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What It’s Like to Fail

November 19, 2013 Leave a comment

david_suit_edited

On Christmas Day, 2001, I sat down at my Yamaha G2 grand piano, set up my metronome, and opened up a book of Shostakovich’s “Preludes.” It was late afternoon, and the warm, orange light of the fading day poured into my five-bedroom house — paid for by my $300,000 a year income as a Hollywood comedy writer — in San Marino, California, a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles. My wife, Marina, was cooking dinner for me and our eight children, and it was as happy a Christmas afternoon as I would ever have. Read More

New gadget that controls a car’s functions with just a wink or a nod of the driver’s head

July 23, 2012 Leave a comment

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Engineers have come up with a whole new way driving using just facial expressions after creating a gadget that controls a car’s functions using nods and winks. The infra-red sensor is mounted on the dash board and recognises the driver’s facial expression to control the car. A computer concealed inside the car translates the gestures which corresponds to a list of commands for the radio, Sat Nav, heating and mobile phone.

Facial recognition: Driver Amy Benville, 23, tests out the gadget by tilting her head to the left to turn the volume of the radio up Facial recognition: Driver Amy Benville, 23, tests out the gadget by tilting her head to the left to turn the volume of the radio up
Cool rider: Drivers can adjust their air conditioning by raising and lowering their hand above the gear stick Cool rider: Drivers can adjust their air conditioning by raising and lowering their hand above the gear stick
Hans Roth, director of technology at Harman which designed the system, said the device is only two or three years away from hitting the roadsHans Roth, director of technology at Harman which designed the system, said the device is only two or three years away from hitting the roads

The gestures, which are being tested before they are finalised, include a wink to turn the radio and music player on and off. The technology is meant to be able to differentiate between an accidental blink and a wink by the length of time of the action before turning the radio on or off.

Drivers can nod left to turn the volume up and right to turn it down while a tap on the steering wheel to skip the station or song. Motorists can even make a phone call by making the ‘lifting the receiver gesture’ with their hand and dial by saying the name of the person they wish call. Motorists can even control the air conditioning and heating by raising and lowering their left hand above the gear stick which has another computer sensor mounted inside. The technology means drivers would be able to control the functions inside the car without being distracted from the road.

Keeping connected: Drivers can also make phone calls simply by making the receiver gesture and then saying the name of the person they wish to call Keeping connected: Drivers can also make phone calls simply by making the receiver gesture and then saying the name of the person they wish to call
Changing times: Tapping along to music on the steering wheel could be a thing of the past as the system takes a wheel tap as a signal to skip the song or station Changing times: Tapping along to music on the steering wheel could be a thing of the past as the system takes a wheel tap as a signal to skip the song or station
The list of gestures are now being tested across the globe to make sure they are culturally acceptable in all countriesThe list of gestures are now being tested across the globe to make sure they are culturally acceptable in all countries

Engineers from global infotainment specialists Harman have created a prototype car which could hit the roads in two years time. Hans Roth, director of technology at Harman, said: ‘It’s all about reducing distractions in the car.

CAR CONTROL GESTURES

These basic gestures are being testing around the globe to find the ideal system that can be used in countries around the world: Wink – To turn the radio on and off.

Amy Benville, 23-years-old, demonstrating the new gesture system

Nod left – Turn the volume up. Nod right – Turn the volume down. Tap finger on steering wheel – Skip radio channel or song. Left hand up (above gear stick) – Turn the heating on. Left hand down (above gear stick) – Turn the air-conditioning on. Phone gesture – To make a call.

