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Category: Technology

Tech, science, gaming, entertainment, space exploration, energy, and anything else tech-related.

June 24, 2016

Renewable Martian Meat - Citizens of Tech 035


This is Episode 35 of the show! Today we bring you meatless meat for carnivores, getting energy from where the sun don’t shine, eyes in the back of your head, and whether or not humans should go to Mars.


Meat-Eaters, Meet your Non-meat meat!


  • Plant based ground beef alternative
  • Developed by “Impossible Foods”
  • Founded by a Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown
  • This isn’t a just a pseudo-meat for vegetarians and vegans, either
  • Target market is hardcore carnivores
  • We’ve discussed a few times about the amount of water, electricity, and other resources required to meet the global demand for meat
  • This product requires far less resources, has a drastically shorter time-to-table and should become price competitive in the near future - hopefully even becoming cheaper than the real deal
  • Apparently, if the article is to believed, the taste is incredible
    • The author noted that it was a bit less flavorful than real beef, but had he not known that it wasn’t meat, he wouldn’t have noticed.
  • Looks pink and marbled uncooked, sizzles on the grill/pan, juicy and has real meaty flavor
  • The flavor secret: Heme
    • Heme is an iron-containing molecule in blood that carries oxygen
    • Legumes contain leghemoglobin which could have been used… buuuut…
    • Extracting that is expensive, time consuming and still unearths carbon, which is one of the main goals of finding an alternative product
  • Technology to the rescue!
    • They took the gene responsible for producing heme from the soybean and added it to yeast
    • Now they can make vats of the magic ingredient
    • One vat is enough to make 20,000 1/4lb (~110g) patties!!
  • It even smells right
    • Using gas chromatography mass spectrometry
    • Cooked meat gases were analyzed
    • Dozens of scents combine to smell like meat, which have been replicated
  • VS Beef:
    • More protein
    • Less fat
    • Fewer calories
    • No cholesterol
    • No animals were harmed in the making of this burger (religious & ethical objections quelled)
  • They’re not the only game in town: Beyond Meat’s “Beyond Burger” is targeted at very much the same goal.
    • Brown calls the “Beyond Burger” a “home run” and sees plenty of room in the market for both of these players - with Beyond Burger targeting grocery stores first and Impossible Foods going for restaurant chains first.

Pearl Auto Retrofits Your Car with a Rearview Camera


  • Pearl Auto is a bunch of ex-Apple people, apparently. I hope that means their products look great, are easy to use, and cost a fortune.
  • RearVision claims to be “the backup camera redefined.”
  • ORLY? How do you redefine what is in effect a straightforward service? A camera shows you what’s behind you. Seems straightforward enough.
  • Hard to call this “redefinition.” More like...a little complicated, but well-thought out.
    • Mounts to the license plate. There’s a bracket that goes through the screw holes. Then the unit mounts to the bracket. Secure, will be okay for most, but a little yuck for me.
    • Has 2 cameras. One’s a wide angle, one’s a more typical view. Both HD. At least, that’s the way the demos look. Tech notes say one is optimized for daytime, and the other is IR and optimized for night. Also a solar charger.
    • Car adapter plugs into the OBD-II port. Hope you weren’t using it for anything else. So plate camera system to adapter, wirelessly. Adapter to phone app, wirelessly. But it’s more than just a wireless relay sucking power from the OBD port. “Through advanced image processing, it analyzes the video streams to detect obstacles in your path, providing audible alerts and sending visual alerts to your phone.” Seems it offloads some compute of the imaging system in the back.
    • Wireless from there to a phone app, where in the demo you see a split screen. One camera view on top, another on bottom. Or see all from one camera in landscape mode.
    • Comes with a magnetic phone mount.
  • Some tech details.
    • "Any iPhone® 5 (or newer) with iOS 9 (or newer) OR Select Android™ phones with Bluetooth® 4.0 and Lollipop 5.0 (or newer)"
    • Theft deterrent screw. Because getting those bits is hard.
  • $500 to pre-order, shipping in September.

Renewables can’t produce enough off-peak power to meet demand… or can they?


