June 4, 2014

Google Glass, which just made its 2014 debut, is already recruiting designers like Diane von Furstenberg and Ray-Ban to make you want to wear a computer on your face.     Photo: Giuseppe Costantino/Flickr

Google Glass Gets Designer Makeover

Shades to be released June 23 go for the "hot nerd" look

Astro Teller, captain of Google's research lab, thinks technology needs a makeover. He's enlisted the help of designer queen Diane von Furstenberg to give Google Glass a more user-friendly and chic makeover. 

"Some people worry wearable connected technologies will become just the next step down the path of draining our attention and further widening the schism between our physical lives and digital lives—just another techno-distraction," Teller wrote in an opinion piece for CNN. "We agree. So, we're developing the Glass design to make it easier to bring people the technology they depend on without drawing them out of the moment."

According to Elle, the new collection features five frame colors, eight shades, and two frame styles. Prescription styles and sunglasses will be available June 23 through Glass and Net-a-Porter.com, a high-fashion online retailer. Although the von Furstenberg line is geared exclusively toward women, more gender-neutral designs from Ray-Ban and Oakley maker Luxottica will hit the market in 2015.

The new look differs only slightly from the original Glass design. There's still a computer in the corner on the curved frame of the wraparound shades, but by enlisting designers and popular fashion brands, Google Glass is taking steps toward Teller's goal of being less of a distraction and more of a necessity.

In his ideal world, "people wearing Glass would forget they're wearing it, just like you don't remember during the day that you are wearing regular eyeglasses," wrote Teller. But as this article from Forbes points out, popular brands won't solve Glass's concept issues. As long as Glass feels unfamiliar to the public, no amount of "coolness" injected by the fashion world will keep people from focusing on that computer screen in the corner.

For those interested in purchasing the new "DVF | Made for Glass" product, CNN Money reports that it will set you back a cool $1,620 for frames with shades and $1,750 for prescription versions.

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Cannabis: Just what your morning cup of joe was missing.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Brewers to Release Marijuana-Infused Coffee

Rise and shine is now wake and bake

A coffee brewer in Washington state is planning to release a cannabis-infused cold-brew coffee beverage called Legal. The new product, a creation of Mirth Provisions, contains about 20 milligrams of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

According to product developer Adam Stites, the buzz from the drink, which comes in plain and cream-and-sugar flavors, is equivalent to an IPA or a single glass of wine. "We don't want to pack so much THC into every one of our drinks that it's unpleasant, especially for people that are just getting into marijuana," he told MyNorthwest.com.

Mirth also plans to release a line of juice-based sparkling sodas, each infused with its own strain of marijuana for different effects. Stites has yet to put a final price tag on the products but expects them to cost between $9 and $11, depending on how many stores want to carry the drinks.

Consumers excited at the prospect of Legal will have to wait a few more weeks for the product as Stites applies for his producer and processor license and waits for final approval from the state. Legal is still a marijuana-based product and must be regulated as such. Edible products in particular have come under scrutiny in states that have legalized pot as fears of overeating and overdosing spread. Marijuana intoxication was recently blamed for the death of a Wyoming college student who consumed roughly six times the suggested amount of cookies he purchased before jumping off a balcony.

Still, none of that is going to stop Stites. "We can produce several hundred bottles per hour," he says. "So the question for us really is how quickly are these retail stores going to be open. But we're really excited."

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Brainwaves from the subject will be decoded and sent to a computer in the exoskeleton, which will translate the signals to control the limbs of the apparatus.     Photo: deep.introspection/Flickr

Exoskeleton to Open World Cup

A young, paralyzed Brazilian may walk onto the field for the start of the world's largest sports tournament

Next week, hundreds of millions of viewers will tune in to watch the first match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, between Brazil and Croatia, in Sao Paulo. But before the Selecao begin their decimation of the Croats, viewers may witness the first public demonstration of a major breakthrough in prosthetic science: If all goes as planned, a young, paralyzed Brazilian will walk to center field and deliver the first kick by means of a mind-controlled exoskeleton.

As the Atlantic reports, the idea came from a nonprofit organization called the Walk Again Project, inspired by the work of Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian neuroscientist at Duke University who has been exploring the intersection between neuroscience and prosthetics for more than a decade. In 2008, he helmed a project where a female rhesus monkey in his lab at Duke manipulated the movements of a robot in Japan using only her thoughts. 

