are undergoing a change that hasn't been seen since the horizontal
mini-blind was developed 50 years ago. Soon, curtains and
window blinds could be obsolete. You are probably familiar
with liquid crystals. Portable computers, calculators, digital
clocks and watches, and microwave ovens all use liquid crystal
displays (LCDs). In these displays, electricity is used to
change the shape of the liquid crystals to allow light to
pass through, thus forming figures and numbers on the display.
The technology behind an LCD is similar to the polymer dispersed
liquid crystals (PDLCs) used in some smart-window applications.
In these windows, the liquid crystals respond to an electrical
charge by aligning parallel and letting light through. When
the electrical charge is absent, the liquid crystals in the
window are randomly oriented. With liquid crystals, the glass
is either clear or translucent.
'Attentive Cubicle' to Help Focus
at the Queen's University's Human Media Laboratory (HML) have
developed an "attentive" office cubicle that blocks
noise and visual distractions when you're working and then
opens communication channels when you're ready to socialise.
The new "attentive and more considerate" office
cubicle helps increase work focus for those who share space
with many others. The attentive cubicle's walls are constructed
of a translucent material called Privacy Glass that consists
of a glass pane with an embedded layer of liquid crystals.
Overhead cameras mounted in the ceiling track the "social
geometry" between co-workers. When potential communication
partners are detected, the cubicle's walls automatically change
from opaque to transparent, allowing for visual interaction.
The cubicle workers also wear noise-cancelling headphones
that filter out noise generated by co-workers in other cubicles.
The headphones can detect when co-workers are looking at the
wearer. When the headphones detect an approaching co-worker,
they automatically turn off noise-cancellation to allow workers
to communicate normally. "The attentive cubicle is all
about having visual attention mediated through architecture,
while headphones cancel out auditory distractions. You don't
hear anything except what the headset presents to you,"
says the lead researcher Dr. Roel Vertegaal.
car giant Toyota is redefining the future of the car with
the development of a new breed of wearable single passenger
robotic vehicles that envelop drivers. According to The BBC,
the driver cruises in a four-wheeled leaf-like device or strolls
along encased in an egg-shaped cocoon that walks upright on
two feet. The models are being positioned as so-called personal
mobility devices, which have few limits. The open leaf-like
"i-unit" vehicle is built using environmentally
friendly plant-based materials and is equipped with intelligent
transport system technologies that allow for safe autopilot
driving in specially equipped lanes. It allows the user to
make tight on-the-spot turns, move upright amongst other people
at low speeds and can be easily switched into a reclining
position at higher speeds. Body colours can be customised
to suit individual preferences and a personal recognition
system offers both information and music. While the egg-shaped
"i-foot" is a two-legged mountable robot-like device
that can be controlled with a joystick.
and Booze Pangs
University scientists have reportedly discovered a brain chemical
that triggers both hunger and booze pangs. The study shows
that rats injected with Galanin, a natural signalling agent
in the brain, chose to drink increasing quantities of alcohol
even while consuming normal amounts of food and water. The
finding helps explain one of the mechanisms involved in alcohol
dependence and strengthens scientists' understanding of the
neurological link between the desire for alcohol and food.
"There seems to be a cycle of positive feedback. Consumption
of alcohol produces galanin, and galanin promotes the consumption
of alcohol, " said Bartley Hoebel, co-author of the study.
Galanin, a kind of small protein fragment called a neuropeptide,
had previously been shown to play a role in appetite, particularly
for fatty foods. "Alcohol is the only drug of abuse that
is also a calorie-rich food, and it undoubtedly has important
interactions with systems that control food intake and nutrition,"
said Michael Lewis, lead author of the study and senior fellow
of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
(NIAAA). When the animals were given a drug that blocked the
effects of galanin, they maintained normal eating and drinking
habits. This observation helps confirm the conclusion that
galanin affects alcohol consumption and also suggests the
possibility of someday creating a drug that blocks galanin
in order to fight alcoholism.
has again proved itself as the land of contradictions as scientists
have now discovered a new species of monkey in Arunachal Pradesh,
despite the fact that India has some of the fastest retreating
forest lands. The researchers from the New York-based Wildlife
Conservation Society have named the species 'Arunachal Macaque'
and describe it as a relatively large brown primate with a
comparatively short tail. The Arunachal Macaque (Macaca Munzala)
is the latest addition to the Macaque family, a group with
some 20 different species occurring mainly in Asia across
a variety of different habitats. The new species is also one
of the highest-dwelling primates in the world, occurring between
1600 and 3500 meters about sea level. "This new species
comes from a biologically rich area that is perhaps India's
last unknown frontier. The discovery of a new species of monkey
is quite rare. What is also remarkable about our discovery
is that few would have thought that with over a billion people
and retreating wild lands, a new large mammal species would
ever be found in India, of all places," the researchers
wrote in their study.
Webindia123.com / BBC.co.uk / Howstuffworks.com
(R) thedailystar.net 2004