January 04, 2008
See me glow — Electroluminescent yarn will light you up
From the William Lee Innovation Centre at Manchester University (U.K.) comes ".... battery-powered textile yarn that can be used to make clothing glow in the dark" (above).
"The electroluminescent (EL) yarns, powered by small nine-volt batteries, glow continuously, unlike the present reflective and fluorescent safety clothes, which become visible only when an external light source such as a car headlight shines on them," wrote Clive Cookson in today's Financial Times.
He continued, "The yarns contain an inner conductive core and outer conductive coating. Between them is a sandwich of EL ink that emits light when a tiny electric current passes through it."
Here's a report from Laboratory News Online about the new new thing in disco-friendly fabric.
- High tech textiles glow with the flow
As the nights close in, scientists have unveiled textile technology that could improve safety of cyclists, joggers and pedestrians on dark winter days.
Researchers at The University of Manchester have developed battery-powered textile yarns that can be used to make clothing glow in the dark. The yarns have been developed by The William Lee Innovation Centre (WLIC), based in the University’s School of Materials — and have the potential to be incorporated into clothing worn by cyclists, joggers and pedestrians.
The development, made from electroluminescent (EL) yarns, emits light when powered by a battery.
Dr Tilak Dias, head of the WLIC, said: “At the moment the EL yarn we have developed is less flexible than conventional yarns. But it is more flexible than current optical fibres that are incorporated within fabrics to provide illumination. EL yarn can be easily incorporated into a knitted or woven fabric and the resultant active illuminating fabric provides illumination when it is powered.
The yarn consists of an inner conductive core yarn, coated with electroluminescent ink — which emits light when an electric current is passed through it — and a protective transparent encapsulation, with an outer conductive yarn wrapped around it. When the EL yarn is powered, the resultant electrical field between the inner and outer conductor causes the electroluminescent coating to emit light.
“The luminance of a single strand of the EL yarn is greater than that of photoluminescent glow yarns, which are currently used in some high visibility applications. Weaving or knitting the yarn in a particular manner, so that more yarn per unit area is achieved, improves the luminance of the EL yarn.”
The team also think the yarn could be used for flexible woven or knitted road safety signs that communicate written instructions.
More on this technology here.
From the website:
- Collapsible Funnel
Handy space saver easily transfers liquid or dry ingredients into smaller containers.
Just push out the soft center section to expand funnel for use, then fold down for compact storage.
Takes up nearly 2/3 less space than a traditional funnel and is dishwasher-safe.
5-1/2" H when expanded; 1-3/4" H when collapsed.
'Computer games are the new crack cocaine' — Stephen Moore, Wall Street Journal editorial board member
His essay in today's paper is — by far — the funniest thing I've read all year.
Wait a minute....
After I finished it I rechecked my calendar to make sure I hadn't had a time-slip, a là Philip K. Dick, and suddenly advanced to April 1.
Nope: everything checks out, it's still January 4, 2008.
Moore added, "I'm not suggesting making the games illegal...."
That's a relief.
Enjoy the complete unexpurgated, uncensored version of his rant; it follows.
Nota bene: Not one word has been omitted.
- Teenage Zombies
My new year's resolution is to get my two teenage sons back. They've been abducted — by the cult of Nintendo. I'm convinced that video games are Japan's stealth strategy to turn our kids' brains into silly putty as payback for dropping the big one on Hiroshima.
The trouble began last summer when my sons started spending virtually every unsupervised hour camped out in front of the computer screen engaged in multiplayer role games like World of Warcraft and Counterstrike. At the start of this craze, I wrote it off as merely a normal phase of adolescence. I was confident that, at 14 and 16, they would soon be more interested in chasing real-life girls than virtual video hoodlums.
Boy, was I wrong. Their compulsion became steadily more destructive. They grew increasingly withdrawn, walking around like the zombies from "Night of the Living Dead." Unless I pried them (forcibly) from the computer, they would spend five or six hours at a time absorbed in these online fantasy worlds. My wife tried to calm me down by observing that "at least they're not out having sex or doing drugs." But how would that be any worse?
