Category Archives: OtherNews

Tech Hunters: Refreshing Casio’s classic calculator watch

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Thanks to the rise of Fitbits, Apple Watches and other smart trackers, wearables are the new frontier of fashion, often mixing cutting-edge technology with the latest designer trends. However, they aren’t a new idea: companies like Casio have been doing the same since the 1980s.

Cast your mind back and try to remember the digital Casio watches of yesteryear. Chances are you’ll land on the Casio C-80, the original “calculator watch.” Billed as “the watch that replaces everything,” the C-80 — with its tiny rubber buttons — shunned the stylus prized by watch makers like Citizen and Seiko at the time. It also made way for newer Data Bank models that could convert currencies, store phone numbers and, like today’s Apple Watch, read your pulse.

In 1980, you’d pay $75 for the C-80, which is about £185 in today’s money. Fast forward to today and the vintage timepiece can fetch upwards of £400, if it’s been kept in mint condition. Casio has released a ton of other calculator watches since the C-80, but they’ve become a bit boring. Julia Hardy meets up with Jonah Ripley to see if we can make the retro smartwatch a little more 21st century.

 

 

Researchers map a building in 3D using WiFi-enabled drones

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Mostofi Lab

Turns out WiFi is good for more than just sharing cat GIFs with your friends. Researchers at the Mostofi Lab at UC Santa Barbara have created a system that “sees” inside buildings using two drones and WiFi.

To pull this off, the drones are each equipped with WiFi transceivers and fly in tandem outside the target building. One of the UAVs then transmits a WiFi signal while the second one reads the corresponding received power. Throw in a bunch of advanced math and the data is translated into a 3D image of the internals of the building with some impressive results.

The Mostofi Lab is no stranger to using radio waves to penetrate walls. In 2010 it published its first demonstration of imaging using WiFi. “However, enabling 3D through-wall imaging of real areas is considerably more challenging due to the considerable increase in the number of unknowns,” professor Yasamin Mostofi told UCSB’s The Current.

This research could help emergency response teams do sweeps of buildings without putting first responders in unnecessary danger. The lab also noted it could be used for archaeological and structural monitoring.

 

 

Researchers can now desalinate seawater with the power of the Sun

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Rice University

One of the oldest means of extracting potable liquid from seawater involves distillation, basically boiling the water into steam and then cooling the purified vapor in condensation tubes. Problem is, this method is incredibly power intensive with nearly half of the input energy going towards just boiling the water. But, a team of researchers from Rice University have developed a new technique that not only drastically reduces the amount of energy needed but can decouple the process from the power grid altogether.

The research was carried out at the federally funded Center for Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) at Rice University. Since its formation in 2015, NEWT has worked to develop a technology called “nanophotonics-enabled solar membrane distillation”, or NESMD. In this method, flows of hot and cold water are separated by a thin membrane. Water vapor is drawn across that membrane from hot side to cold, straining out the salt. This uses much less energy than distillation since the water only needs to be hot, not boiled.

To further improve the system’s efficiency, researchers at NEWT combined commercially available membranes with nanoparticles that convert light into heat. Doing so means that the membrane itself heats up, so you don’t need a steady supply of hot water, just sunlight.

And since you don’t need a bunch of energy to heat water, the power requirements drop to little more than running a pump to help push the fluid through the process. As such, the entire modular system can run on a couple of solar panels.

During their tests, the research team found that like molten salt power arrays, their device’s efficiency multiplied if the sunlight was concentrated. “The intensity got up 17.5 kilowatts per meter squared when a lens was used to concentrate sunlight by 25 times,” Rice University researcher Qilin Li, said in a statement, “and the water production increased to about 6 liters per meter squared per hour.”

And since the system is modular, the thinking is that places like remote communities, offshore oil rigs and disaster relief sites would be able to figure out their hourly water consumption rates and install exactly the desalination capacity necessary. This same technology could just as easily replace the current membrane distillation technology at more than 18,000 water purification plants worldwide.

“Direct solar desalination could be a game changer for some of the estimated 1 billion people who lack access to clean drinking water,” . “This off-grid technology is capable of providing sufficient clean water for family use in a compact footprint, and it can be scaled up to provide water for larger communities.”

 

 

The best electric kettle

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By Michael Sullivan & Winnie Yang & Tim Barribeau

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

We’ve spent dozens of hours researching and long-term testing electric kettles. For the fourth year in a row, we think the Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp Cordless Electric Kettle is the best electric kettle for most people. It’s a high-end, variable-temperature model that’s ideal for brewing teas, making pour-over coffee, or simply boiling water for instant oatmeal. Thanks to its winning combination of speed, accuracy, and ease of use, it bested all the other electric kettles we tested.

