ugly, and the press and public continued to present Microsoft in an awful light. Eventually, Microsoft relented and agreed to not only reimburse Rowe, but offer him a visit to Microsoft headquarters, Microsoft training, and an Xbox with a selection of games.


2- racist2

It’s true that racism is still, sadly, all around us even to this day. But it’s even worse when big names like Microsoft send out racist messages—even if it’s claimed to be an innocent mistake. In 2009, the Polish version of Microsoft’s Business Productivity Infrastructure was published with one key difference from the American version: Polish users noticed that an African-American man had been Photoshopped out and a Caucasian man had been placed on the home page of the website instead. The image was quickly returned back to its original form and Microsoft apologized for their “mistake,” but the damage was already done.

While some people have tried to justify it as Microsoft’s attempt at “promoting interracial harmony,” others believe that it is more likely that, since the Polish audience is predominantly white, someone thought that having a person of color in the picture would be a bad idea.


3- charity
People like to idolize Bill Gates as the college dropout who went on to make a multibillion-dollar company. But just as Microsoft’s reputation isn’t exactly squeaky clean, neither is its creator’s. In 2013, an investigation took place into one of the charities he had helped create, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which admittedly has funded several admirable projects. But the foundation’s trust has also made investments in groups such as The GEO Group, a private prison company with a mile-long list of offenses, such as one of their juvenile facilities having its walls covered in feces, the inmates (all minors) abused, and locked emergency exits. Even the state of Texas won’t fund them.

But if you think that’s bad, it gets even worse. Bill Gates’s charity also invests in the defense contractor group DynCorp, which has been charged with several incidents of abuse of human rights, up to and including sexually molesting Afghan boys and paying them to dress up as girls and dance. They were also accused of being involved in a sex-slave ring in Bosnia, where the company’s employees were charged with raping girls only 12 years old.


4- sexist
When video games were first created, they were definitely seen as a stereotypical “guy” pastime for a long period of time. But the number of girl gamers is astounding. In fact, a recent study showed that around half of all current video game players are women. Unfortunately, girl gamers are often persecuted and excluded, and Microsoft hasn’t exactly been helpful with that.

In a recent ad, Microsoft insinuated that women hated video game systems and that their men needed to beg them to let one into the house. In an attitude fresh from the 1950s, the ad suggested cheerfully, “You’d rather knit than watch me slay zombies, but hear me out on this. Xbox One is actually for both of us. Seriously.” The outraged criticism wasn’t exactly a surprise.


5- bribes
Bribery’s not a new problem—politicians and organizations get bribed by companies all the time, and now, in the Internet age, so do YouTube stars. It was recently discovered that Microsoft secretly paid some of the most popular YouTube hosts to talk about the Xbox One. They would pay $3 for every 1,000 views the channel received if they incorporated 30 seconds of playing an Xbox game. Considering that these channels get millions of views, that’s actually a lot of cash.

And of course, the YouTubers were also forbidden from saying anything negative about Microsoft or revealing what was going on. Technically it’s not illegal, but it definitely hurt the reputation of both parties involved, especially the YouTube stars who people tended to trust more. The details of this dirty little agreement got out when a full copy of the legal document was posted on the Internet. In the end, Microsoft got themselves busted by their own creation.

5Privacy Violations

6- NSA
Thanks to Edward Snowden, the NSA got itself into some pretty hot water regarding the Internet surveillance they had been performing on completely unaware citizens. Out of all the companies accused of assisting the NSA and betraying the privacy of their users, Microsoft was considered one of the biggest offenders. Reports showed that Microsoft helped the NSA override the security measures on Microsoft Outlook, allowing them to read through hundreds of chat conversations and emails. They also allegedly allowed the NSA to view thousands of Skype video chats (Microsoft purchased Skype in 2011).

Microsoft continues to deny these claims, insisting that the privacy of its users has always been its chief concern. The only information Microsoft was willing to reveal was that they had received 6,000 to 7,000 criminal warrants, subpoenas, and orders in a six-month period. They also pleaded for the federal government to make their actions clearer to avoid further incidents like this.

4Sexual Discrimination

7- gay
Besides politics or religion, nothing gets people steamed up like issues regarding sexuality. Microsoft was heavily criticized for its treatment of the LGBT community—they banned users of their games from using the word “gay” in any of their tags, even if they were describing their own sexuality. One member was banned simply because his name was “TheGAYERGamer,” and an executive in the Xbox community referred to the title as “a form of implied sexual innuendo.”

But things became extremely ugly after Xbox Live ended up banning “Teresa,” a gamer who had identified herself as a lesbian in her profile info and who had been repeatedly harassed online, with other players stalking her and saying that they “didn’t want to see that crap.” To their credit, Microsoft now states that they are working with GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in order to make sure that everyone can use their products fairly.


8- censored2
Nowadays, China censors everything—in fact, their system of Internet censorship is one of the best in the world and has earned the nickname “The Great Firewall.” But it’s definitely disgusting when American companies help them do it. To be fair, Microsoft isn’t the only company that’s helped China cut its people off from the rest of the world—so have Google, Yahoo, and AOL. Microsoft in particular will block Chinese users from certain searches or blog titles that include sensitive political topics.

Thankfully they’re not as bad as Yahoo, who actively reported people to the Chinese government. Activist groups such as Human Rights Watch have let all of these groups have it, announcing that it is “ironic that companies whose existence depends on freedom and expression have taken on the role of censor.” Unfortunately, none of these companies seem to have any interest in challenging these rules, even the rules that aren’t technically legally binding.

2Pervert Santa

9- santa
Some kids love to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him all about what they want for Christmas. Others burst into tears at the site of jolly old St. Nick. With regards to this particular Santa, they might have good reason to. In 2007, Microsoft thought it would be a good idea to create a virtual Santa that children would be able to talk to. And it probably would have been a great idea, if it weren’t for the fact that the old man started getting a little bit off topic—it wasn’t long before he went from talking about presents to lecturing about sexual acts.

The first time this problem occurred, Santa was talking to two girls aged 11 and 13 who were asking him about pizza. Besides the specific, crude sexual acts that Santa tried to discuss, some users could also prompt the big man to expound upon his criminal past and to repeatedly cuss the users out. Microsoft took it down as quickly as possible.

1Labor Contracts

Microsoft Prepares To Unveil Surface Tablet At New Times Square Store
It seems hard to believe that Microsoft could be so heavily criticized for its labor practices, considering its permanent workers are known to enjoy wonderful corporate treatment. However, that’s a surprisingly small percentage. Believe it or not, Microsoft has been referred to as a “Velvet Sweatshop,” a term first coined in a Seattle magazine and a term which its own employees now use regularly. Even though Microsoft insists that its employees get the best of everything, reports have suggested that workers are often highly overworked throughout their stay.

