Freevolt generates power from thin air

Freevolt generates power from thin air

What you see above may look like an unremarkable slice of electronics, but it can theoretically power a low-energy device forever, and for free. If that sounds like a big deal, well… that’s because it is. Drayson Technologies today announced Freevolt, a system that harvests energy from radio frequency (RF) signals bouncing around in the ether and turns it into usable, “perpetual power.” Drayson isn’t exactly a household name, but the research and development company has a particular interest in energy, especially where all-electric racing is concerned. And now it’s developed the first commercial technology that literally creates electricity out of thin air.

We’re constantly surrounded by an ever-denser cloud of RF signals. They’re the reason your smartphone gets 2G, 3G and 4G coverage, your laptop gets WiFi, and your TV receives digital broadcasts. Capturing energy from this background noise is nothing new, but most proof-of-concept scenarios have employed dedicated transmitters that power devices at short ranges. Furthermore, research into the field has never really left the lab, though a company called Nikola Labs is hoping to release an iPhone case that’s said to extend battery life using RF energy harvesting.

According to Drayson, Freevolt is the first commercially available technology that powers devices using ambient RF energy, no dedicated transmitter required. The key to Freevolt is said to be the efficiency of its three constituent parts. A multi-band antenna scavenges RF energy from any source within the 0.5-5GHz range, which is then fed through an “ultra-efficient” rectifier that turns this energy into DC electricity. A power management module boosts, stores and outputs this electricity — and that’s all there is to it.


The Virginia Couple That Gave Birth to the Billable Hour | Flashback | OZY

The Virginia Couple That Gave Birth to the Billable Hour | Flashback | OZY

Being an associate at a large law firm is not designed to be easy. To amass the roughly 2,000 billable hours required of associates each year, they pretty much have to work 60 or more hours per week for at least 50 weeks per year. The entire crazy system — fueled by the all-powerful billable hour — has long been criticized as nightmarish for attorneys, with partners being the only ones who truly benefit in the wealth department.

And yet the billable hour was not inevitable, nor has it been around that long in the big scheme of things. If you happen to be an associate looking to assign the blame for your particular set of circumstances, or to kill 1/20th of an hour before you return to billable work, may I propose a Virginia couple named Ruth and Lewis Goldfarb. Forty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a case brought by the Goldfarbs that minimum-fee schedules for lawyer rates violated antitrust law, an act that effectively spurred the growth of the billable hour — and sealed the fates of countless young lawyers.

Throughout the 19th century, legal fees in the U.S. were largely capped by state law with the costs of litigation footed by the losing party. More adventuresome billing methods, including retainers and contingency fees, began to crop up in the early 20th century. But, as litigation, corporate transactions and other legal work grew more complicated and expensive, many lawyers found themselves working harder and longer for the same standardized fee and, perhaps more importantly, falling well behind the pay scales of fellow professionals such as doctors and dentists.

In a 1958 pamphlet titled “The 1958 Lawyer and His 1938 Dollar,” the American Bar Association (ABA) attributed the sinking fortunes of the profession to the fact that lawyers were sloppy businessmen who kept poor records and undervalued their services. (That same pamphlet also proposed a 1,300-hour workload for associates!) “Lawyers have slowly but surely been committing economic suicide as a profession,” the Virginia State Bar’s committee on economics concluded around the same time, proposing a solution embraced by state bars across the country: minimum-fee schedules.

For the Virginia State Bar, the minimum fee schedule was just good business, and lawyers found to be charging less than the suggested fee for a service would be presumed “guilty of misconduct.” For Ruth and Lewis Goldfarb, and the class of Virginia plaintiffs they headed, however, the minimum fees charged by the legal profession constituted price-fixing and were therefore — rather ironically — illegal. In 1971, the Goldfarbs had contracted to purchase a home in Reston, Virginia, and as part of securing a mortgage, were required to hire a local attorney to conduct a title examination of the property. To their horror, and after calls to several dozen attorneys in Northern Virginia, the Goldfarbs discovered that the minimum-fee system made bargain hunting for legal services a rather pointless exercise.

Four years and no doubt substantial legal fees later, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed, ruling in Goldfarb v. Virginia State Bar that minimum-fee schedules violated federal antitrust law. Many law firms had heeded the ABA’s clarion call before Goldfarb and started billing by the hour (and keeping better records), but when the Supreme Court kicked the minimum fee crutch out from under the ailing profession, it was clear that the billable hour was the way forward, and by the end of the decade the system was firmly entrenched.

