Your TV may be Watching You

Samsung’s Smart TV could be used by hackers to watch everything that happens in your living room by gaining access to the device’s built-in camera and microphone, it has been claimed.

Malta-based security firm ReVuln posted a video showing how its researchers had learned to crack the television to access its settings – including any personal information stored on it.

‘We can install malicious software to gain complete root access to the TV,’ they claim in the video.

Vulnerable: Samsung's Smart TV can be penetrated by hackers who can install malicious software on to the device to record whatever is picked up by its built-in microphones and camerasSamsung’s Smart TV can be penetrated by  hackers who can install malicious software on to the device to record whatever  is picked up by its built-in microphones and cameras

With such malware installed, hackers could use the Smart TV’s built-in microphones and camera to hear and see everything in front of it.

Samsung’s Smart TV can be used to browse the  internet, use social networks, watch net-based commercial film streaming services and play online games, among other things, from the comfort of your sofa.

The devices can also be controlled by voice commands and gestures, using their microphones and cameras to detect what is happening in front of them.

However, while the Smart TV’s are connected to the internet they are vulnerable to hackers who can access the device and access files stored on them.

Luigi Auriemma, co-founder of ReVuln, says he has found a way to track down the IP address of the device and gain access to seize control and scour any drives connected to it.

The video appears to show that he is able to access remote files and information like the viewing history, as well as siphon data from USB drives attached to a compromised set.

Mr Auriemma told Ars  Technica: ‘At this point the attacker has complete control over the device.

‘So we are talking about applying custom firmwares, spying on the victim if camera and microphone are available, stealing any credential and account stored… on the device, using his own certificates when accessing https websites, and tracking any activity of the victim (movies,  photos, music, and websites seen) and so on.

‘You become the TV.’

Personal information: A video posted by Malta-based security company ReVuln reveals how once their researcher gained access to the Smart TV he was able to scour all connected drives and read data from them A video posted by Malta-based  security company ReVuln reveals how once their researcher gained access to the  Smart TV he was able to scour all connected drives and read data from them

The research raises the possibility that owners of consumer devices connected to the Internet are exposing themselves to similar kinds of security threats that are faced by users of personal computers, Ars Technica notes.

Devices from lighting systems to air conditioners to computer games consoles now rely on online functionality, but their operating systems often do not have the same kinds of security measures now commonly deployed on Microsoft and Apple powered devices.

At the moment, ReVuln’s exploit only works once hackers have managed to breach the network which the television is connected to. As such, Mr Auriemma told NBC  News, he expects the main danger is of hackers targeting specific companies or individuals.

‘In our opinion, it’s more interesting and realistic to think about attacks [against] specific targets reached via open/weak/hacked Wi-Fi or compromised computers of a network, instead of mass-exploiting via the Internet,’ he said.

‘That’s interesting due to the effects of the vulnerability (retrieving information and the possibility of monitoring) which are perfect for targeted attacks, from a specific person with a TV at home to a company with TVs in its offices.’

Revuln plans to sell information on the vulnerabilities to the highest bidder, the Register reported, claiming this will  ‘speed up’ fixes faster than merely reporting them to the  manufacturer.

The company would not go into details about the flaws it has discovered.

The possibilities of such vulnerabilities are worrying with increasing numbers of consumer electronics devices being equipped with sensors, cameras and microphones to detect what is happening around them.

Earlier this month it emerged that U.S. cable provider Verizon has applied to patent a set-top box technology that can observe what’s going on in the room and show viewers adverts based on what it  detects.

In U.S. Patent Application 20120304206 the company suggests it could detect when people are ‘cuddling’ then show ‘a  commercial for a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers […] etc.’.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said of that device: ‘Smart TVs with in-built cameras  and microphones are a privacy nightmare waiting around the corner.

‘It is only a matter of time before technology using facial recognition, audio analysis and monitoring what you  watch is common place.

‘What is essential is that consumers know exactly what they are buying and where the data is going.’