And if you ever want to leave Microsoft? Well, that’s even more of a mess. Microsoft uses controversial forced retention tactics—which basically means that if you try to quit, they’ll sue you for everything you’re worth. They’ve also been accused of cutting employee’s health benefits. Many of the employees who do manage to quit make their way toward companies that compete against Microsoft, like Google and Yahoo.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/10/04/10-unsettling-facts-about-microsoft/

10 Notable Buildings People Hated

All buildings were once new. And all building designs were once new. But some designs, and the buildings that resulted from them, were so shocking to the public that it took grit to get them built, and time for them to be accepted. Here are ten such buildings, in no order…


The Washington Monument was initially planned shortly after George Washington died, in 1799. But plans were interrupted by the War of 1812 and a lack of funding. In 1833, the Washington National Monument Society was formed to raise money to build the memorial. The winning design was submitted by Robert Mills, an architect from Charleston, South Carolina. For cost reasons, only the obelisk from his proposed Greco-Roman temple-like edifice was approved. It drew immediate criticism. “A stalk of asparagus” some called it. “The big furnace chimney on the Potomac Flats”, said the New York Tribune. Construction began, but was halted by the Civil War. The half-finished monument stood like a stump for years afterwards. Mark Twain derided the “memorial chimney”, with livestock “dozing in the holy calm of its protecting shadow.” Work resumed in 1877, and the monument was finally dedicated by President Chester A. Arthur on February 21, 1885, to broad public acclaim. But some still dissented. A reviewer in the American Architect and Building News said, “It is to be regretted that ages are likely to elapse before the monument will fall down.”

Eiffel-Tower-Paris-215498 1024 683

The French government planned to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution with a symbol of France’s industrial prowess. The plan was to build the highest tower in the world. Of all the plans submitted, the judges unanimously chose Gustav Eiffel’s graceful lattice of girders, anchored by four piers. When the plan, along with its proposed site in the residential neighborhood of Champ de Mars was made public, the protest was immediate. Eminent artists, including Guy de Maupassant and Alexandre Dumas, signed an angry letter to the minister of public works. “We protest with all our strength the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is without doubt the dishonour of Paris. Everyone feels it, everyone says it, everyone is profoundly saddened by it.” As the tower progress, nervous neighbors feared that it would attract lightning, or topple onto their homes, and sued to stop construction. The city would take no responsibility, so Eiffel himself insured the neighbors, and work resumed. Parisians watched in awe & horror as it went up, calling it an “elephant”, a “giraffe”, a “hulking metal beast crouched on all fours”. After it finally opened, it became a huge hit, even with the protesting artists. All except de Maupassant. He hated it so much that he often ate lunch in the tower’s second floor restaurant, which was the only point in the city where he couldn’t see “this tall skinny pyramid of iron ladders, this giant and disgraceful skeleton.”


The Fuller Building, immediately nicknamed the Flatiron Building because of its narrow, triangular shape, was, at 23 stories, the highest building in New York, north of City Hall when it was built, in 1902. Designed by architect Daniel Hudson Burnham, and constructed by contractor George B. Fuller, it incorporated many then-new elements of skyscrapers, such as a load supporting steel skeleton, and a masonry veneer. The Madison Square neighborhood in which it was erected was quite stylish at the time, and the imposing building drew ire from the public. An architectural journalist said that the building “is at present quite the most notorious thing in New York, and attracts more attention than all the other buildings now going up put together”. Although fears that strong winds would push the building over proved unfounded, the shape of the building created strong downdrafts. The New York Herald reported how “women were inconveniently blown about and paper money lost from their pockets.” The gusts also, scandalously, revealed the womens ankles. Police chased away male rubberneckers by shouting “Twenty-three skiddoo!”, meaning “leave Twenty-third street.” One blast of wind blew a messenger boy into Fifth Avenue, where he was killed by a passing automobile. Windstorms around the building broke windows. Yet despite all this, the building became a popular tourist attraction, and is now revered as New York’s oldest skyscraper.


In 1946, architect Philip Johnson bought land in New Canaan, Connecticut, and, over the next three years, built a minimalist, flat-roofed house made of huge sheets of glass. The neighbors were angry because the modernist design sharply clashed with the clapboard colonial houses the area was known for. Some newspapers published mocking verse: “It takes a heap of livin’ in a place to make it home. / And I wish those guys like Johnson would take their plans and roam.” Actually, the house was not visible from the road. In one of the first American usages of feng shui, he situated the house on a rocky shelf, halfway down a hill. “The good spirits will be caught by the hill that’s behind the house; the evil spirits will be unable to climb the hill below the house,” Johnson explained. “My house has beautiful wallpaper,” he said, referring to the New England countryside rolling away from every viewpoint. But the house attracted unwanted attention. Birds crashed into it. Locals threw rocks at it, prompting Johnson to retaliate in kind, landing him in some trouble. As the house was being built, crowds of people came to sightsee, causing traffic problems in the small town, and requiring a police presence. Some residents called it “the desecration of the New Canaan countryside.” Johnson finally made peace with New Canaan by opening his home for a tour once a year. The proceeds went to benefit the community nursery school.


In 1978, architect Frank O. Gehry pondered the house that his wife had found for them to live in. It was a simple two-story pink bungalow in a quiet neighborhood in Santa Monica, California. “It was just a dumb little house with charm, and I became interested in trying to make it more important. I became fascinated with creating a shell around it.” Create a shell he did. He boxed in the house with corrugated sheets of metal, lengths of chain-link fencing, and unfinished plywood, all cut into odd angular shapes. The neighbors predictably complained. One said that it was a dirty thing to do in one’s front yard. “If he were a poet, he’d be writing smutty jingles.” But Gehry has said that he merely used the familiar materials of his own middle-class childhood in an original way, to create a house that is also a work of art. Gehry continued to add to it, but the neighbors hated its unfinished appearance. One neighbor even fired a shot at it. But the house won national architectural awards, and as the years rolled on its fame won it a measure of local acceptance.