For the planned World Cup opening act, Nicolelis hopes to outfit the exoskeleton "pilot" with an electrode cap concealed beneath a helmet. The cap will decode the subject's brainwaves and send them to a computer in the exoskeleton, which translates the brain signals to control the limbs of the apparatus. Powered by hydraulics, this robot suit has a battery allowing for approximately two hours of use.

"The main message is that science and technology can be agents of social transformation in the whole world," Nicolelis told the BBC. "That they can be used to alleviate the suffering and the limitations of millions of people."

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The Aquarius Reef Base off the coast of the Florida Keys, where Fabien Cousteau will live for 31 days, has been around for 25 years and is now in danger due to funding cuts.     Photo: NOAA's National Ocean Service/Flickr

Cousteau Grandson to Live Underwater for a Month

Intends to make documentary, study coral reef

Filmmaker Fabien Cousteau, the 47-year-old ocean enthusiast and grandson of Jacques Cousteau, is gearing up for his most immersive experience yet: spending a month living and working underwater.

He's calling the endeavor Mission 31, reflecting the number of days he'll spend at pressure in the Aquarius Reef Base off the coast of the Florida Keys. That's one day more than Jacques Cousteau spent in a similar Red Sea facility in 1963—which would be a record for longest time spent underwater by a film crew. Fabien says Mission 31 will be a tribute to his grandfather and will raise funds for the Aquarius Reef Base, as federal spending cuts have put the facility in danger. 

Fabien and a five-person crew plan to use the school bus–sized laboratory, located 60 feet underwater, to its fullest. They'll make a documentary and undertake science experiments at a nearby coral reef, all the while broadcasting a livestream of the lab for us landlubbers to enjoy.

The team officially began their underwater stay on June 1, and aside from a minor air-conditioning incident, all seems to be going swimmingly. Stay tuned: We'll be posting photos from the mission as it happens.

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No, koalas don't get more sympathetic as the heat turns up—tree hugging is purely a survival tactic.     Photo: RobertDowner/ThinkStock

Koalas Hug Trees in Hot Weather

Bears cling to trunks during heat waves

Natalie Briscoe, a member of a University of Melbourne team studying the effects of climate change on Australian animals, was investigating how koalas regulate their body temperatures when she noticed an interesting seasonal shift in behavior.

During cool winters, koalas stuck close to palatable leaves in trees' highest branches. But as temperatures rose, koalas shimmied downward, "flopping" themselves over lower segments of tree trunks and clutching them more tightly.

"It looked like they were spread-eagled and uncomfortable," U of M professor Michael Kearney told the BBC. "It seemed like the wrong thing to do."

Upon further investigation, Briscoe and her partners realized that koala survival stems from their awkward warm-weather siesta positions.

Although Australian summer temperatures can be more than 100 degrees, researchers discovered that koalas' favorite tree hangouts were as much as seven degrees cooler than the daily high. The animals use trees as heat sinks, and thick trunks are the coolest parts of trees. Thermal imaging of koalas clutching trees on hot days confirmed suspicions.

"When we got the images back, it was so obvious what the koala was doing," Kearney said. "You could see the koala sitting on the coolest part of the tree trunk with its bottom wedged right into the coolest spot."

As global temperatures increase, researchers say, animals like flying foxes and koalas will depend even more heavily on the cooling properties of tree microclimates.

Rising temperatures have probably forced you to look for loopholes to cool off. Unlike koalas, though, humans don't have to show trees extra affection to ward off heatstroke. If tree hugging isn't your favorite way to avoid overheating, consider taking cool trips in the summer months or dressing for the occasion.

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Apollo 17 astronauts take the moon buggy out for a spin.     Photo: NASA/Pacific Space Center

Apollo Mission Photos Surface

From treks across Hawaii's Big Island

Houston: The photographs have surfaced.

While rummaging around Johnson Space Center, PISCES executive director Rob Kelso recently came across previously unpublished images of astronauts trekking across Apollo Valley on Hawaii's Big Island in the late 1960s and early '70s. Similar to the surface of the moon, the island's volcanic, rocky landscape was ideal for testing moon buggies and training astronauts.

Yesterday, NASA's Pacific Space Center released these photos from Apollo training missions 13, 15, and 17. Among them:

  Photo: NASA/Pacific Space Center

Astronauts practiced geological-sample runs on the crater-ridden Hawaiian surface.

  Photo: NASA/Pacific Space Center

Apollo 13 Commander James A. Lovell Jr. 

  Photo: NASA/Pacific Space Center

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