A spokesman for Samsung said: ‘We have discovered that only in extremely unusual circumstances a connectivity issue arises between Samsung Smart TV’s released in 2011 and other connected devices. We assure our customers that our Smart TVs are safe to use.

‘We will release a previously scheduled  software patch in January 2013 to further strengthen Smart TV security. We  recommend our customers to use encrypted wireless access points, when using  connected devices.

Attribution: Damien Gayle, Daily Mail

Deep Space Fly-By

A Chinese spacecraft has carried out a deep space fly-by on an asteroid four and a half million miles away from the Earth.

The Chang’e-2 probe successfully conducted the mission to scan the surface of the asteroid Toutatis.

It happened on December 13 at 16.30om Beijing Time, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense announced today.

The Chinese space probe flew got around two miles away from the asteroid Toutatis, officials saidThe Chinese space probe flew got around two miles away  from the asteroid Toutatis, officials said

At 2.7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, astronomers say it is considered a potentially hazardous asteroid  because it  makes repeated passes by the Earth, about every four years.

In comparison, the asteroid that is thought to have destroyed the dinosaurs was approximately 10 km (6 miles) wide.

The flyby was the first time an unmanned spacecraft launched from Earth has taken such a close viewing of the asteroid, named after a Celtic god.

China followed in the footsteps of the U.S.,  the European Union and Japan by using an spacecraft to examine an asteroid.

Chang’e-2 came as close as 2 miles from Toutatis and took pictures of the asteroid at a relative velocity of 10.73km per second, the SASTIND said in a statement.

Sources with the administration told the Xinhua news agency that Chang’e-2 is continuing its deep space travel and will reach a distance of more than six million miles away from Earth in January next  year.

Chang’e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010,  from Xichang Satellite Launch Center and later orbited the moon in a more ambitious mission than its predecessor Chang’e-1.

Chang’e-2 left its lunar orbit for an  extended mission to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point on June 9, 2011, after  finishing its lunar objectives, which collected data for a complete lunar  map.

Here is a graphic showing the moment the spacecraft passed within two miles of the asteroid ToutatisHere is a graphic showing the moment the spacecraft  passed within two miles of the asteroid Toutatis
Chang'e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Here is mission controlChang’e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010, from Xichang  Satellite Launch Center. Here is mission control
China claims it was the first to closely observe the asteroid Toutatis, although other space missions have pictured itChina claims it was the first to closely observe the  asteroid Toutatis, although other space missions have pictured it

The probe departed from L2 this year and  began its mission to Toutatis.

Since its blast-off, Chang’e 2 has become the first to capture full coverage map of the moon with a resolution of seven meters.

full coverage map of the moon

China claims it was also the first object ever to reach the L2 point directly from lunar orbit; and being the first to closely observe the asteroid Toutatis.

China early this year published a full coverage map of the moon, as well as several high-resolution images of the celestial body, captured by Chang’e-2. The resolution of the images is 17 times  greater than those taken by Chang’e-1.

‘The success of the extended missions also  embodies that China now possesses spacecraft capable of interplanetary flight,’  said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar probe program.

Chang’e-2’s extended missions, which were conducted millions of miles away from Earth, have tested China’s spacecraft tracking and control network, including two newly built measuring and control  stations in the northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and northeast  Heilongjiang province, according to the SASTIND.

However, China still belongs to the second  tier in lunar probe internationally, said Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist for  China’s lunar orbiter project, adding that the U.S. and Russia are still leading  nations in this field.

Wu Weiren stressed the need for international cooperation in lunar probe mission, saying it is a shared responsibility of  world scientists to work together in lunar and deep space exploration for the  common good of the human race.

Attribution: Leon Watson, Daily Mail

Think We Have Bad Weather?

Bizarre weather is not restricted to Earth. Hurricane Sandy was a speck of dust compared to some of the cataclysms currently taking place around the solar system. Jupiter, for example, is going through a tumultuous time right now. The gas giant has suffered more meteor impacts in the past four years than has ever been observed, and large cloud formations are spontaneously changing color or disappearing as quickly as they form.

