January 2007

Zink unveils mobile full-color thermopaper printer

The Polaroid spin-off Zink just unveiled a new full-color thermal-paper printer based on technology from Polaroid’s Project Opal. From the SJ Mercury News:

Zink prints a 2-by-3-inch picture in 30 seconds — somewhat slower than inkjet printers — that comes out dry. It brings back the instant gratification of 1970s-era Polaroid picture, without forcing you to wait for it to develop. And it’s a much better quality print than Polaroids were.

With Zink devices, the plastic paper has layers of plastic in the middle with millions of tiny crystal dyes that can be activated by heat. If you heat the paper a certain amount, the dyes melt and you get yellow. If you heat it less but for a slightly longer time, you get magenta. If you heat it a little less and slightly longer, you get cyan. Those colors can be mixed to print any color. If you think of microwaving a frozen dinner, you get the idea.

The special paper is still a little expensive (about 80 cents for a 4-by-6-inch print) because it has to be doped with ink over the entire surface, but the company hopes to reduce the cost in the future.

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What you don’t know can influence you

Along the lines of a study on the effects of advertising that I mentioned earlier, a forthcoming University of Kent study suggests that people are more influenced by conspiracy theories than they think they are, and that this hidden influence may actually contribute to the tenacity of such theories:

After reading internet-based conspiracy theories about the death of Princess Diana, research participants agreed more strongly with statements such as ‘there was an official campaign by MI6 to assassinate Diana, sanctioned by elements of the establishment’. When asked how much they would have agreed with those statements prior to reading the conspiracy theories, they ‘revised’ their prior attitudes so that they were closer to their current attitudes – this made it appear as though their attitudes had changed less than they actually had.

…Our findings suggest that conspiracy theories may actually have a ‘hidden impact’, meaning that they powerfully influence people’s attitudes whilst people do not know it; outwardly they may deny the extent to which they have been influenced but in truth they tend to endorse the new information and pass it on to others.’

(Link via Cognitive Daily.)

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Accidental discovery of magnetic organic molecules

From a SciAm article on the discovery of new magnetic organic molecules:

The discovery was partly accidental. The researchers were mixing organic nitrogen-rich compounds with nickel atoms and water. Normally during s uch reactions, multiple organic molecules will attach to each metal ion, so a relatively small amount of nickel should have been needed. But Hicks says his postdoc, Rajsapan Jain, noticed that the chemicals were not completely used up in the reaction, so they kept adding nickel to see what would happen. They ended up with a mudlike powder in their test tubes.

To quote Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny …'”

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Randi Foundation changing $1M challenge rules

Wired reports that the James Randi Educational Foundation is changing the rules for its million-dollar cash prize to anyone who can perform a psychic or supernatural ability under controlled conditions, to better focus on high-profile charlatans and spend less time testing people with obvious schizophrenia or other delusions. As of April 1st, if you want to apply for the prize you need to have some sort of media profile about their power and a letter from an academic who has seen their ability. (Thanks to Janie for the link!)

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Fashion and the bluetooth earpiece


One fashion faux pas I noticed in Apple’s iPhone presentation on Tuesday: the basic black bluetooth earpiece. Come on Steve — where’s the bright flashing LED? How am I supposed to assert my dominance over other geeks if I can’t blind them from across the room just by turning my head? Heck, I can find my carkeys in the dark with my year-old Plantronics headset — at least give me laser beams or something! (And if you can make it beep with an original Star Trek communicator sound when I get a call, now that would really show ’em who’s the king of fashion!)

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iTV vs. Tivo

It’ll be interesting to watch how Apple’s iTV + iTunes competes with Tivo in the long run. The big difference is that iTV is inherently narrowcast — play podcasts and downloads from the iTunes store — while Tivo’s main schtick is to provide the advantage of narrowcast on top of a legacy broadcast video distribution system (cable).

Long-term I always bet on narrowcast, but there’s still a big question of timing: when does enough content become available on the Internet that you no longer need your cable TV subscription? And how much can Apple do to make that day come a little sooner?

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So much more than an iPod Phone…


I’ve been yawning about the rumors of a phone that’s also an iPod — music is the least of the apps that I use on my phone, and I’m quite happy with my Treo 650. But a quad-mode phone that runs OS X, including dashboard widgets and Safari, with GSM, EDGE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth? Now that’s a big deal! (And just as the future of Palm OS was looking a little shaky — looks like now I can continue with my life-long dream of never having to use any form of Windows. 🙂

I’m especially looking forward to playing with is the two-fingered “pinch” interface for resizing, something that’s possible because their touchscreen can handle multiple touches at once — I’ve wanted something like that since I saw Sun’s Starfire concept video back in 1993…

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