How Engineers at West Virginia University Caught VW Cheating – IEEE Spectrum

How Engineers at West Virginia University Caught VW Cheating – IEEE Spectrum

“Some people have mischaracterized what our role was,” says Dan Carder, interim director of West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions (CAFEE). “Some have used the phrase ‘tipped off the EPA.’ But we were just working under contract.”

The contracting organization, a European non-profit, had wanted to convince European regulators to emulate strict U.S. standards for diesel emissions of nitrous oxides (NOX). So it asked CAFEE engineers to gather data from the field. They rented VW diesels, measured their tailpipe emissions on the road and compared them to measurements on the same cars made in the lab. The discrepancies were huge.

“We presented this in a public forum in San Diego, in the spring of 2014; we said, these are two vehicles; we’re presenting what we can present,” Carder says. “And EPA people were in the audience.” Meanwhile, the sponsoring group, called the International Council on Clean Transportation, published the results online as well.

The information was out there for more than a year. But the auto press missed its significance.

The EPA did not. It started testing with a vengence, going through all the necessary protocols before formally approaching Volkswagen. VW resisted for a while, then it admitted that it had deliberately cheated.

“What’s surprising to me was their total admission,” says Carder. He offered no opinion on who might have been behind the scheme.

“There’d be a larger penalty on fuel than on performance,” he says. “For the average consumer, if you get plus or minus 10 percent torque, they’re not going to realize it.”

That means that even after VW pays the multibillion-dollar bill to refit its diesel cars to meet EPA standards, its customers will have to pay a price, too. Because their cars will get worse mileage, they will command a lower resale price—a problem that commenters on Reddit say is already apparent.

The Paradise Where Everyone’s Divorced | Acumen | OZY

The Paradise Where Everyone’s Divorced | Acumen | OZY

The Maldives — that scattering of 1,200 tiny islands, a long way south of India, that you’ve seen on a screen saver or two — might seem like paradise. Bungalows hovering above transparent waters. Palm trees with trunks bent perfectly for naps. The island of a thousand honeymoons. And … a thousand divorces.

According to the U.N., the average 30-year-old Maldivian woman has been divorced. Not once. Not twice. But three times. Three divorces before the age of 30 — and that’s just the average. Explanation? The Maldives has the highest divorce rate in the world. Indeed, the place literally holds the Guinness World Record.

By way of context, the second and third highest rates, in Belarus and the United States, respectively, are around four divorces per thousand, or less than half that. So now, the real question: Why?

“Horniness,” answers Anthony Marcus, chair of the anthropology department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in New York. Marcus wrote a book chapter on just this issue. The short answer is that the bikini-packed Maldives is actually a Muslim country, and that means there is a great stigma against premarital sex. Which leads a lot of teed-up 18-year-olds to suddenly see marriage as maybe the best idea ever. And getting married isn’t such a big deal in the Maldives. Marcus reports that people typically pay a judge $10, invite 10 friends to a restaurant and then rabbit away.

But like most decisions made at 18, many people quickly start rethinking their genius plan. Fortunately, the liberal divorce laws that govern much of the Muslim world also apply here. Under those laws, while only a man may initiate a divorce, all he needs to complete the act is to say it out loud in front of a witness. Forget the messy paperwork and drawn-out court battles. (For its part, the government, while not responding to OZY, has pointed to these laws as the main explanation too.)

New research about shopping addiction — ScienceDaily

New research about shopping addiction — ScienceDaily

“Addictive shopping clearly occurs more regularly amongst certain demographic groups. It is more predominant in women, and is typically initiated in late adolescence and emerging adulthood, and it appears to decrease with age,” Doctor Andreassen says.

Doctor Andreassen´s research also shows that shopping addiction is related to key personality traits.

“Our research indicates that people who score high on extroversion and neuroticism are more at risk of developing shopping addiction. Extroverts, typically being social and sensation seeking, may be using shopping to express their individuality or enhance their social status and personal attractiveness. Neurotic people, who typically are anxious, depressive, and self-conscious, may use shopping as a means of reducing their negative feelings,” Doctor Andreassen says.

Apple’s Cook: We have no intention to blend Mac and iOS operating systems – FierceWireless

Apple’s Cook: We have no intention to blend Mac and iOS operating systems – FierceWireless

Speaking today at a Box corporate event, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook said the company doesn’t have any plans to integrate its two main operating systems, Mac and iOS. “These operating systems do different things. We have no intention to blend them,” he said, according to Re/code.