But Jupiter is not the only planet in our solar system that experiences bizarre weather. Icy methane rainstorms, planet-wide sand storms, and lead-melting temperatures afflict other planets and their moons. Check out the weather forecast around the solar system, then go enjoy the weather outside—whatever it may be, it’s bound to be better than any of the following.

A 300-Year-Old Hurricane Three Times the Size of Earth

This famous megastorm, dubbed the Great Red Spot, is at least400 years old and dates back to the time when Galileo first aimed his telescope at Jupiter and its moons in the early 1600s—so for all we know, the storm could be much older than that. Scientists believe the storm might owe its red color to sulfur in the atmosphere, but they remain uncertain about what precisely gives it its crimson hue.


In the past couple of years, a new sibling storm has erupted. The Little Red Spot, or Red Spot Jr., formed from the merger of three smaller white-colored storms in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere.


The Little Red Spot, at center in the picture above, has kept growing since it was discovered in 2006 and is now about the size of Earth—and with wind speeds of 400 mph, it is now spinning as fast as its larger predecessor.

Dry Ice Snow


We’ve known for a while there’s water ice on Mars, both on the northern polar ice cap and away from it, but in September, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected carbon-dioxide snow clouds and snowfall. It’s the first evidence of this kind of snow anywhere in our solar system. This photograph from July 2011 (toward the end of the Martian summer) shows what happens when warm weather causes a section of the vast carbon-dioxide ice cap to sublimate directly into gas, leaving behind oddly-shaped, seemingly gold-lined pits around the Red Planet’s south pole.

Sulfuric-Acid Rain


Venus is like Earth on (sulfuric) acid. Its atmosphere is made of dense carbon-dioxide clouds and this extremely corrosive substance, which can explode when water is added. The acid precipitates from clouds, but due to the extreme temperatures, it evaporates before reaching the ground, making for some very short-lived acid rain.

Greenhouse Effect From Hell


Similar to Earth only in size and shape, Venus was taken over by a runaway greenhouse effect millions of years ago and turned into a hellish nightmare hot enough to melt lead. The planet has scorching temperatures of 860 degrees Fahrenheit or more year-round and a crushing atmosphere with more than 90 times the pressure of Earth’s. It’s no wonder probes that landed on the second planet from the Sun have survived only a few hours before being destroyed.

Supersonic Methane Winds

Clouds of frozen methane whirl across Neptune, our solar system’s windiest world, at more than 1,200 mph—similar to the top speed of a U.S. Navy fighter jet. Meanwhile, Earth’s most powerful winds hit a puny 250 mph. Some cloud formations, such as a swift-moving one called “scooter,” circle the planet every 16 hours. Neptune’s top wind layer blows in the opposite direction to the planet’s rotation, which could mean there’s a slushy interior of thick layers of warmer water clouds beneath the methane.


Featured above is the Great Dark Spot, which was believed to be similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot—a fast cyclonic storm like a hurricane or typhoon. But the Hubble Space Telescope disproved that when it showed the spot disappearing and reappearing somewhere else in the planet. Scientists then speculated that the megastorm might be a hole in the methane clouds, like our very own, now-shrinking hole in the ozone layer.

Erratic, Gigantic Dust Storms


Because of a dry, rocky, desert-like surface, dust storms are very common on Mars. They can engulf the entire planet, raise the atmospheric temperature by up to 30 degrees Celsius, and last for weeks. The storm pictured above, though huge, lasted less than 24 hours. It spread along the north seasonal polar cap edge in late northern winter in a region called Utopia Planitia.

Tornadoes and Dust Devils


A dust devil about half a mile high swirls over a sandy Martian surface on a late spring afternoon. Winds on Mars are powered by solar-heat convection currents, as they are on other planets, including Earth. During spring, when Mars is the farthest from the sun, the planet gets less sunlight, but even then dust devils relentlessly scour the surface and move around freshly deposited dust. This dust devil, 30 yards wide, was whirling around the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars.