Neuschwanstein 1

This familiar castle, which looks like it came out of a fairy tale, caused considerable uproar when it was first built. “What, is the king mad?” was one typical reaction. In the Middle Ages, castles were for nobility and their family and retainers. But King Ludwig II of Bavaria built Neuschwasntein, in 1869, only for himself. He picked a remote site 6,000 feet up in the Alps, atop the ruins of an older castle, so that he wouldn’t be troubled by his government’s ministers visiting to discuss matters of state. The storybook design was inspired by his admiration for–and friendship with–Richard Wagner, and his grand operas. In fact, the Singer’s Hall was modeled directly after a scene in Parsifal. Many other idiosyncratic–and expensive–quirks of Ludwig’s personality were expressed in the interior design. He was so busy with the construction of the castle that he barely paid attention to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, not even attending the victory celebrations. After he moved in, he demanded more and more public money for additions and more castles, even hatching a plan to rob the Rothschild Bank of Frankfurt at one point. As creditors dunned him for his bills, and the commoners protested his spendthrift ways, he withdrew to Neuschwanstein, never appearing in public again. Before he could be declared legally insane, and the throne be given to a regent, Ludwig was found dead in a small lake, in 1886. Contrary to his wishes, Neuschwanstein was not demolished upon his death, and is today Germany’s most popular castle.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

“A toilet bowl?” “A hangar for flying saucers?” These were some of the reactions to Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for the museum housing the art collection of Solomon Guggenheim. It was Wright’s first museum, and his first major building in New York City, which he disliked as “a forest of skyscrapers”. Wright was influenced by Guggenheim’s collection of abstract, modernist Wasilly Kandinsky paintings. The design featured a spiral topped with a dome. This prompted some critics to call it “an inverted potty” to “a gigantic snail shell”. And, indeed, Wright was inspired by the spirals of the chambered nautilus. Construction was due to begin in 1946, but was delayed by squabbles with locals and artists, until 1956. Guggenheim had died in 1949, but Wright was on hand to oversee the construction. The New York press continued to deride the building: a marshmallow, a corkscrew, an upside down washing machine. One of the construction workers called it “screwy. The whole joint goes round and round.” “It is a freak that astonishes passersby. It bears no relationship to its neighbors”, wrote journalist Brendan Gill. Another writer called it “Wright’s joke on New York.” Yet, when the Guggenheim museum opened to the public, in October, 1959, several months after Wright’s death, the giftshop sold far more cards picturing the museum than any of the artworks, therein. It has since become one of the most popular museums in New York.


Years ago, when I was in Paris on a student trip, I visited the Pompidou Cultural Center. I looked at its facade, all multicolored piping, and thought, “this thing is a giant hemorrhoid.” I was not alone. “An architectural King Kong.” “The back of a refrigerator, enormously enlarged.” were some other reactions. An obscure architectural duo, Englishman Richard Rogers and Italian Renzo Piano, won a competition, in 1971, to design the cultural center. This, by itself, was enough to incense the French, having two unknown foreigners be charged with building the next major Parisian landmark. At a public hearing one woman was so outraged she had to be removed by police. Things got more exciting when the plan was made public. It would be made of glass and steel, but all of its piping, ductwork, elevators and even wiring would be exposed on the exterior. The seven-story high-tech edifice was to be situated in a medieval neighborhood, full of crooked, gabled, low-rise buildings, a mere block away from the oldest surviving house in Paris, built in 1407. Rogers and Piano worked under a deadline of 1975 for completion. They were hampered by the fact that they hadn’t worked out the details of the concrete substructure, and had to do so as they went along. Then, in 1974, Georges Pompidou died, and his conservative successor Valery Giscard d’Estaing had to be strongly persuaded to let work continue on the project of his former political rival. As the structure took shape, complaints poured in. Residents filed “nuisance allegations” against the design jury. Artists filed lawsuits. The old petition against the Eiffel Tower was recycled by contemporary artists, in opposition to “this useless monster.” At its opening, in 1977, novelist Anthony Burgess called it “a $200 million erector set”. But it drew huge crowds to its public spaces, and won critical praise in the art press. It drew one more criticism during renovation in the late 90s: from original designer Richard Rogers. He disliked the fact that the interior was becoming more enclosed, and that the public now had to buy tickets to ride the exterior escalators.

Jay Walker's Library

Early in the 20th century, industrial tycoon Andrew Carnegie bequeathed more than a thousand public library buildings, to communities all across America. In a small southern town I once lived in, the little Greek marble building still survived as a flower shop. The much larger Carnegie library, in Minneapolis, served until the late 1970s, when it was obvious that it was too small for the population, and needed expensive physical and electronic upgrades. Plus, in the energy-conscious Seventies, it was hard to keep heated in winter. So, when architect David Bennett won the job of designing a new public library, he decided to make most of it underground. The building would extend several stories below the surface, with a low, cubist plaza occupying the surface of the lot. Although he designed in extra-high ceilings and even a sunken courtyard garden, people complained that the interior was claustrophobic. The librarians complained about how stuffy and bunker-like it was, and joked about giving flashlights to the patrons. One critic called it “more like a mine shaft than a civic building.” It didn’t help matters that it leaked, the heating was inadequate, the above-ground plaza became a hangout for vagrants and sk8tr punks, and passersby often didn’t even know the library was there. Another architect, Francis Bulbulian, was hired, in 1995, to fix it. He modified the windows and the courtyard so that more sunlight would get in, installed a multi-story bookdrop made from two children’s spiral slides, and erected seven-foot-high steel letters on the plaza: L-I-B-R-A-R-Y. After the newly renovated facility was re-opened, the complaints abated, and the community finally seemed to embrace it.


“Will somebody please tell me what’s the matter with McDonald’s?” asked humorist P. J. O’Rourke, back in the 80s. “It’s not like the Europeans don’t line up by the millions to eat there. Maybe McDonald’s food isn’t the best thing for you, but roasted goose liver smooshed up with truffles isn’t either. And has anyone ever smoked a joint and had a “pate’ de foie gras” attack?” The familiar golden arches are a target for snobs and anti-Americans worldwide. “We don’t want one of these restaurants on every street corner in France,” asserted one French vandal. Whenever the G-20 economic summit comes to town, anti-globalist rioters are right there, with McDonalds at the top of their list of businesses to trash. Yet, McDonalds began as a family restaurant founded by two brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald, in San Bernardino, California. Their innovative restaurant model called for a kitchen open to view, exceptional cleanliness, quick service and cheap meals. The brothers soon felt the urge to create a chain of the restaurants, and hired architect Stanley Meston to create a distinctive design for the buildings. The first McDonalds with the signature Golden Arches arcing over the whole building opened in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1953. The rest of the corporate story, of how salesman Ray Kroc took the franchise to international ubiquity, is familiar or readily available elsewhere. But as the restaurants spread, protests against the tackiness of the buildings did, too. Kroc hired architect Donald Miller to tone down the design. He lowered the arches, eventually reducing them to a logo on the sign. As time went on, and the company heeded protests, restaurants were designed to blend in with the local architecture–adobe blocks in the West, for instance. So, although progressives howl against McDonalds as loudly as ever, the buildings themselves are no longer an issue, save for the arches on the sign.


One from the Too Good To Check File. When King William III (some say King Charles II, or Queen Anne) was brought to view the newly completed St. Paul’s Cathedral, he is supposed to have exclaimed to architect Christopher Wren that it was “awful, pompous and artificial”. The words have shifted meaning over the centuries, and in modern English we would say something like “awe-inspiring, magnificent and technically accomplished.” Yet, this linguistic gem is probably apocryphal, possibly originating as a funny in a 1960s lecture by Harvard philosopher John Rawls. Too bad!