Cook’s comments are notable considering a number of smartphone vendors are looking at ways to create one operating system that would work across phones and computers. For example, that’s the tack Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is attempting to take with its new Windows 10 platform, rolling out this year, and that’s also the sales pitch Canonical has made with its nascent Ubuntu platform for smartphones and other devices.

Cook, speaking to Box’s CEO Aaron Levie at the company’s BoxWorks convention in San Francisco, noted that Apple’s Handoff service offers many of the same functions that a combined phone/computer operating system would. For example, with Handoff iOS and Mac users can start a project or conversation on one Apple device and continue it on another.

Cell phone lobby win means ‘more people will die’ | Center for Public Integrity

Cell phone lobby win means ‘more people will die’ | Center for Public Integrity

More than 10,000 people, who would otherwise be saved, die every year when calling 911 from a cellphone because emergency dispatchers can’t get a quick and accurate location on them, the Federal Communications Commission calculated, when it proposed new 911 location rules last year for wireless phones.

The problem isn’t the dispatchers, police officers or firefighters who respond to the emergency calls. The failure is that the technologies used by wireless carriers — like industry giants AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. — fail repeatedly to locate indoor callers.

The real tragedy, say emergency workers and cellular engineers, is that this doesn’t have to be: Technical solutions exist that can locate people calling on cellphones within seconds. But tough rules proposed by the FCC in February 2014 aimed at requiring more accurate indoor locations of callers to 911 were weakened through a nearly year-long lobbying campaign by wireless carriers.

Wireless carriers said the new rules relied too heavily on expensive proprietary technology that was untested and that accuracy claims were overhyped. They argued that commercially available technology already widely deployed, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices found in almost every business and most homes, promised to provide better location accuracy because it would give a specific street address with an apartment, floor and room number.

But more than a dozen associations representing firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, the elderly, the deaf and technology companies said the commercial technology wasn’t developed for the demands of a 911 system and would fail during major disasters when electricity was lost. The industry’s proposal, many of the groups said, allowed the carriers to shift the cost and responsibility of locating 911 callers from the carriers to the public, making it impossible for the FCC to enforce.

But more important, many of the groups said the carriers ignored them when developing their alternate rules, relying instead on associations the carriers had lavished with hundreds of thousands of dollars of support.

Find shaving a chore? Why not BLAST your BEARD off with a RAYGUN • The Register

Find shaving a chore? Why not BLAST your BEARD off with a RAYGUN • The Register

Men with beards have invented a razor which shaves with a laser.

Californian startup Skarp is the brainchild of follicle boffin Morgan Gustavsson, who has worked on medical devices for hair removal.

Skarp Technologies says its razor is powered by a small laser, which cuts through hair for a shave which is closer than using a blade and doesn’t suffer from irritation, razor burn, cuts or ingrown hairs. The AAA battery should last about a month and the device about 50,000 hours. It’s waterproof and can be used in the shower, but it does not require a lather.

Founder Morgan invented IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) in 1989, which is a preferred method of hair removal and dermatology treatments to this day.

A major challenge was finding a laser frequency which could cut any colour of hair, a requirement which makes the device quite expensive. The mass market for cheap lasers comes from Blu-ray players and needing a special frequency reduces the availability. After years of research and development, they discovered a chromophore in the hair which can be cut when hit with a particular light wavelength.

Chromophores are particles that absorb certain wavelengths (colours) of light. The chromophore they identified is shared by every human, regardless of age, gender or race.

Skarp claims it’s safe: “The wavelength we’re using doesn’t emit UV. The power of the laser is too low to cause damage. But more importantly, the laser doesn’t enter the skin, it only enters the hair. So there is absolutely no risk of developing any complications or damage.”

The Big Secret That Makes the FBI’s Anti-Encryption Campaign a Big Lie

The Big Secret That Makes the FBI’s Anti-Encryption Campaign a Big Lie

To hear FBI Director James Comey tell it, strong encryption stops law enforcement dead in its tracks by letting terrorists, kidnappers and rapists communicate in complete secrecy.

But that’s just not true.

In the rare cases in which an investigation may initially appear to be blocked by encryption — and so far, the FBI has yet to identify a single one — the government has a Plan B: it’s called hacking.

Hacking — just like kicking down a door and looking through someone’s stuff — is a perfectly legal tactic for law enforcement officers, provided they have a warrant.

And law enforcement officials have, over the years, learned many ways to install viruses, Trojan horses, and other forms of malicious code onto suspects’ devices. Doing so gives them the same access the suspects have to communications — before they’ve been encrypted, or after they’ve been unencrypted.

