7 Tech Stories that are Flying Under the Radar

1. One reason not to invest in desalinization plants: Scientists recently reported finding vast reserves of fresh water under the oceans that can be pumped to the surface. The journal Nature published new research by Dutch scientists who found evidence of low-salinity aquifers off the coasts of the United States, Australia, South Africa and China. The ancient repositories are believed to have formed when oceans were far smaller and continental shelves extended out hundreds of miles during the last ice age. The amounts of H2O stored in the aquifers is thought to be more than 100 times the amount of underground water humans have pumped from land wells since 1900. The study’s authors predict that the reserves will be an important resource for growing cities threatened by water shortages in the future. But the aquifers are fragile and vulnerable. Scientists warn that oil rigs boring exploratory test wells along the continental shelves could contaminate the aquifers.

2. Fans of Breaking Bad will love this: Café Balao is a chemistry set throwback to making coffee that will impress friends with your geeky techy passions. Making coffee in these two flasks is a simple physics lesson on the behavior of gases. A resistance heating coil immersed in water in the lower flask boils H2O, creating steam. The expanding gas pushes on the water and forces it up a glass tube to the upper flask, where it mixes with coffee grinds. Pull the plug and when the lower flask cools, the condensing gas sucks the coffee down from the upper flask. The grounds are left in the upper flask. There’s just one rub — this clever unit is Europroduced for 220-volt, 50-cycle electric current, so you will have to buy a U.S.-style immersion heater, or a transformer (about $50 for a step-up 1,000-watt converter) or go to Amazon.UK and order a small Honda or Yamaha generator that outputs 220/50. The generator is far more costly — and noisy. But think of the geek buzz it will add to the experience!

Cafe Balao Coffee MakerAppearances count when you’re trying for a high-tech buzz.

3. Useless things to do with your new 3-D printer, Part 1: Porsche is offering free software to manufacture a toy-size model of the Cayman S sports coupe. The 81-year-old company, headquartered in Zuffenhausen, Germany, sells real Porsche Cayman S cars, which are essentially hardtop versions of the Boxter convertible, for $54,000 without options. The software to power your 3-D printer and make a small Porsche is free, though it’s still tough to find a decent 3-D printer for less than $1,500.

3-D Printed Porsche Cayman SA little plastic feedstock, a 3d printer, and voile, a Porsche Cayman S.

4. Maybe Google Glass wasn’t such a silly idea after all: While Google keeps experimenting with Google Glass, Epson is moving aggressively into the false-reality world with its Moverio glasses, a platform that can upload movies, Internet sites and virtual reality tours effortlessly via Bluetooth technology, belt-mounted computers and batteries. Moverio glasses can present a 3-D image to your eyes that is as effective as an 80-inch screen 16 feet away. So you could be sipping a triple tall Americano at Starbucks and watching a virtual tour of Pompeii. Then, if your best friend walks into the coffee shop, you’ll still see him, because the glasses are see-through even as they work as a projection screen. Even better, the technology has been licensed to Evena Medical, a small private company in California. Evena has just announced goggles that use the Moverio platform to create images of veins near the skin. Using part of the light spectrum that is near infrared but still visual and incorporating Moverio’s 3-D capabilities, the Evena glasses allow a nurse to see veins in your arm as if your skin were transparent. Studies show that about 40% of the attempts by a nurse to find a vein for intravenous drips or simply to draw blood at a lab must be redone. These glasses should eliminate those failures and make the art of finding a blood source more of a science. This video will show you what a nurse sees through the goggles.

Evena Medical GlassesEvena’s goggles work almost as well as Superman’s vision.

5. Can technology free the repressed? The count of prisoners released from U.S. jails because DNA evidence exonerated them has reached 300.

6. Useless things to do with your 3-D printer, Part 2: A London designer has come up with a running shoe concept made of protocells that could be printed to your exact foot shape by a 3-D printer. Shamees Aden says the almost-alive-but-not-quite shoes could inflate and deflate depending on pressure applied to specific areas while running. If damaged, they could be placed in a jar of protocells overnight for repair. The only problem is no one has ever seen a protocell. The idea is based on a theory of early life forms that may have preceded live cells. A protocell consists of only two things: a fatty acid membrane surrounding RNA rybozymes. Theoretically, such a cell could replicate itself, evolve and grow. No one has yet announced the feat of creating a protocell, but this sort of genetic tinkering is going on in lots of sophisticated labs around the world. Protocells or not, 3-D printing is the future of shoemaking. Nike produced the Vapor Laser Talon football shoe nearly a year ago by 3-D printing the complicated design out of nylon.

3-D Printed Organic ShoesAccording to designer and researcher Shamees Aden, these shoes could become a reality by 2050. In her words, “You would take the trainers home and you would have to care for it as if it was a plant, making sure it has the natural resources needed to rejuvenate the cells”

7. What are those spooky blue clouds over the poles? Earth’s highest clouds are one of its greatest mysteries. They form at about 50 miles above the surface, are found near the north and south poles and they can be seen only at night — in fact, they glow at night — after the Earth, where the observer is standing, rotates away from the sun. They are called noctilucent clouds and reside in one of the highest layers of Earth’s atmosphere at the edge of space, a layer called the mesosphere. The clouds are now thought to be tiny ice particles that form around very fine pieces of dust, or “smoke,” left behind by meteorites burning up as they enter Earth’s atmosphere. The phenomenon was a favorite of early International Space Station astronauts, who raved about their beauty in 2003. In 2007, NASA launched a satellite called AIM, for Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, to study the clouds. The mission has just been extended for two years. The clouds have become more noticeable recently, appearing earlier each year and more often, shining brighter and moving toward lower latitudes from the poles. The clouds were first noticed in 1885, as the Industrial Age shifted into high gear. Some scientists speculate that they may be associated with industrial pollution and climate change. They can be seen only in summer months, starting in May in the Northern Hemisphere and November in the Southern Hemisphere.

Noctilucent clouds photographed by NASA's AIM satelliteNoctilucent clouds, also called polar mesospheric clouds, photographed by NASA’s AIM satellite over the South Pole on New Year’s Eve, 2013.

Best regards,

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

Ed. Note: Besides the above “Seven Things You Should Know,” readers of today’s issue of Tomorrow in Review were given the chance to check out the “seven wealth accelerators” Stephen has helped research. These “wealth accelerators” could prove to be very lucrative for early investors. So if you’re not getting the free Tomorrow in Review email edition, you should probably sign up now before everyone knows about them. Stephen will return to those pages very soon with another opportunity to discover them. Sign up for FREE, right here.

You May Also Be Interested In:

Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of over 40 years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald’s prestigious Sunday magazine, Tropic, and has covered a wide range of topics for Time Inc.’s Life magazine. His...

View More By Stephen Petranek