Read more: http://listverse.com/2010/10/21/10-notable-buildings-people-hated/

Top 10 Typography Crimes

Graphic design is a burgeoning industry. With the rise and ubiquity of the Internet in the last decade, web design especially has become prevalent. Other forms of graphic design include print, mobile, illustration, and typography. Typography refers to any design involving the arrangement of letters or alphabetical symbols in a space. Every design geek has taken a course in typography and knows the vast importance of it, yet basic type-crimes (errors or faux-pas in typography design) can still be seen virtually everywhere. While many are quick to dismiss the rules of graphic design, Ron L. Peters in his book Do Good Design emphasizes just how important good design is in our society: “Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future. Design is therefore responsible for the world our children will live in.” Practicing good design is of utmost importance, and good typography is crucial to good design as a whole. This list takes a look at 10 commonly occurring type-crimes:

(Note: to clear up further confusion, a “font” is a specific weight or style such as Arial 16 Bold, whereas “typeface” refers to the broader, all-encompassing Arial).


In essence, a good font should be left alone. It can be made bigger or smaller to accommodate the space it occupies, but it should always retain its original ratio. It should not be stretched, compressed, skewed, or any other applicable distortion. As a rule of thumb, if the font looks pixelated, something is wrong. The program Adobe Illustrator is better than Photoshop in this way, because it uses Vectors as opposed to pixels — so your type should never look pixelated in Illustrator. Overall, type is supposed to look crisp and harmonious, not tweaked into oblivion.


Signals such as: bold, underline, all caps, oblique, and italics are all uniquely different ways to add emphasis to type. Italic type for example is reminiscent of the strokes in calligraphy, and it has a cursive form as well as a Roman influence (named italic in part because it was developed in Italy). Originally, it was often used to help people save money, as it required less space. When the typewriter came out, underline largely replaced italics. Oblique is by some accounts a type-crime in and of itself; it is simply slanted type and not the actual cursive, true italic form. Signals should only be used when appropriate, and should not be overdone.


One of the most common type-crimes; designers will cringe upon hearing these words. The terms are often used interchangeably, although they are not the same: an orphan is a lone word at the end of a paragraph, and a widow is a word or part of a sentence that ends at the bottom of a paragraph and carries over onto the top of the next paragraph. They are considered type-crimes because they create unaesthetic gaps in text and make it more difficult for the reader.


There is a difference between hatch marks and quotation marks. Hatch marks are used to denote feet and inches, and often surface in math (indicative of equal length for triangles in geometry). Hatch marks should not be used in lieu of Quotation marks. Quotation marks should also hang outside of the text. In a clean design, the Quotation marks remain outside.


Technically more of a grammatical error, yet just as applicable to design as it is to grammar. Hyphens are used to hyphenate compound words, to break words, and between non-continuing numbers such as phone numbers. En dashes are used to connect continuing or inclusive numbers, example: time and dates, page numbers, and so forth. Em dashes are used to denote a sudden break in thought that causes the end of a word. They enclose words or phrases and create strong breaks in the structure of sentences. Interesting note: the “en dash” received its name for being the length of a standard sized letter “n,” and likewise the em dash with the letter “m.”


Designers will be familiar with the term “river,” which is what happens when type is poorly justified — large unsightly gaps will appear throughout the paragraph — the end result looking like several rivers of white space are flowing throughout the text. These often appear in newspapers.


A good designer can always find a way to make a paragraph look relatively straight and crisp at the edges. If a paragraph has lines sticking out and the margins are uneven (most margins are flushed left, meaning the rags would be sticking out to the right), it can be distracting and unsightly.


Kerning refers to the amount of space between letters in a word. A word may look untidy due to too much space between some letters, or not enough. Tracking is essentially kerning but applied to the entire sentence, paragraph, or body of text, and not just certain letters within the word. “Leading,” (from the literal lead bars that used to be in the press) refers to adjusting the space vertically between lines of text. Any design program worth its money will have simple commands to increase or decrease the kerning, tracking, and leading of words and sentences. (In most Adobe programs you simply highlight a word and press alt + the arrow keys).


There is great debate about the drop shadow. It is said that when a certain New York Times magazine printed their headline with drop shadow, hundreds of designers called in the following day to the extent that the NY Times had to disconnect their phone temporarily. While it is a way to draw emphasis to type, many are unsatisfied with its unnatural, gimmicky feel. Similar to #10 on the list, embossing and drop shadows are text effects that are best left omitted.


Potentially a controversial item on the list, there are several typefaces that are widely believed by designers to be rubbish and never to be used. Examples include Comic Sans, Papyrus, Jokerman, and Hobo. Even the ubiquitous Times New Roman is frowned upon by many designers who believe it is best kept to its original purpose: newspapers. Many of these typefaces such as Papyrus (famously used in James Cameron’s Avatar) have drawn a lot of scrutiny for being misused and overused. One font in particular known for its overuse is Helvetica. So prevalent in fact is the overuse of Helvetica, that in 2007 a documentary film came out about it. It is a great film and the author of this list highly recommends you see it!

Read more: http://listverse.com/2012/06/24/top-10-typography-crimes/

10 Ways Urine Can Shape The Future

While people generally don’t think much about what role pee plays in advancing humanity, the answer may surprise you. Scientists believe that the uses of urine may just be as endless as its supply. With technology ever advancing and our knowledge of science increasing, scientists are finding more and more ways to use this golden resource to achieve a golden age.

10 Robot Blood

Who knew our future overlords will be powered by our very own bladders? The guys at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory have created an artificial heart that can power the robots of the future.

As of 2010, there are an estimated 8.6 million robots in the world, employed in different industries and serving different functions. Depending on their purpose, robots are traditionally charged with solar energy, battery power, or electricity. Peter Walters and his colleagues from the University of Bristol have taken a slightly more unconventional route, creating a robot that can charge itself with a urinal.

The scientists built an artificial heart that pumps a regulated supply of human urine into microbial power stations, which then break down urine and convert it into electricity. This artificial heart was able to run a robot called “EcoBot” using nothing but human urine. These robots have been able to function before on other biodegradable materials, but this is the first time that an EcoBot was sustained with power using an artificial heart that pumps urine. The researchers are inspired to make improvements on this pee-pumping heart and hope to see these urine-powered EcoBots being used in the future, especially in green projects such as monitoring pollution.

9 Tracking Climate Change

The rock hyrax, locally known in Africa as pelele, is a mammal of the Hyracoidea order. Small and furry with a close resemblance to a guinea pig, the rock hyrax spends most of its time bathing under the sun or eating grass and leaves. At first glance, the rock hyrax doesn’t seem to be a very special animal – except that its urine will be proven an essential tool for studying climate change.