Methane Rainstorms


Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, looks a lot like Earth in its cloud cover and terrain. Except this moon’s clouds are made of methane. Titan has a methane cycle that is similar to the Earth’s water cycle. Since methane has a much lower melting point than water (a frosty minus 295.6 F), it fills lakes on the surface of this frigid moon, saturates clouds in the atmosphere, and falls again as rain. This thick atmosphere, in which organic molecules float around freely, could potentially be ripe for life—or brimming with it already.

Nitrogen Ice Clouds

Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, is the coldest place in our solar system. It has an average temperature of minus 315 F. This image, taken by Voyager 2 in August 1989, shows the large, pinkish south polar cap, which may consist of a slowly evaporating layer of nitrogen ice. The nitrogen then forms clouds a few kilometers above the surface.


Triton has a weird, backward orbit and has been inching closer to Neptune each year. When the two finally collide, in about 10 million to 100 million years, the moon will be shredded into rings perhaps as beautiful as those of Saturn.

Hydrogen Storms

This storm, eight times the surface area of Earth, has been raging since December 2010 on Saturn. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took this photo during a turbulent spring in northern Saturn. At its most intense, the storm generated more than 10 lightning flashes per second.


“Cassini shows us that Saturn is bipolar,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. “Saturn is not like Earth and Jupiter, where storms are fairly frequent. Weather on Saturn appears to hum along placidly for years and then erupt violently.”


Fab Four Can Heat You Up

Feeling nostalgic about days gone by can make us feel warmer, new research has claimed.

The study investigated the effects of nostalgic feelings on reaction to cold and the perception of warmth.

The volunteers, from universities in China and the Netherlands, took part in one of five studies.

Researchers say that recalling nostalgic events can actually make people feel warmerResearchers say that recalling nostalgic events can actually make people feel warmer

The first asked participants to keep an account of their nostalgic feelings over 30 days.

Results showed they felt more nostalgic on colder days.

The second study put participants in one of three rooms: cold (20C, 68F), comfortable (24C, 75F) and hot (28C, 82F), and then measured how nostalgic they felt.

Participants felt more nostalgic in the cold room than in the comfortable and hot rooms.

The third study used music to evoke nostalgia to see if it was linked to warmth.

The participants who said the music made them feel nostalgic also tended to say that the music made them feel physically warmer.

The fourth study tested the effect of nostalgia on physical warmth by placing participants in a cold room and instructing them to recall either a nostalgic or ordinary event from their past.

They were then asked to guess the temperature of the room.

Those who recalled a nostalgic event perceived the room they were in to be warmer.

Study five again instructed participants to recall either a nostalgic or ordinary event from their past.

Researchers found that even listening to nostalgic music, such as the Beatles, can make us feel slightly warmerResearchers found that even listening to nostalgic music, such as the Beatles, can make us feel slightly warmer

They then placed their hand in ice-cold water to see how long they could stand it.

Findings showed that the volunteers who indulged in nostalgia held their hand in the water for longer.

Dr Tim Wildschut, senior lecturer at the University of Southampton and co-author of the study, said: ‘Nostalgia is experienced frequently and virtually by everyone and we know that it can maintain psychological comfort.

‘For example, nostalgic reverie can combat loneliness.’

‘We wanted to take that a step further and assess whether it can also maintain physiological comfort.

‘Our study has shown that nostalgia serves a homeostatic function, allowing the mental simulation of previously enjoyed states, including states of bodily comfort; in this case making us feel warmer or increasing our tolerance of cold.

‘More research is now needed to see if nostalgia can combat other forms of physical discomfort, besides low temperature.’

The study, published in the journal Emotion, was carried out in collaboration with researchers from Sun Yat-Sen University and Tilburg University.

Attribution: Mark Prigg

Perfect for the Prepper

It is widely considered the simplest of all cookery skills, but getting it right still escapes so many sorry chefs.