Both are decent athletes, but their muscles began to atrophy right before our very eyes; their skin tone paled from lack of sunlight. Their idea of playing sports these days is inserting Madden football or the NBA slam-dunk game into our Xbox.
We recently considered purchasing the new Nintendo Wii, because at least its games — simulated bowling, snow boarding, guitar playing and motorcycling — require physical activity. Nintendo even advertises this product as good exercise for kids, and I have colleagues who swear that they get a great workout from Wii boxing and skiing. Alas, a new study from the British Health Journal suggest that Wii is no substitute for the real and vigorous outdoor exercise that adolescent boys need.
My wife and I aren't entirely inept parents — our 6-year-old seems fairly well-adjusted anyway. Back in October we established for the older boys strict screen-time limits. It was then that we discovered the true extent of their addiction. They ranted and raved and cursed and even threw things — almost as if demons had taken possession of them. These are classic withdrawal symptoms; they craved a fix. When we installed parental controls on the computer, our boys scoffed. It took them about 15 minutes to disable them. We've become so desperate that we may have to get rid of the computers entirely, though that may hamper their school work.
It turns out that we're not alone in our predicament. A parent down the street confided to us that his 12-year-old son was so obsessed with video games that he wouldn't take even a three-minute break from gaming to go to the bathroom — with unfortunate results. The other day we saw a kid at church, in a semi-trance, going down the aisle to Holy Communion while clicking on a hand-held Game Boy. Talk about worshiping a false god.
This summer the American Medical Association's annual conference debated a proposal to declare excessive video gaming a "formal disorder" in the category of other addictions like alcohol, drugs and gambling. One study released at the AMA conference found that many kids who spend a disproportionate amount of time playing games "achieve more control and success of their social relationships in the virtual reality realm than in real relationships."
I'm not one to blame every human frailty on some faddish psychiatric disorder. But I'm persuaded that computer games are the new crack cocaine. The testimonials from parents of online gamers are horrific: kids not taking showers, not eating or sleeping, falling behind in school. Some parents are forced to send their kids to therapeutic boarding schools, which charge up to $5,000 a month, to combat the gaming addiction.
The war lords of the gaming industry tout research on the positive attributes of gaming — and admittedly there are some. One study published this year in Psychological Science finds that gaming improves eyesight. A famous 2004 study by researchers at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, found that video games improve manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination: "Doctors who spend at least 3 hours a week playing video games," the researchers reported, "made about 37% fewer mistakes in laproscopic surgery." Fine. I'll give my sons the joysticks back when they become orthopedic surgeons.
In the meantime, what is to be done? I'm not suggesting making the games illegal — we don't need a multibillion-dollar black market in video games. But I am pleading that parents take this social problem seriously and intervene, as my wife and I wish we had done much earlier.
November sales for the Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, and the games that go with them, were up a gaudy 52% over last year. In my neck of the woods, Wii's were such hot sellers that they weren't available in the stores at any price. I'm proud to report that we rejected our youngest son's pleas for a PlayStation for Christmas. He pouts that we're the meanest parents in the world. Someday he'll thank us. A mind really is a terrible thing to waste.
Personalized Color-Changing Pencils
Where were these when I needed them, back in elementary school, junior high and high school?
From the website:
- Personalized Color Changing Pencils
Like magic, these pencils change colors at your touch!
Wooden pencils are finished with a temperature-sensitive coating so the heat in your hand actually alters the color.
A great idea to add a personal touch to family reunions, fundraisers, parties or gifts.
Choose any name or message and we'll print it on these quality pencils FREE.
Specify name or message: limit 1 line, 30 letters/spaces.
1 name per set.
12 for $4.99.
Football 2007/2008 — Things that, if I never hear them again, it'll be too soon
"Don't kick it to Hester" — why bother wasting the energy to even say the words, when immediately after they're uttered the ball is kicked to said individual and he subsequently takes it to the house? What an amazing, brilliant player.
"They need to improve their defensive secondary" — but what about the offensive secondary? Oh, yeah — there's no such thing.
"He's a great player but an even better person" — With surprising frequency followed shortly thereafter by a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct/unnecessary roughness (à la the Sports Illustrated cover jinx) or an arrest.