Whole families of rock hyraxes tend to pick a favorite spot to pee and their quick-drying discharge often capture artifacts of a particular time period—such as pollens, dried leaves, and air bubbles—that provide clues as to how the climate changed during that time. Researchers from France’s Montpelier University studied these dried urine layers and compared them with existing theories about changes in our climate past. They concluded that the urine was consistent in accurately telling the story of how our climate really changed over the years, like how ice glaciers retreated in Europe during the end of the last ice age and how lakes of melted water formed after the planet has warmed. Because of its precision in detailing our climate past, the researchers are hoping that the rock hyrax urine will be a useful tool in making better predictions of future deviations in the climate.

8 A Solution To The Water Crisis

As disgusting as it is, we’ve become inured to images of drinking urine. Aside from it being Bear Grylls’s claim to Internet fame, astronauts regularly recycle urine to quench themselves during manned missions to space. However, scientists warn that drinking urine may no longer be the exclusive territory of TV shows or space shuttles. As our freshwater supply runs dry at an alarming pace, scientists advise that we should also begin treating and drinking our own urine as soon as possible.

With new technology that can treat urine less expensively and more efficiently, the US National Research Council says that reclaiming it for reuse may potentially be a long-term solution to the water crisis. While urine naturally ends back into our water reservoirs, it takes a very long time for it to get back into our natural water system. Directly treating urine from our sewage systems would be much speedier than waiting for it to go back to our waters. The council even suggests advantages of processing urine over freshwater—the health risks of recycling urine may be significantly lower than extracting water from our present sources. We may even be able to recover phosphorus from our urine, which is also currently a dwindling resource.

We are already starting to see a future of reprocessed pee unfold. Because of the harsh drought that has affected many towns in the state, the Texan town of Big Spring has already resorted to reprocessed urine to supply its 27,000 residents with potable water.

7 Fighting Pollution

According to the UN Weather Agency, our levels of CO2 are at an all-time high. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2012 was at 393.1 parts per million (ppm), 2.2 ppm higher than in 2011. It is predicted that in 2016, the number will reach a staggering 400 ppm, far beyond the 350 ppm that scientists say is the ceiling for a safe level of CO2.

CO2, the main agent of global warming, occurs naturally in the planet. However, human activities like factory work and car emissions multiply our CO2 emissions at a rate that is more than what Mother Earth can take. This makes our planet warmer at a pace we can barely follow, melting our glaciers and drying our lakes before our very eyes. Thankfully, scientists from Andalusia discovered that global warming can be staved off by a bizarre brew of urine and olive waste water. They have found out that this curious cocktail can absorb CO2 when exposed to the air.

The researchers explain that each molecule of urea in urine produces one mole of ammonium bicarbonate and one mole of ammonia, which then absorbs one mole of CO2 from the air, lessening our excessive output of the greenhouse gas. When the CO2 is absorbed, urine produces another mole of ammonium bicarbonate, which can then be used to fertilize our farms. The olive waste water’s role is to prevent the urine from going stale, maximizing the urine’s use until it is saturated with gas. This unique concoction can be strategically installed in chimneys where CO2 emissions usually pass through. A special filling and emptying mechanism can also be added to make replacement of this fluid more convenient.

6 Pee-Powered Smartphones

About half of Americans now use smartphones. These high-end cell phones that can do almost anything won’t be going away soon and it’s only a matter of time before we have to address the issue of their energy consumption.

Thankfully, Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory is on the job. Earlier this year, he and his team developed a method of charging smartphones using urine. Allowing urine to pass through microbial fuel cells (MFC), which break down our pee into electricity, the researchers were able to power a mobile phone long enough to send messages, browse the Internet, and make a brief phone call.

While this urine-converting process is still in its infancy and can only produce small amounts of electricity, the researchers and their supporters are optimistic about its potential future value. The Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation—who has funded further improvements on this technology—hopes that with pee-powered smartphones, we can expect a more sanitized and energy-efficient future.

5 Urine-Powered Cars

In the past decade, alternative cars—those that run on fuels like hydrogen rather than fossil fuel—caught the public’s eye, with big car companies parading the possibility of a future of low cost vehicles running on fewer pollutants. However, alternative cars seem to always encounter problems that hinder them from even making it to the market. While the natural gas is abundant in our universe and can be derived from water, it’s difficult to make hydrogen in large enough quantities because of the energy required to do so.

To solve this, Dr. Gerardine Botte of Ohio University devised an electrolyzer that can extract hydrogen from urine using lesser energy. With this technology, Dr, Botte had achieved the potential to power cars using hydrogen from our pee. She explains that, because hydrogen is less bound to urine than it is to water, her devise only requires 0.37 volts of energy—or less than half the energy of an AA battery—to extract it from urea. Water, on the other hand, requires a significantly more powerful energy at 1.23 volts for its hydrogen to be separated. With the tiny amount of energy needed to separate hydrogen from urea and our urine supply of 64 ounces per person, a future of vehicles running on bladder power is not far from the impossible.

4 Brain Cells From Urine

Contrary to popular belief, the adult brain does grow new cells. However, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease destroy more brain cells than we create, leading to certain horrible symptoms like dementia and depression. Where can patients of these debilitating diseases acquire new brain cells to function properly? Scientists from China believe they can pee them. Duanqing Pei and his team of scientists reported that human urine can be used to grow new brain cells.

In their study, researchers extracted the cells from urine samples of three different donors and converted them into neural progenitors, immature brain cells that eventually turn into either glial cells or neurons. The cells were then grown and reprogrammed into different brain cells, some of which were made into actual mature neurons that were able to produce nervous impulses. Other cells were grown to become supportive glial cells like astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. These cultivated brain cells were then transplanted into the nervous systems of newborn rats. A month after the transplant, the brain cells were still seen to be alive and active, though their integration with the existing circuitry of the rat’s brain is still under study.

The biggest benefit of this method is its ethical advantages. Presently, scientists are considering embryonic cells for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, but many pro-life groups are opposed to using them. With this new method, scientists can just take urine samples from donors or patients. When this method is improved, we could have better and faster treatment for neurodegenerative disorders that is simple, effective, and ethical.

3 Rocket Fuel

There’s a chance our next trip to space will be potty-powered, as scientists from Radboud University in the Netherlands have developed a way to turn urine into rocket fuel. Microbiologist Mike Jetten says that a type of bacteria that grows and survives without oxygen can convert urine’s ammonia into hydrazine, a type of rocket fuel.

The researchers say that the anaerobic ammonium oxidizing (“annamox”) bacteria are responsible for this amazing feat of nature. While the bacteria’s ability to convert ammonia into hydrazine is already common knowledge among microbiologists, the complex processes involved in the conversion were only figured out recently by Jetten and his team, opening the possibility for a practical use of the bacteria. Their discovery encourages space programs to incorporate the use of the magnificent microbe in our future missions to space. With millions of gallons of ammonia produced every single day from bathroom breaks, the scientists are hopeful to efficiently produce huge quantities of rocket fuel from our urine.

Because space programs like NASA continually suffer from immense budget cuts, which can hinder ground-breaking space missions, looking into this golden idea of turning urine to rocket fuel may be the answer to more cost-effective trips to the last frontier.