‘If you don’t have to take your hands off the wheel or look down then it’s obviously safer. ‘The first one we worked on uses hand gestures and facial recognition so things like a wink or a nod or even a tilt of the head. ‘You would make a gesture with your hand, like tapping your finger or making a movement. ‘That is two or three years from being available in mass production in cars. ‘All of these could change different functions in the car, from the radio to the heaters to CDs and navigation systems. ‘We are still testing a list of gestures which could be standard for all cars across the world. ‘We’ve started it and now it’s about choosing the right gestures and getting it to production. ‘You’ve got to make sure it’s culturally acceptable. In Italy for example drivers use hand gestures a lot when they drive so it needs finalising. ‘But we are confident the hand gestures will be available two or three years.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2177329/New-gadget-controls-cars-functions-just-wink-nod-drivers-head.html#ixzz21QkecsKu

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Thinner, Cheaper Solar Cells with Sandwiched Nanostructures

July 20, 2012 Leave a comment
WRITTEN BY SANDRA HENDERSON
SolarCell_Cao_NCSUResearchers at the North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh, North Carolina (US) may have found a way to significantly enhance solar absorption using sandwiched nanostructures. The technique would allow manufacturers to produce much thinner, thus, much cheaper, solar cells in less time while maintaining or even improving conversion efficiency.

What makes this structure and its production process unique and appealing is that “it is perfectly compatible with existing manufacturing processes of thin-film solar cells in the industry,” says Linyou Cao, Assistant Professor in NCSU’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “This technique can substantially decrease the cost and improve the efficiency of solar cells. It will help facilitate the generation of affordable solar electricity.”

With this sandwich design, the active absorption layer could be “one order of magnitude thinner,” Cao explains. “For instance, this structure can absorb 90% solar radiation using 70 nanometers of amorphous silicon.” That absorption capability would typically require a thickness of 300 to 500 nm. The scientist, whose group works on the forefront of nanoscale photophysics and photochemistry, believes manufacturers will be able to apply this technique to many other solar cell materials and names cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide and organic materials as possible candidates.

Cao describes the design of the sandwiched solar cell: “In the sandwich structure, a layer of absorbing semiconductor materials is sandwiched in the middle of two non-absorbing dielectric layers. The production of this sandwiched structure first requires patterning a substrate with dielectric nanostructures using nanofabrication techniques, followed by conformably coating the nanostructure with a layer of semiconductor materials and then a layer of dielectric materials using standard deposition techniques.” Cao’s team is still working on demonstrating and optimizing the solar cell in the lab and expects to produce high-performance solar cells soon.

What would have to happen for his research breakthrough to make it into the real world? Cao has one word: “Money.” They have only just begun working on the technique and are looking for resources from federal funding agencies or industry partners. Cao’s outlook, though, is optimistic. “If everything goes well, I expect this technology to be commercialized in three to five years,” he says.

Written by Sandra Henderson, Research Editor, Solar Novus Today

SOURCE: http://www.solarnovus.com

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Sweet success: Building an empire from chocolate

July 20, 2012 Leave a comment

From Becky Anderson, CNN

Katrina Markoff , founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, creates "indulgent and sensual" chocolate filled with exotic and unusual flavors.Katrina Markoff , founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, creates “indulgent and sensual” chocolate filled with exotic and unusual flavors.
Katrina Markoff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Katrina Markoff hopes to promote cross-cultural understanding using chocolate.
  • Her Vosges chocolate includes exotic flavors like wasabi, curry and Hungarian paprika.
  • Launched in 1998, the brand is now sold in 2,000 outlets around the world

(CNN) — Step aside, Willy Wonka. According to its creator, Vosges chocolate is not just chocolate, it’s “an experiential chocolate story-telling vehicle that’s meant to be indulgent and sensual and opening to the mind.”

More than that, 38-year-old company founder Katrina Markoff intends to “break down stereotypes through chocolate.”

Having traveled around the world, Markoff’s goal is to get people to try the exotic flavors she discovered, something that’s more achievable if those flavors are enrobed in chocolate.

Among her best-selling items is a truffle collection that includes sweet Hungarian paprika and Chinese star anise, fennel and pastis confections.

A passion for ‘sensual’ chocolate

While chocolate with once-unusual ingredients like chilli or sea salt is now increasingly commonplace, when Markoff first tried selling her product to department store Nieman Marcus in Chicago in 1998, she recalls “the guy looking at me like I’m crazy when I’m telling him what’s in it.”