"He can play at the next level" and "you'll be seeing him on Sundays" — why not just say he'll play pro ball? Why the euphemisms? Is there something illicit about actually coming out and saying "NFL?"
"He's special" — puh-leeze.
It's not what you think.
From the website:
- Sticky Sheets Pet Hair Removal System
Simply stick it! Rip it! Done!
Since the dawn of time people have vacuumed, wrapped tape around their hands, gone through multiple lint rollers and even used tweezers to remove pet hair from their furniture or car seats.
Hours and hours are spent every week attempting to stay ahead of the hairy mess their beloved pets leave behind.
Not anymore with Sticky Sheets, the fastest, easiest method for removing pet hair, lint and dirt.
Simply peel off the back tab, stick the sheet to the top of the item to be cleaned, peel off the rest of the backing, flatten the sheet onto the fabric and into all crevices and cracks and pull the sheet off, removing the hair — and you are done!
Specially formulated — sticks to hair but not to itself!
For Chairs, sofas, car seats, clothing, rugs, comforters, pillows or other large cloth surfaces.
Each sheet measures 23" x 35" and is reuseable to clean an entire room.
Your address in [neon] lights
No more nonsense with people trying to find your house in the dark.
Jura Koncius's story in yesterday's Washington Post featured the work [above and below] of neon artist Jim Manning, and follows.
- They Say the Neon Lights Are Bright on This Street
On a cold winter night, the glow of No. 4335 on the front of Jim Manning's house in American University Park is a small beacon in the darkened neighborhood.
"Doesn't it make you smile?" he says, beaming at the neon house numbers before setting off on an evening walking tour of his Northwest Washington neighborhood. In the six months since Manning made and installed his glimmering address, four of his neighbors have ordered red, purple, green and white neon numbers for their houses. The enclave has become the talk of commuters hiking home at dusk from the Metro, bemused dog walkers and curious kids in strollers.
"People are always knocking on my door and asking about it," he says. "There's something about neon that people just love."
Manning, 56, spent his career as a telecommunications consultant but has always wanted to be a neon artist. "I remember growing up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and going to my aunt's basement where she had a bar with a couple of neon beer signs," he says. "I was mesmerized." For his 40th birthday, Manning's family presented him with a custom neon sign. When it broke during a move, he went looking for a place to have it fixed. He discovered Marty King's neon studio, Light'n Up, in Northeast Washington (www.lightnupneon.com). He got hooked spending a lot of time watching King work on her neon creations, and she suggested he sign up for classes from other local neon artists. Now retired, Manning spends a lot of time at the studio crafting his own neon.
His projects are glowing all over his 1922 semi-detached rowhouse. Blue, pink, yellow, red and green neon outlines the railing of the back porch; red and cobalt blue neon lights a faux fire in the fireplace. A toothpaste tube spews turquoise neon toothpaste on the bathroom wall.
Manning made his six-inch-tall blue house numbers in June. "I went looking for a new porch light, and I didn't like anything I saw out there," he says. "Then it came to me: I would do my house numbers in neon, and that would light up my porch."
The glowing address instantly attracted neighborhood attention. "It hadn't been installed for an hour when my neighbor across the street, Sharon Gang, came over and said, 'I have to have it,' " he recalls.
"I wanted to do something to make my 1925 house my own," says Gang, who asked Manning to create a neon address for her. She figured the red numbers would be great for guests — or firefighters — trying to find her house. "The neon numbers make it mine and different from whoever else lived here."
Manning wasn't planning to go into the neon business, but when more neighbors developed number envy, he knew he had to come up with a pricing structure. He charges $600 for fabricating, installing and covering a neon house number with plexiglass. A light sensor turns on the numbers in the evening and switches them off after sunrise.
Neighbor Sara Perez left Manning a note that she wanted to replace her small, old black house numbers with something more visible. She chose bright white to go with her all-white flower beds. Now Perez looks forward to seeing her numbers start to glow when the sun goes down. "They're my new porch light," Perez says. "I'm in heaven."
Twine Cutter Dispenser
"A 150-foot ball of linen twine in a see-through dispenser — just yank to snip!"