But now inventors claim a tiny gadget will make sure even the world’s worst in the kitchen can boil the perfect egg in record time – and they won’t even need to put it in water.

The Gogol Mogol is a cardboard egg container made with special chemical layers that produce heat when activated.

Science: The eggs sits inside the gogol mogol and when the brown tab is pulled chemicals inside react and cook it in two minutes The eggs sits inside the gogol mogol and when the brown tab is pulled chemicals inside react and cook it in two minutes

It is made using similar technology to self-heating tins from calcium hydroxide, water and other chemicals which create heat when mixed together.

Once a tag has been pulled from the container the chemicals react with each other and the small package starts warming up to cook the egg inside.

After just two minutes the egg is cooked,  although the user can open it later depending on how runny they like their yolk.

This smashes the four-minutes needed to cook the perfect boiled egg in water.

The carton is made up of four layers, an  outer cardboard sleeve, a  chemical catalyst, and a membrane lining which reacts with the calcium hydroxide underneath.

The only drawback to this is the Gogol Mogol cannot be reused – but it has been created out of recycled materials to reduce waste.

The product is now being offered to manufacturers and is likely to be sold around the world in the coming years.

ScienceThis diagram explains how in a flash goes from  raw to boiled

It was created by a Russian team of inventors, known as KIAN, and designed by Evgeny Morgalev.

‘The product is just a usual egg in an unusual package, possessing unique product properties,’ a spokesman for KIAN  said.

‘The time for preparing eggs should be a couple of minutes and after cooking eggs the package should be thrown away, it’s impossible to use it more than one time.

‘It uses calcium hydroxide and water, so when the components come together a large amount of heat appears.

‘Under the cardboard layer is a catalyst and  a membrane, which separates the catalyst from a smart material.

‘When you pull out the membrane by stretching a tag, the chemical reaction between the catalyst and a smart material begins,  and the egg starts to heat up.

Result: Two minutes later - half the time it takes usually - the egg can be taken out of the packaging and eaten Two minutes later – half the time it takes  usually – the egg can be taken out of the packaging and eaten

‘It takes two or three minutes to boil and may be opened when you think it’s done, some people prefer hard-boiled eggs and other like lightly cooked eggs.

‘So, in a few minutes, when you open the cover of the egg package, you have a boiled egg, it’s an easy breakfast.’

It is aimed at busy people with little time in the mornings, and has now won an award from the European Packaging Design Association.

Attribution: Martin Robinson

As Much Fun as Stripping Paint

Prototype robots autonomously strip paint from aircraft using lasers

Team of robots decoating a cargo plane
Team of robots decoating a cargo plane

If you think stripping paint off an end table can be a messy, time consuming job, imagine removing paint and other coatings from an aircraft like the C-130 transport plane. Tasked with developing a robotic system that would take such a chore out of the hands of maintenance personnel, Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) and Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, developed a team of robots that gets the job done – using laser beams, no less.

Close up of Laser Removal Arm

The prototype robots are being tested at the Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah as part of a program sponsored by the National Defense Center for Energy and Environment to develop ways to cut down on the labor costs, health hazards and environmental problems of repainting military planes. CTC is building six autonomous, mobile robots that work in teams to remove paint and other exterior coatings from fighter and transport planes.

Coating removal system

The large robots consist of a mobile platform on which is mounted a large, articulated arm that moves up and down on hydraulic lifts. On the end of each arm is an array of sensors that allow the arm to glide evenly over the plane’s surface and a continuous wave laser that removes the paint in selective layers. The sensors can also assess the plane’s condition as they go. The speed at which they work needs to remain even so that the laser can strip the paint without overheating the plane’s skin. Meanwhile, a custom High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) system safely collects paint debris as it is removed from the aircraft.