But today, Markoff’s product sells through 2,000 outlets worldwide, and in eight dedicated boutiques. Last year, her business made $30 million, up 50% on the previous year.

This year, she has brought the Vosges experience to a mass market, launching a new, less expensive brand that will sell in places like Walmart and Target. Where a box of 16 Vosges truffles costs $40, a 2oz bar of Wild Ophelia, which features flavors such as beef jerky and BBQ potato chips, is $3.99.

Dallas was very much a BBQ town, and people were like “I am not trying that curry thing”
Vosges founder Katrina Markoff

More from Leading Women: The woman hunting the Higgs boson

A Vanderbilt University chemistry and psychology major, Markoff moved to Paris upon graduating, to study cuisine and patisserie. On the advice of renowned chef Ferran Adrià, who ran what was regularly described as the world’s greatest restaurant, El Bulli, in Spain, Markoff toured Southeast Asia and Australia.

In keeping with her international perspective, Markoff plans to devote her next few years to cultivating cacao in Haiti, and opening a lodge in Belize where tourists can learn about chocolate making.

Here, she tells CNN about how she came up with her winning concept.

On her first chocolate epiphany …

I had my first chocolate experience in the Place des Vosges (in Paris). I went to this restaurant called L’Ambroisie and they had taken chocolate ganache (which is like the center of the truffle), they froze it and dipped it in a beignet batter and fried it.

That experience of eating this donut-crusty exterior and, when you bit down, this molten explosion of chocolate … that started piquing my curiosity about chocolate.

On her second chocolate epiphany…

It wasn’t until I got back from my trip and moved to Dallas to get a job with my uncle that I realized there was no innovation going on in chocolate.

He wanted me to find chocolate for his catalog business, and (everything) was just loaded with sugars and artificial flavorings and extracts and wax, and there was no story.

Follow that instinctual space in your solar plexus
Vosges founder Katrina Markoff

I had all these spices from my travels, and this necklace from the Naga tribes in India. (They told me it was made out of shells, turns out it was all tigers’ teeth). There was a lot of struggle over territory and missionaries tried to get them into new religions, and I was just like “we shouldn’t kill culture like that.”

I went into my kitchen that night and made a curry and coconut truffle. I decided to pay homage to the Naga people and call it Naga.

Everything made sense in that moment: there was this illuminated path that said “just use chocolate as a medium to tell stories.”

I ended up working on 20 different flavor profiles that night — saffron with white chocolate and sugar crystals to represent Gaudi’s mosaic work, a Hungarian paprika and chocolate ginger — all based on my travel experiences.

The next day I went into work and brought this collection of chocolates. Dallas in 1997 was still very much a BBQ town, and these people were like “I am not trying that curry thing.”

I got one woman to try it. She took a bite and her face went from disgust and worry to awe and surprise to “Oh my God, this is actually good.” She was like “let me try wasabi.” She was totally open to try whatever, and it was really, really cool to see that.

On how to succeed …

I think it’s really important for women to have confidence in her individuality and not try to conform to being someone she thinks she needs to be, to compete in the legal world or in the corporate world.

It’s so important to find your own voice. People respect it so much. People are very attracted to people who are passionate in their own way, that are respectful, but that are smart and speak their mind.

I don’t rely on consumer research to make new products
Vosges founder Katrina Markoff

You have this guiding light within yourself. Always go to that as your sounding board and your voice of truth. Follow that instinctual space in your solar plexus — you know, that place that says what you need to do is right or wrong. Following that gut instinct is so critical. You have to have your little niche and carve it out and then follow it with all your heart and success will come to you.

On her management style …

I’ve been told I can be a little “big picture” for some people, because I think things can get done very quickly and I want them done very quickly.

I don’t rely on other people’s opinions or consumer research to make new products, which is somewhat unusual … I don’t always follow processes. I skip steps, and I always make last-minute changes — and usually that’s the right thing to do.

SOURCE:  http://edition.cnn.com

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