2 Pig Pee Plastic

Pig urine is currently Denmark’s most disgusting dilemma. The country’s 20 million pigs produce gallons and gallons of urine per day and the environment isn’t too thrilled about it. Fortunately, a company named Agroplast offers a unique solution to this smelly situation. While we really don’t want the words “pig urine” and “plastic spoons” to ever be combined, Agroplast plans on doing exactly that. The Denmark-based company aims to minimize the hassles of pig pee pollution by turning the compounds of urine into plastic precursors to be used in spoons and plates. Because pig urine in itself has no use and is a financial burden to dispose, plastic made from the substance becomes a very attractive solution to the growing pollution caused by pig urine.

Bioplastics—plastic material made from biomass sources—aren’t a new concept. People have been creating them for years from vegetable oil, corn starch, and plant cellulose. However, bioplastics have proven to be more expensive to produce than those made from fossil fuel. Agroplast claims that, unlike other bioplastics, turning pig pee into plastic would cost one-third less to produce than fossil fuel plastics.

1 Self-Healing Rubber

Broken toys and flat tires are but a few shortcomings of using rubber. It’s a conveniently stretchy and soft material that can be molded into various uses, but when exposed to certain circumstances like heat, it breaks easily. Inspired to solve these deficiencies, French physicist Ludwik Liebler turned to urine to create an amazing invention pulled straight out of sci-fi—rubber that heals itself.

This amazing material is created by combining urea and vegetable oil. When snapped into two, this distinct rubber can be simply stuck back together, immediately returning to its original. Liebler says that the secret is the fatty acids of the vegetable oil and their reaction to urea, creating a material made of a non-uniform molecular system that doesn’t crystallize and become rigid.

The possible uses of this material are endless. Once nothing more than a science fantasy, self-healing objects such sneakers, gloves, wallets, and tires made of this magical substance may actually be the next ground-breaking leap in technology. Because urine and vegetable oil are renewable and easily accessible, mass production of this wonder material won’t be much of a problem. As the French chemical company Arkema has recently adopted this innovation, we can actually aspire to have self-repairing stuff in the near future.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/01/27/10-ways-urine-can-shape-the-future/

10 Most Mind-Blowing Androids And Robots

The Uncanny Valley theory argues that the more realistic robots become, the more people will dislike them. Technology is continuing to expand at an exponential rate, and the lines between human and robot are quickly becoming blurred. Robots are now capable of humanoid movement, appearance, and even consciousness to a certain extent. There seems to be no end to how robots can be programmed, what they can be taught to do, and how realistic they can look. This list compiles examples of some of the newest and most state-of-the-art robots and androids out there.



While robots have the ability to make our lives easier, they also have the ability to make our lives much safer. A robot developed by Vecna Technologies, known as the Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR), is being used as a rescue android in dangerous situations. Its capabilities include being able to carry heavy objects over long and rough distances (including stairs), surprising dexterity and balance, and explosion- and fire-resistant treads and batteries. BEAR can be easily controlled by a remote or glove and could be used to enter dangerous situations and rescue injured soldiers without risking anyone else’s life. BEAR’s massive steel frame is controlled by hydraulics capable of lifting up to 236 kilograms (520 lbs) and it can sense its environment through infrared, night vision, and optical cameras.

Plus, while BEAR definitely has the ability to do heavy lifting, it also has the dexterity to hold something as delicate as an egg without breaking it. It can balance perfectly while carrying heavy objects that would usually topple other robots of its kind. BEAR has come a long way since its original designs, and now has the ability to obey higher-level commands from its operators. It’s even fitted with a friendly humanoid face to put the wounded at ease. Developers are excited to continue improving BEAR’s capabilities to help save citizens and soldiers alike in dangerous situations.



The Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture, or BINA48, has quickly achieved the title of the most shockingly realistic android ever made. BINA48 was created and programmed by David Hanson of Terasem Movement and modeled after the co-founder of Terasem’s wife, Bina Rothblatt. While everyone can agree that BINA48 has an uncanny physical resemblance to an actual person, what makes the robot so groundbreaking is that she is actually made up of the real Bina’s thought, memories, emotions, and feelings.

The project took over 100 hours of compiling Bina’s thoughts, to be downloaded into the android. BINA48 now has the ability to hold conversations on a number of intellectual topics using the actual Bina’s mannerisms. BINA48 also has the ability to continually learn, and her vocabulary and knowledge continue to grow each day that she interacts with other humans. While she currently isn’t fitted with a body, her head alone has the ability to express over 64 feelings based on the information she gives and receives. BINA48’s abilities are quite unsettling to many, though the creators hope to continue to build and improve her technological consciousness. Not only can BINA48 make choices on her own based on her past memories and tastes, she is also learning to reinforce her decisions with data and reasons.



When you think of an android, emotional capacity probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. However, the NAO robot boasts the ability to learn, recognize, and interact with humans—and develop emotions as well. NAO was developed by Aldebaran Robotics and stands a mere 58 centimeters (23 in) tall.

What makes NAO so versatile is how programmable it is. The University of Hertfordshire is using this ability to help it learn emotions. By building on NAO’s ability to recognize and learn facial and body language, the new NAO will form an attachment to those it sees most. From there, NAO will be able to learn emotions much in the same way young children do—through observation. Rather than just preprogramming anger, fear, sadness, excitement, pride, and happiness into the robot, NAO will actually learn when and how to use these emotions through observation of teachers and trial-and-error. In addition, it has the ability to learn several other skills, including writing and different languages. NAO has been used as an educator and for visiting kids. NAO also gives comedy shows, grooms cats, helps with research, plays soccer, and works at hospitals. Researchers are excited to see what the future holds for this little robot.



So far, the androids on this list have been pretty clearly robotic. But the HRP-4C (Miim) takes things to a whole new level with its uncanny resemblance to a real human. Another piece of work from the Japanese company AIST, Miim was fashioned after an average young Japanese female. She stands at 157 centimeters (5.2 ft) and 43 kilograms (95 lbs) with the ability to recognize faces, speech, and ambient noise.

What makes her especially amazing is her ability to mimic human facial expressions and movements to a high degree of accuracy. She’s been called “super-realistic” and even has the ability to dance. When she was uncovered on the catwalk in 2009, photographers snapped multiple pictures of her striking poses, smiling, and even pouting. Designers at AIST explain that the reason they chose to make her face (but not her body) hyper-realistic is that they thought it would just be too creepy.



Who doesn’t love cute little baby harp seals? Japanese company AIST certainly does: They’ve developed a strikingly realistic robotic seal named PARO to be used for therapy. Paro interacts with people much in the ways a normal baby seal would by moving its head and flippers and making sounds, while using five sensors (audio, light, tactile, posture, and temperature) to assess its environment. What make it such a good therapeutic buddy (aside from looking adorable), is that it remembers how its owner interacts with it and responds based on how it is treated. For example, if it squeaks in a certain way and you hug it, it will squeak in a similar manner more often. On the other hand, if it moves or talks in a way you dislike and you hit it, PARO knows not to make those movements ever again. (This would admittedly be a bit scary in some circumstances.)