How many robots are required for each team depends on the aircraft. Two robots are enough for a fighter, but four robots might be needed for a cargo plane. The system controlling the robots generates plans for stripping the plane, which can be updated as the job proceeds. It also “virtually” masks areas of the plane that shouldn’t be touched, so maintenance crews don’t have to run about with masking tape and paper.

Mobile robot teams

Using robots means that plane maintenance can carry on around the clock, but it also offers other advantages. For one thing, since they operate autonomously, crews aren’t exposed to harmful chemicals or laser light. According to Jim Arthur, CTC principal process engineer and project manager, “automated laser decoating is expected to significantly reduce labor, waste volume, environmental risk, and overall cost.”

The system is currently in the testing and demonstration phase, but NREC/CTS foresee the robots being used to not only strip, but to also apply paints and coatings as well as inspecting aircraft and doing maintenance and repair work.

Attribution:  , Real Clear Science

Hawaii Continues it’s Growth

A volcano on Hawaii’s largest island is  spilling lava into the ocean creating a rare and spectacular fusion of steam and waves that officials say could attract thrill-seeking visitors if it continues.

Lava from a vent in Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii began flowing into the ocean 7 miles away on Saturday.

The volcano has been erupting continuously from its Pu’u O’o vent since 1983.

Scroll down  for video

Fire and brimstone: Lava from a vent in Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii flows into the ocean creating a rare and spectacular fusion of steam and waves Lava from a vent in Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii flows into the ocean creating a rare and spectacular  fusion of steam and waves
Battle of the elements: Lava from the volcano, which has been erupting continuously from its Pu'u O'o vent since 1983, reached the ocean at the weekendLava from the volcano, which has  been erupting continuously from its Pu’u O’o vent since 1983, reached the ocean at the weekend

The flow was the first from the volcano to  reach the ocean since December, said Janet Babb, spokeswoman for the U.S.  Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Even as Hawaii tourism officials awaited an  increase in visitors drawn by the explosive natural show, officials warned of  potentially deadly risks and urged visitors to stay a safe distance away and respect barriers placed around the lava flow.

‘Ocean entries can be quite beautiful but also quite dangerous,’ Babb said.

When the lava reaches the ocean, it cools, darkens and hardens into a lava delta amid an outpouring of steam. The lava delta is newly created land that is unstable and can collapse without warning.

Forces of nature: Waves crash over lava as it flows into the ocean. The hardening lava forms a delta which is unstable and can collapse without warningWaves crash over lava as it flows into  the ocean. The hardening lava forms a delta which is unstable and can collapse without warning
Steam rises from the waves as the lava meets the ocean
Waves crash over lava as it flows into the ocean near Volcanoes National Park in Kalapana, Hawaii
  Officials have warned any thrill-seekers of  the potentially deadly risks if they try to get too close to the area because  the hardened lava can break off hurling hot water in their direction

When it collapses, even visitors standing 100  yards (meters) away can be hurt because large chunks of lava and hot water are  hurled their direction by the collapse, Babb said.

‘The molten lava meeting the ocean creates  steam which may look innocuous, but can be quite hazardous,’ she said.

‘It’s acidic and contains tiny particles of  volcanic glass. And waves crashing with the lava can send out scalding water.’

It was not clear how long the lava would continue flowing into the ocean.

Unpredictable: Experts say it was not clear how long the lava would continue flowing into the oceanExperts say it was not clear how long the lava would continue flowing into the ocean
Molten masterpiece: A plume of smoke rises from Kilauea crater in Volcanoes National Park in Volcano, Hawaii A plume of smoke rises from Kilauea  crater in Volcanoes National Park in Volcano, Hawaii

George Applegate, director of the Big Island  Visitors Bureau, said he expected an increase in tourists due to the latest  occurrence of the phenomenon.

‘We always do,’ Applegate said. ‘A lot of  people want to see a live lava flow.’

Tourism officials declined to estimate how  many more visitors they might see on the Big Island because of the lava flow.  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which encompasses Kilauea, welcomed more than  1.3million visitors last year, according to park spokeswoman Jessica  Ferracane.