How we picked and tested

For 2017, we tested a new round of electric kettles for speed, accuracy, and ease of use. Photo: Michael Hession

Because different types of coffee and tea are meant to be brewed at different temperatures, a great electric kettle should have a wide variety of temperature settings that it can reach with reasonable accuracy. However, we realize that not everyone is a coffee or tea aficionado, so we also looked at kettles that do not have variable temperature settings and simply boil water.

Speed is critical—you don’t want to wait forever for your water to come to temperature. An electric kettle should also be easy to use, have a handle that doesn’t get too hot, and feature automatic shutoff so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to turn it off. A large mouth for easy cleaning is another plus.

All of the kettles we tested for our 2017 update were metal or glass. Some people, including our experts, complain about plastic kettles imparting a funny taste or smell to the water. We excluded any kettles made entirely of plastic, but all of the models we did test contained some minor plastic elements, such as parts of the lid, a filter, or the water-level window.

We tested each variable-temperature kettle by measuring how long it took to bring a liter of water to a boil and by measuring how accurate the internal thermometer was for non-boiling temperatures compared with measurements taken from a Thermapen thermometer. For the simple electric kettles we tested, we just measured the time to boil.

Some models in the test group had a warming feature that could hold set temperatures, so we checked their accuracy after letting them rest for an extended period of time. We also tested automatic-shutoff features and took note of any excessive or annoying beeps. Additionally, we tasted the water from each model after boiling to see if it had any off flavors caused by plastic components.

Our pick: Cuisinart CPK-17

The Cuisinart CPK-17 remains our top pick for the fourth year in a row. Photo: Michael Hession

Our top pick for the fourth year in a row is the Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp Cordless Electric Kettle, thanks to its ease of use, speed, and accuracy. It has an intuitive interface with a keep-warm option that conveniently holds water at a set temperature. The wide handle is comfortable to hold, and the spout doesn’t cause water to dribble when pouring. Unlike many of the kettles we tested, it has a simple streamlined design, so it won’t be an eyesore if you store it on your kitchen counter.

Compared with all the other variable-temperature models we tested, the Cuisinart CPK-17 was the simplest to operate. It offers six preset temperature settings as buttons on the handle, along with a Start button and a Keep Warm button.

Although the Cuisinart CPK-17 had better accuracy than most of the other kettles we tested, we found it wasn’t as accurate at hitting lower temperatures, measuring 8 degrees over when we set it to 160 °F. On temperatures of 175 °F and up, it measured only 3 to 4 degrees off, which is pretty accurate. Because this model has a slew of other noteworthy features and has been consistently reliable over three years of testing, we’re willing to forgive its minor temperature variances at the lowest setting.

Runner-up: Bonavita BV382510V

The 1-liter Bonavita BV382510V is great for preparing pour-over coffee or heating water to precise temperatures for making tea. Photo: Michael Hession

We think the stainless steel Bonavita BV382510V 1.0L Digital Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle represents an excellent compromise between a traditional tea kettle and one better suited for making pour-over coffee (see our guide to the best pour-over coffee gear for more). Although this model wasn’t the fastest kettle to bring water to a boil, the Bonavita had the most accurate temperature controls among all the models we tested. The long, gooseneck spout provides superior pouring technique, and the interface is easy to use. We also like the looks of this kettle; it’s handsome enough for you to keep on your kitchen counter.

Of all the models we tested, the Bonavita BV382510V had the most precise temperature control, impressively measuring just 1 degree off regardless of the temperature setting. It gives you the freedom to set it in 1-degree increments from 140 °F to 212 °F on an easy-to-read digital display. This model also tracks the water’s temperature accurately as it rises or lowers, so you always know how hot it is.

It has some minor drawbacks, however. This model took about two and a half minutes longer to boil than our top pick, and it doesn’t provide a water-level window for you to see when it’s getting low. Unlike our top pick, it lacks a boil setting, so you have to manually enter 212 °F using the plus button. Also, the lid doesn’t have a push button and needs to be removed, as on a traditional stovetop kettle. But despite those minor flaws, after over two years of using the Bonavita BV382510V daily, we haven’t experienced any issues, and we think it’s the best for anyone who will use it for both tea and pour-over coffee.

Budget pick: Hamilton Beach 40880

The Hamilton Beach 40880 offers fast and consistent boiling times at a bargain price. Photo: Michael Hession

We recommend the Hamilton Beach 40880 Stainless Steel 1.7 Liter Electric Kettle for anyone who wants an affordably priced basic model that quickly brings water to a boil. This kettle doesn’t have preset temperature controls or a keep-warm setting, but it does have all the other features we look for in a decent kettle.

Our testers were impressed with the speed of this kettle, which was on a par with our main pick in boiling time (about four minutes). This Hamilton Beach model is very simple to operate: You flick the tab up on the base of the handle, and the kettle begins heating the water. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, the kettle automatically shuts off, so you don’t have to worry about turning it off manually.

The plastic hinges on the Hamilton Beach 40880’s lid are its only significant drawback. Other models, such as our top pick, have metal hinges that seem more durable.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Sweethome: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.