PARO is actually Guinness-certified as the world’s most therapeutic robot for the positive social and psychological effect it has on patients. It not only serves to reduce stress, but also increases interaction between patients and their caregivers. The robot has a number of applications in both hospitals and nursing homes, giving patients the love of a pet with virtually none of the work. PARO can express emotions to its caregivers as well and remains the leading “robopet” for therapy.



While most scientists stay away from creating robots that are too like humans due to the Uncanny Valley theory, scientists at the University of Pisa are actively trying to prove that prediction wrong. They’ve created robot named FACE, considered groundbreaking for its realistic human expressions. Most robots with the ability to mimic expressions are only given a set of five to six emotions. FACE can mimic these same emotions (such as happiness, sadness, disgust, amazement, indifference, and fear), but it also has the ability to express the emotions between these categories. FACE uses 32 motors located around the face and upper body to produce these humanoid expressions. Researchers hope FACE can be used in several situations, including teaching children with autism to understand mood through facial expressions.



While the HRP-4C was fitted with an uncanny humanoid face, the Actroid matches it with an equally realistic body and even more human behaviors. It was first manufactured by Kokoro Company Ltd., who have since created several new and improved versions. Using air-powered actuators placed at several points in her upper body, the Actroid can react accordingly to different kinds of tactile data. For example, if Actroid feels a slap coming, she can quickly move out of the way or retaliate, but will react normally when tapped on the shoulder. She is also designed to express the subtle human-like movements of the head and eyes and even looks like she’s breathing.

Actroids can be taught to learn even more human movements, though their actual locomotion abilities are non-existent and they can only be placed in a sitting or standing position with firm supports. In addition to their earlier Actroid model, Repliee Q-1, Kokoro has also created Repliee R-1, an Actroid of a small Japanese girl. Kokoro and a team at Osaka University say that their main goal is to create robots so realistic that people won’t notice they’re even interacting with a robot. So far, Actroids have come very close—some people mistake them for humans for the first few minutes. In addition to this, some people even forget they’re interacting with a robot at all because their movements and reactions are so realistic. A cousin to both Repliee Q-1 and R-1 is known as Geminoid, an android created by and fashioned at Hiroshi Ishiguro.



Being able to control a robot with gestures or a controller is one thing, but imagine if you could control an android just using your mind. These mind-control technologies actually exist and are growing in popularity with things like small helicopters. In a key breakthrough, a robot known as Morpheus now has the ability to follow commands given as thoughts. A controller is fitted with a swim cap filled with electrodes, a procedure that is totally non-invasive and boasts a success rate of up to 94 percent (most robots controlled by thought up to this point have required electrodes be surgically embedded into the operator’s skull). Built by Rajesh Rao at the University of Washington, it is hoped that Morpheus will be able to provide companionship, assistance, and rescue to many people.



On July 11, DARPA revealed one of the most technologically advanced robots to date. Known as Atlas, the robot stands almost two meters (six feet) tall and weighs about 150 kilograms (330 lbs). Developed by Boston Dynamics, the robot was made to be a humanoid responder for dangerous situations like nuclear meltdowns. It’s set to participate in DARPA’s robot challenge in December as Boston Dynamics continues to make improvements to the software.

While Atlas already looks like something straight out of Terminator, things get even creepier when you realize what it’s capable of doing. With its 28 hydraulic joints, arms, legs, head, torso, sensors, and on-board real-time computer, Atlas can not only sense its environment, but can react to it with a dexterity not yet seen in an android robot. It can perform basic functions like walking, grabbing, turning, and giving visual feedback, but it’s also capable of doing things like climbing a ladder, starting and driving a car, and connecting a fire hose to a valve. The robot’s real-time computers and lasers allow for its environment to be sensed and mapped even at long ranges. DARPA uses the robotic challenge to encourage advancements in robotics like Atlas, and they’re confident that it will not only do well in the challenge, but extend its abilities to real-world uses as well.



Built by Honda, the Advance Step In Innovative Mobility robot, or ASIMO, was first unveiled in October 2000. While its stature isn’t anything to gawk at—it stands just 1.3 meters (4.3 ft) tall and weighs 54 kilograms (119 lbs)—it’s ASIMO’s capabilities that set it apart. The robot was designed to be a personal assistant, helping those who can’t help themselves. It runs on a battery and, while it doesn’t have a mind of its own, it can be controlled by a computer, controller, or voice signals.

That probably seems pretty run of the mill so far, but ASIMO also has the ability to differentiate and interact with humans by sensing postures, gestures, sounds, and even faces. If you were to walk in a room, ASIMO would turn to face you and actually shake your hand if you were to put it out first. It can even distinguish one person from another for up to 10 people. ASIMO has been showcased at several conventions and can currently be seen in a show at Disneyland. While it’s not the most up-to-date robot, ASIMO’s capabilities and humanoid qualities continue to keep it in the running with the more current androids.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/10/05/10-most-mind-blowing-androids-and-robots/

Top 10 Misconceptions About Linux

For most computer users, Windows is the only operating system (OS) they’ve ever used. In fact, most people don’t even know about other OSes at all, and that is not good. In our daily lives we always like to have a choice. Whether it’s different flavors of ice-cream or different brands and types of shirts and pants, we like to have a choice. So the question is, why not have a choice with our computers? While we all get to choose whether we want NVIDIA or ATI graphics card, most PCs come with pre-installed Windows operating system. It’s almost shoved down our throats. Where’s the choice in that?

There are many operating systems out there, some are good and some are bad. This list is about Linux, a free open-source operating system. There is a chance you have never heard of it, and even if you have you probably carry a few misconceptions about it. I’ll try to dispel some of these misconceptions starting with the most common:


Misconception: Linux is an Operating System (OS)

Actually – no it isn’t. Linux is an OS kernel. The kernel is the core of all operating systems, and of course Windows has one too. The quality of the kernel is vital to the running of the OS. If your kernel is slow or buggy your entire operating system will be slow and buggy. For end users like you and me, this means more crashes, Blue Screens Of Death (if you don’t know what BSOD is, you’re a lucky bastard), freezes and the most terrible consequence – data loss. There are different types of kernels out there, each with their pros and cons. For more information on them, just google “kernel”, it’s an interesting topic.

The proper name for an operating system using the Linux kernel would be “GNU/Linux”, because the Linux kernel wouldn’t do much for you without the GNU project software. You can find more on that on Google. But, for the sake of readability of this list, we’re going to use the word “Linux” instead of “GNU/Linux” to refer to operating systems that use the Linux kernel.