Security workers were keeping people beyond  the barriers during approved viewing hours, said Barry Periatt, plans and  operations officer for Hawaii County’s Civil Defense Agency.

No communities around the volcano are  threatened by the lava flow, Periatt said. The nearest town is Kalapana Gardens,  which is more than half a mile away. It suffered major damage from a 1986  volcano flow.

Attribution: Simon Tomlinson, Daily Mail

Silent Running

Owls could hold the key to developing ‘stealth’ passenger jets, according to new research.

Being woken up at the crack of dawn by noisy airplanes could become a thing of the past thanks to scientists who are trying to replicate the ability of the birds to fly silently in search of  prey.

Owls rely on specialized plumage to reduce sound so they can hunt with stealth and scientists are studying the wing  structure in a bid to design better conventional aircraft.

Stealthy: A long-eared owl in flight. Scientists are studying the wing structures that enable the nocturnal hunters to fly silently in the hope of replicating them to produce quieter passenger aircraftA long-eared owl in flight. Scientists are  studying the wing structures that enable the nocturnal hunters to fly silently in the hope of replicating them to produce quieter passenger aircraft

Dr Justin Jaworski, of the University of  Cambridge, said: ‘Many owl species have developed specialized plumage to effectively eliminate the aerodynamic noise from their wings, which allows them to hunt and capture their prey using their ears alone.’

All wings, either natural or engineered, create turbulent eddies as they cut through the air. When these hit the trailing edge of the wing, they are amplified and scattered as sound.

Conventional aircraft, which have hard trailing edges, are particularly noisy in this regard.

But owls possess distinct physical attributes that contribute to their silent flight including a comb of stiff feathers along the leading edge of the wing, a soft downy material on top and a flexible fringe at the trailing edge.

It is not known whether it is a single attribute or the combination of all three that are the root cause of the noise reduction.

The researchers attempted to unravel this mystery by developing a theoretical basis for the owl’s ability to mitigate sound from the trailing edge of its wing, which is typically an airfoil’s dominant noise source.

Earlier owl experiments suggest their wing noise is much less dependent on air speed and that there is a large reduction of high frequency noise across a range where human ears are most sensitive.

Noisy: A Ryanair plane lands at Dublin Airport. Conventional aircraft, which have hard trailing edges, are particularly noisy as the hard trailing edges of their wings create turbulent eddies in the air A Ryanair plane lands at Dublin Airport.  Conventional aircraft, which have hard trailing edges, are particularly noisy as  the hard trailing edges of their wings create turbulent eddies in the air

Using mathematical models, the researchers demonstrated elastic and porous properties of a trailing edge could be tuned so aerodynamic noise would depend on the flight speed as if there were no edge at all.

Professor Nigel Peake, who presented the  study at a meeting of the American Physical Society in San Diego, added: ‘This implied the dominant noise source for conventional wings could be eliminated.

‘The noise signature from the wing could then be dictated by otherwise minor noise mechanisms such as the roughness of the wing surface.’

Attribution: Damien Gayle

Extraordinary Genius

A new study suggests that Albert Einstein’s extraordinary genius may have been related to a uniquely shaped brain.

Researchers compared Einstein’s brain to 85 ‘normal’ human brains to determine, what, if any, unusual features it possessed.

‘Although the overall size and asymmetrical shape of Einstein’s brain were normal, the prefrontal, somatosensory, primary motor, parietal,  temporal and occipital cortices were extraordinary,’ said Dean Falk, the Hale G. Smith Professor of Anthropology at Florida State,  told Science  Daily.

EinsteinResearchers now believe the unique shape of  Einstein’s brain may have helped boost his cognitive abilities

‘These may have  provided the neurological underpinnings for some of his visuospatial and mathematical abilities, for  instance.’

Using 14 recently discovered pictures of the  genius’ brain, Falks and her colleagues were able to describe Einstein’s entire cerebral cortex.