Government officials don’t like talking about it — quite possibly because hacking takes considerably more effort than simply asking a telecom provider for records. Robert Litt, general counsel to the Director of National Intelligence, recently referred to potential government hacking as a process of “slow uncertain one-offs.”

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Everybody’s Invited to My All-Male, All-White Literary Panel!

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Everybody’s Invited to My All-Male, All-White Literary Panel!

Congratulations on having a short story accepted for publication in the anthology Rusted, Lusted, Busted: Contemporary Southern Fiction, edited by myself and my good buddy Richard Head!

Richard and I, both of us straight cisgender nominally Christian white males, have put a shit-ton of work into this anthology, mostly over beers and hot wings at the local Tilted Kilt while our wives assumed 100% of the burden of watching our kids. Now this baby we’ve labored over is out and it’s time to party!

That’s why we’re hosting an all-male, all-white panel tomorrow at Lily White Books in Mansfield, SC, to celebrate the anthology’s release and your contributions to it. We’d love it if some of you could come be part of the panel!

Given the twelve-hour notice, however, along with our inability to compensate you in any way, and our unwillingness to compensate you even if we could, I completely understand that most of you — including all our woefully underrepresented contributors who do not identify as heterosexual white men — will not be able to participate in this seminal event, except perhaps as late-arriving, paying audience members ($5 at the door).

Your practically guaranteed disinclination to participate is a shame, because, as the literary gatekeepers for this region, we’re trying to give you a once-in-a-lifetime, breakthrough-level opportunity here.

But since by design you won’t be able to respond in a timely manner, worry not: We’ve already filled the five available panel slots with cutting-edge, straight Caucasian male novelists. They agreed to this several weeks ago, actually, when we were all shooting the shit, chowing down on some barbecue and guzzling bourbon at one of Richard’s monthly cookouts, and the idea for a panel came up. We figured what the hell, let’s do this thing! So just know you’re in good hands. We trust these guys will do a wonderful job representing your experiences whether you can make it or not.

As the panel chair, it is my mission to build a diverse program that welcomes and celebrates multiple perspectives. That’s why I’ve put this group of white men together. Heterogeneous in so much more than the sexual sense, these fine fellows hail from all walks of life, from counties far and wide: Some are from the country, while others are from the city. Some are academic intellectuals, while others are blue-collar workers. Some are functioning alcoholics, while others are raging alcoholics.

You see, the diversity of this panel will be something to behold. I’ve even worked tirelessly to ensure that at least one panelist is not a belligerent womanizer.

Look, I understand some of you in the anthology and/or folks from the disaffected politically correct masses at large will find something to critique about the supposed lack of representation on this panel, as though featuring a white neo-Confederate on the one extreme and a white fiscal conservative on the other was not diverse enough. As though featuring a white man with a soul patch alongside a white man with a disheveled beard was not diverse enough. As though featuring five white authors who have novels with cover images of junked pickup trucks in distinct, multifaceted states of rust and decay, set against background landscapes varied as fields and meadows and woodland edges, was not diverse enough.

Sure, one author I’ve scheduled for the panel is an uninhibited misogynist, but I have balanced his worldview by also scheduling a no-frills, old-fashioned, keep-your-prejudices-in-your-pocket sexist. Scoff all you want, but know that I’m trying. With or without you — and I understand it will almost certainly be without — this is going to be an assemblage like none other, a grand celebration of the written word, an occasion in no way indicative of a problem that has beset the literary world for at least two millennia: White men, and only white men, pontificating at the very same conference table, pulling things from their asses beneath the very same roof, enlightening a rapt audience!

Look, what more do you want? These privileged gentlemen of diverse Western European descent all have women and minor minority characters in their novels, okay? One even has a female protagonist, a complex and artfully manufactured woman whose sense of purpose and self-worth derives from the many white male characters she encounters, depends upon, and sleeps with throughout the story.

And if that weren’t enough, these five down-home white guy novelists, who all happen to have contracts with major publishing houses, unabashedly and selflessly carry books by women on their nationwide book tours because they know that women writers depend on them. Criticize that, and I say you’re the one wanting to take away women’s voices by taking away the voices of their white heterosexual spokesmen. You’re the real bigot here.

We hope to see you in a few hours! If you can make it, please remember to bring cash for the door and to purchase a copy of the anthology in which your work appears, which all the panelists will be signing. Thanks in advance for the beer money!