  • Coal, Gas, and Nuclear are pervasive and reliable
  • Wind and Solar are catching up, but in the US there is a persistent idea that they cannot meet more than 15-20% of the grid’s demand
  • This article argues that this isn’t strictly true
  • Portugal recently ran for several days off 100% wind, solar, and hydro power
    • This is obviously a very different use case than the US
  • Germany has had incredible market penetration in renewables
  • Can the US really do that, too?
  • Multi-pronged system
    • Solar
    • Wind
    • Hydro-power bridging the gap - it’s not ubiquitous, but it always generates power, assuming the river hasn’t been dammed or diverted somehow
  • About controlling demand and supply
  • Demand response - grid interactive electronics: water heaters, electric cars are both cited as good candidates for this - we discuss
  • My local utility is starting to experiment with this concept - leveling out the demand by preventing peaks in demand, distributing load intelligently. It’s an opt-in program with 3 tiers:
    • Do nothing - I’ll “manage” my demand myself
    • Be notified - I can manage my demand in response to notifications
    • Utility control - They control the water heater, etc. remotely.
  • I like to imagine having my own solar array that provides all my electricity, but that doesn’t sound feasible for me for at least a few years. Is this a more realistic way to achieve renewable energy? Distributing it and leaving it up to your electric utility provider?

Should humans go to Mars?






  • FOR.
    • Fulfillment of a fantasy.
    • We humans are curious.
    • Progress - a technological achievement.
    • Earth’s support for humans long-term is in question. (Climate change, rising oceans, etc.)
    • Water under the Martian surface is quite helpful.
    • Because not the moon.
      • No atmosphere.
      • Wild temperature fluctuations.
      • No protection from solar radiation.
      • Moon dust would be like “tiny shards of glass.”
    • Temperature at the equator can get as warm as 70F at midday. (Although overall, it’s pretty darn cold.)
    • Maybe now people will stop e-mailing me.
    • A decent chance that the trip will kill you.
    • It’s FAR. 225 million kilometers on average. Closest approach to Earth back in 2003 put it about 56 million Km.
    • We’re bad at efficient propulsion systems.
    • Mars is not terribly hospitable to human life.
      • Very little atmosphere - 100 times thinner than that of Earth’s, and made of mostly carbon dioxide with just a smidge of nitrogen.
      • Toxic - salt compound perchlorate in the ground.
    • Expensive. Not just going to the moon over a few days. Just getting to Mars would take 6-7 months. And now you have to supply the folks there with supplies, since they aren’t going to land and be self-sufficient.

Content I Like

PBS Space Time - Youtube Channel


  • The history of the Planck constant
  • Why the universe “needs” dark energy
  • Curved Spacetime in General Relativity
  • Etc.

Today I Learned

Apollo 13 was terrible, Hollywood tripe.

Ron Howard stated that, after the first test preview of the film, one of the comment cards indicated "total disdain"; the audience member had written that it was a "typical Hollywood" ending and that the crew would never have survived.



“Regolith is a layer of loose, heterogeneous superficial material covering solid rock. It includes dust, soil, broken rock, and other related materials and is present on Earth, the Moon, Mars, some asteroids, and other terrestrial planets and moons.”


June 18, 2016

Steaming Salt Dragsters - Citizens of Tech 034


Today on the show we have self-driving buses, the pointless Steam Machine, multiproc Firefox, the Failberry Priv, USB-C missteps, killing bugs with an assault gun, fun facts about top fuel dragsters, and so much more.

Printing self-driving buses


  • Arizona based startup
  • Self-driving
    • Uses IBM Watson
    • Context aware navigation requests: “Take me to the Chipotle on 11th” or “Take me to work!”
    • Apparently there are hooks into your phone app that ID you and register locations… or something.
  • Seats up to 12 people
  • Called via a phone app
  • Printed in 10 hours, assembled in an hour or so
  • Has 30 sensors and streams data from IBM’s cloud service

Why Steam Machines?


  • Ooh! Ooh! I want a PC-based gaming console.
  • Because why would I want a cheap, dedicated console with a ton of titles available and a high likelihood of amazing new titles coming year after year when I can have a PC-console I spend 2x-3x as much for?
  • Also…uh…you can just download Steam on the PC you already have.

Forgot About Firefox? They’re Still Trying Hard!


  • I’ve been all Chrome all the time, because I use lots of Google apps. My logic is that Chrome should be the best platform for Google stuff.
  • But there are still times I need Firefox. Some java apps just don’t render right in anything but Firefox.
  • I just haven’t cared much for Firefox. But hey…they want me to care.
  • Firefox is just about to release Electrolysis (e10s). And what is e10s?
  • Multi-process Firefox, that’s what!
  • “The initial version of e10s will split Firefox in twain, dividing the browser between a UI process and a content process. In short, this means that gnarly websites that hog your CPU won’t cause the entire browser to become unresponsive. Dotzler says the next step is per-tab processes (so one website running out of control doesn’t affect the rest of your tabs), followed by sandboxing for security and then isolating add-ons into their own processes. Mozilla’s goal is for this to all happen before the end of 2016.”
  • Beta out now, and the stable release version should be out August 2.