Their study, ‘The Cerebral Cortex of Albert  Einstein: A Description and Preliminary Analysis of Unpublished Photographs,’  were published Nov. 16 in Brain, a journal on neurology.

FalkDean Falk and her colleagues were able to present for the first time a clear description of Einstein’s cortex
Einstein  Researchers used photos taken of Einstein’s  brain upon his death in 1955 to advance their findings

With permission from his family, Einstein’s  brain was removed and photographed upon his death in 1955.

It was even sectioned into 240 blocks to make histological slides.

The paper will also outline a ‘roadmap’ to Einstein’s brain made in 1955 by Dr. Thomas Harvey.

                                          Left and right views of Einstein’s brain

Most of those photos, blocks, and slides have been lost from the public eye, and the photographs used by Falk’s team are held by the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Attribution: Mail Online

Bond Car

James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 was put through a series of huge explosions and stunts during the filming of Skyfall, including one scene which saw the priceless vehicle explode in flames.

However, producers have revealed the secret behind the stunts – if they lost a car, they could simply print another. Yes, that’s right, print another one.

Three replica cars, a third of the size of  the real thing, were created using a large scale 3D printer.

18 individual parts were printed to create the Aston Martin seen on screen18 individual parts were printed to create the Aston  Martin seen on screen

The models double for the priceless original vehicle from the 1960s in the film’s action scenes.

They were made by British firm Propshop Modelmakers Ltd, which specialize in the production of film props, and used Voxeljet to print the cars.

‘Propshop commissioned us to build three plastic models of the Aston Martin DB5,’ voxeljet CEO Dr. Ingo Ederer.

‘We could have easily printed the legendary sports car in one piece at a scale of 1:3 using our high-end VX4000 printer, which can build moulds and models in dimensions of up to eight cubic metres.

‘But the British model builders were pursuing a different approach.

Once assembled, the models were finished by hand, and were indistinguishable from the full sized versions, according the their makersOnce assembled, the models were finished by hand, and were indistinguishable from the full sized versions, according the their makers

‘To ensure that the Aston Martin was as true to detail as possible, and for the purpose of integrating numerous functions into the film models, they decided on an assembly consisting of a total of 18 individual components.

‘The entire body is based on a steel frame, almost identical to how vehicles were assembled in the past,’ said  Ederer.

‘In addition to the automotive industry, foundries, designers and artists, the film industry represents an entirely new customer base for voxeljet.

‘3D printing is on the cusp of a great future in the film industry.

‘The technology offers fantastic opportunities, since it is usually much faster, more precise and more  economical than classic model construction,’ says Ederer.


voxeljet CEO Dr. Ingo Ederer with one of the 3D printers used
voxeljet CEO Dr. Ingo Ederer with one of the 3D printers  used

Voxeljet started the printing process once the computer files with the design data for all components were available.

The models are produced with the layer-by-layer application of particle material that is glued together with a binding agent.

As each layer is finished, another is printed on top to build up a 3D model.

The parts are then individually cleaned.

A total of 54 individual parts for the three vehicle models, including mudguards, doors, bonnets, roofs and more, were then packaged and transported to Pinewood Studios near  London.

The model builders at Propshop then meticulously assembled and finished the components, painted them in the original colour and added chrome applications along with realistic-looking bullet holes.

The finished model, which was seen in several key scenes of the filmThe finished model, which was seen in several key scenes  of the film

After the finishing process, it is impossible to distinguish the Aston Martin models made with the voxeljet printer from the original, even in the close-up shots, the firm says.

‘The priceless Aston Martin DB5, which was used in the first James Bond film exactly 50 years ago, remains unscathed, while one of the elaborately and meticulously constructed models explodes in flames in the film,’ it said.

‘An expensive crash, since one of the three models was auctioned off by Christie’s for almost $170,000.

Daniel Craig with the real Aston Martin DB 5Daniel Craig with the real Aston Martin DB 5
Real or model? A close up of one of the model car's bumper and bonnetReal or model? A close up of one of the model car’s  bumper and bonnet