Misconception: Linux is a command line OS

Wrong. While Linux does rely on command line utilities, it doesn’t mean you have to use them. On Linux, a GUI is only an addition to the operating system. For you, this is a good thing because you can choose between many types of “windows”, or “window managers” as they are called on Linux.

Two most popular window managers are KDE and Gnome. KDE looks similar to Windows in many ways, and it is a good choice for those who don’t want to lose their Windows look and feel. Gnome is different from Windows, and for many (including myself) in a very positive and refreshing way. But KDE and Gnome are not the only choice: Enlightenment, Metacity, IceWM, Blackbox, Window Maker, FVWM and many, many others

Also, if you’re interested in what Linux WMs can do when compared to Windows, take a look at this YouTube video which shows a small subset of available effects on Compiz Fusion window manager; Fun, isn’t it?


Misconception: Linux is for geeks only

Actually, I think it’s quite the opposite. Although this was true years ago, when Linux was an infant and full of pimples, it certainly isn’t like that any longer. If you take a careful look at the user interfaces of Linux and Windows, you’ll often be surprised how intuitive Linux is. As an example, I’ll just mention my wife, who is not particularly computer savvy, yet manages to use Ubuntu Linux on daily basis with no trouble at all. According to her (and I quote): “Linux is far less irritating, it doesn’t stop working for me at random like Windows does.”

Now there’s a candidate for an official Linux slogan.. :)


Misconception: Linux is not compatible with Windows stuff

Well, yes and no, it really depends. For most users, Linux is very much compatible. You’ll be able to read your emails, open your Office documents, view and edit your photo albums, and much more. Often with better and faster tools than you’d be able to find on Windows. Flagships of open-source software like The Gimp, Inkscape, OpenOffice and many others, can import, read and often export proprietary file formats (such as Microsoft Office documents, Photoshop PSDs etc). Often, these tools can offer you even more than those you’re used to. For example, I can export my document from OpenOffice to PDF in just one click. No custom printers installed, no “free” web converters. It’s all natively supported.

Of course, there are files which can’t be opened under Linux. You should ask yourself why. Is it Linux to blame, or the authors of that file format, which force their users to use an operating system they find suitable? Think about it. Do you really want to depend on your software vendors to be able to access your data? Or use an open-source and standardized format?

As a side note, a huge collection of open-source applications written for Linux also have a Windows version. Isn’t that neat?

If that’s not good enough for you, Linux comes with a Windows translation layer called Wine. It allows you to run Windows application on Linux. Basically, it serves as a bridge between Linux and Windows applications. For you that means not giving up your familiar Windows programs.


Misconception: Nobody is using Linux

Terribly, terribly wrong. The majority of the World Wide Web is standing on the shoulders of Linux and GNU software. Because Linux is modular and secure, it’s the most logical choice for a web server. Not only that, every year, more and more users recognize the advantages of using Linux,and are using it at home. Many companies and governments have switched their systems to Linux (I am looking at you, New Zealand). It’s cheap, durable and safe, and by the looks of it – it will never die. Unlike commercial operating systems, it is maintained by the community – all of us – instead of a large company. If a company declares bankruptcy and disappears from the face of the Earth, who will maintain your OS?

If you’re still not convinced, let this be a lesson to you: Listverse is written in PHP and it is hosted on an array of Linux machines.

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Misconception: Linux doesn’t have technical support

Sure it does. But unlike Windows, you have choice of paid and unpaid technical support. By unpaid technical support, I mean a large number of communities on “the Internets”, available twenty four hours a day. It is a community of enthusiasts, who love using Linux and will be more than willing to help you with your problem. If for no other reason, than to make another Linux convert!

As far as paid technical support goes, there are companies such as Red Hat and Canonical which do just that. If you really need it, you can get the same kind of technical support you get for Windows.


Misconception: Linux is difficult to maintain

This also might have been true many years ago. Today, Linux requires little or no maintenance at all. Unlike Windows, if you just use it, it will never break. Linux makes it very difficult for you to break it. If you have kids, cousins or grandparent who frequently mess up their Windows installation, or their PCs become virus infested – give them Linux. It will make your life easier. I have a testing machine at work, running an ancient Fedora 5 Linux and the only time it needs a reboot is when a power failure occurs. If you can call that a reboot.

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Misconception: There are no games for Linux

I partially agree with this one, but let’s be fair about it, shall we? Games have always been – and still are – a major drawback when it comes to switching to Linux. In terms of volume (and I confess, often quality too), there are a lot more games for Windows than for Linux. Only a few companies have decided to make a Linux version of their game. The famous ID Software is one of them. As well as their own Doom, Quake 3, and Quake 4, many other commercial games have been ported to Linux: Heroes of Might and Magic 3, Civilization 3, Soldier of Fortune, Tribes 2 and many others.

This is where the brave Linux community comes to save the day. There are numerous efforts towards creating truly fun and playable games – free of charge. Games like Sauerbraten (pictured above), Nexuiz, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, UFO: Alien Invasion and Glest are all very much free and very much playable.

Also, as mentioned above, you can run many games using the aforementioned Wine. Even the famous World Of Warcraft works on it. And if you’re really addicted, you can also pay for Cedega or CrossOver Games, commercial variants of Wine which specialize in games.

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Misconception: A lot of hardware doesn’t work under Linux

Again, this was true many years ago. Today, you can install Linux on almost any machine, and it will recognize all your hardware, install the appropriate drivers and never ask you anything again. It is true that Linux has some compatibility issues with some printers, scanners and wireless cards, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed. In fact, Linux contributors are aware of this and things are improving each and every day.

And here’s another thing: if you have sufficient knowledge, *you* can contribute a driver for your device. If you’re missing a feature, or don’t like the existing ones, you have the option of changing them yourself. Keep that in mind next time Microsoft changes the appearance of the start menu.

Linux Vs Windows

Misconception: You have to ditch Windows to use Linux

Very much not true. Many Linux distributions also offer the so called Live CD, which enables you to try Linux without the installation. Simply download, burn, reboot your PC and off you go. There are also Live USB flash drives versions. If you try it out and like it, most of those Live distributions have an option of installing Linux – alongside Windows. You can use both operating systems on a same computer with no trouble at all. Linux folks have made sure of that, because they know nobody wants to jump into the unknown.

If you don’t want that, there are always alternatives, like the the Virtual Box, which allows you to install Linux on a virtual machine inside your Windows. Also, nobody’s stopping you from running Virtual Box on Linux and running Windows inside Linux.


So what’s next? My recommendation is to try it out yourself. If you don’t like it, at least you tried. Good places to start would be a Linux Distribution Chooser. After that, give it a spin. My personal recommendation is Ubuntu, it is very simple and straightforward. But, if you don’t like it, there are many others to choose from and discover what suits you – not some corporate monster.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2009/05/31/top-10-misconceptions-about-linux/