How’s that Priv working out Blackberry? Not so good?


  • Lots of issues cited by AT&T to CNET explaining why the Blackberry Priv ain’t doin’ so well.
  • No demand for a physical keyboard.
  • Blackberry brand has no berries. Most of the people buying it are superfans.
  • Oh, and the superfans aren’t managing Android all that well.
  • Even Blackberry CEO John Chen says they are thinking about getting out of the hardware market.
  • Hey, John. Call us next time. We could have told you the Priv would be on deathwatch. We live to serve.

USB-C not quite ready for prime time?


  • USB Type-C is not simply USB 3.1 with a new connector that we can’t get wrong because it’s reversible. There’s more to it. For instance, power delivery is not assumed. USB 3.1 is not assumed, either. The 24-pin reversible connector is the big deal, but there’s more flex in the spec. Okay.
  • The first iteration of the current Macbook…you know, the little guy with the 12 inch screen and a solitary USB-C port on board…is having trouble with that single USB-C port.
  • Here’s the deal. The port was pre-standard, since it take standards bodies a long time to agree on anything.
  • Okay, so now there are USB-C accessories for the first 2015-Macbook model that should work. Mostly. Probably. But since that port was pre-standard, those accessories aren’t going to work on the 2016 version of that Macbook. Or anything else that is USB-C final spec.
  • And so…uh…yeah. Watch what you’re buying when it comes to USB-C. The Macbook is just one example. Android platforms have some of these issues too, for instance the HTC 10 and LG G5 phones reportedly have type-C compliance issues.



  • Kill bugs with a gun loaded with table salt.
  • No, really.
  • About 3/4ths of a standard shaker of table salt gets you 50 shots.
  • It works like birdshot. The salt goes out in a spray pattern, and kills the fly.

Porsche Is Entering the Electric Car Market – The “Mission E”



  • 600 HP
  • 0-60 mph in 3.5-ish seconds
  • 300 Mile Range (482 km)
  • 800 volt charger – 15 minutes to 80% charge
  • Induction charging with the coil embedded in your garage floor (maybe a roll-out mat for those who aren’t building a garage specifically for this car?)
  • They are putting the Tesla Model S squarely in their crosshairs with a product manager stating:
    • “The thing about [Tesla’s] Ludicrous mode is that it’s a façade,” the product manager said. “Two launches saps the whole battery. That won’t be the case with the Mission E. You’ll be able to run it hard, over and over; the battery will not overheat, the power control module will not overheat, and the seats will not suck.”
  • The biggest problem is that it’s going to come out “by the end of the decade”
  • Also, Tesla isn’t *really* a performance car company – they’re expanding down market with the Tesla Model 3 – with great success even.
  • So Ludicrous mode really is a façade, and that’s okay – it’s a party trick.
  • In 3.5 years when the Mission E comes to market, will it even matter?
  • It’s gorgeous, but we’re not talking about just cars here, we’re now talking about pieces of high technology and 3.5 years is an eternity in tech…




  • LinkedIn is already a cesspool of rotting brain pablum. A collection of stupid inspirational stories and humblebrags that belong of Facebook, if anywhere.
  • Since LinkedIn’s distinctiveness has been added to another, maybe it should just die. We can go back to sharing our resumes the old fashioned way.


The Martian – 2015

Finally got around to watching this. I enjoyed it very much. It hearkens back to Apollo 13 (so it nods to reality) about the depths of ingenuity that members of various space programs have gone to and continue to go to in order to have a successful mission that brings everyone back home safely.

Pretty solid from a scientific standpoint, very entertaining, and I had a few belly-laugh moments. I thought Mark Wahlberg…. I mean Matt Damon was really good in it.


Endocannabinoids are potentially responsible for “runner’s high.” At least, that’s what the mice tell us.


Top Fuel Dragsters are Really Freakin’ Fast (Duh) and Marvels of Engineering



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June 4, 2016

Circumbinary Tut Tracking - Citizens of Tech 033


We’ve got information on how to future-proof your life, straddling buses, dying stars that bring life, actigraphy vs. polysomnography, royal cutting instruments from the sky, as well as “Today I Learned” and “Content I Like.”