Breakthrough enables storage and release of mechanical waves without energy loss

Breakthrough enables storage and release of mechanical waves without energy loss
Experimental setup, consisting of a waveguide bar with cavity and side channels. The excitation of elastic waves traveling along the bar is provided by piezoelectric actuators placed at the two ends of the system. Credit: Giuseppe Trainiti, Georgia Tech

Light and sound waves are at the basis of energy and signal transport and fundamental to some of our most basic technologies—from cell phones to engines. Scientists, however, have yet to devise a method that allows them to store a wave intact for an indefinite period of time and then direct it toward a desired location on demand. Such a development would greatly facilitate the ability to manipulate waves for a variety of desired uses, including energy harvesting, quantum computing, structural-integrity monitoring, information storage, and more.

In a newly published paper in Science Advances, a group of researchers led by Andrea Alù, founding director of the Photonics Initiative at the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and by Massimo Ruzzene, professor of Aeronautics Engineering at Georgia Tech, have experimentally shown that it is possible to efficiently capture and store a wave intact then guide it towards a specific location.

“Our experiment proves that unconventional forms of excitation open new opportunities to gain control over and scattering,” said Alù. “By carefully tailoring the time dependence of the excitation, it is possible to trick the wave to be efficiently stored in a cavity, and then release it on demand towards the desired direction.”


To achieve their goal, the scientists had to devise a way for changing the basic interaction between  and materials. When a light or sound wave hits an obstacle, it is either partially absorbed or reflected and scattered. The absorption process entails immediately converting of the wave into heat or other forms of . Materials that can’t absorb waves only reflect and scatter them. The researchers’ goal was to find a way to mimic the absorbtion process without converting the wave into other forms of energy and instead storing it in the material. This concept, introduced theoretically two years ago by the ASRC group, is known as coherent virtual absorption.

To prove their theory, the researchers reasoned that they needed to tailor the waves’  so that when they came in contact with non-abosorbing materials, they wouldn’t be reflected, scattered, or transmitted. This would prevent the wave impinging on the structure from escaping, and it would be efficiently trapped inside as if it were being absorbed. The stored wave could then be released on demand.

During their experiment, researchers propagated two mechanical waves traveling in  along a carbon steel waveguide bar that contained a cavity. The time variations of each wave were carefully controlled to ensure that the cavity would retain all of the impinging energy. Then, by stopping the excitation or detuning one of the waves, they were able to control the release of the stored energy and send it towards a desired direction on demand.

“While we ran our proof-of-concept experiment using elastic waves traveling in a solid material, our findings are also applicable to radiowaves and light, offering exciting prospects for efficient energy harvesting, wireless power transfer, low-energy photonics, and generally enhanced control over wave propagation,” said Ruzzene.

Explore further

‘Meta-mirror’ reflects sound waves in any direction

More information: “Coherent virtual absorption of elastodynamic waves” Science Advances (2019). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw3255 ,

Journal information: Science Advances

Tesla Pickup render imagines Elon Musk’s ‘cyberpunk’ truck as a rugged off-roader

A Georgia-based industrial designer has provided what could very well be the best and most grounded render of Tesla’s upcoming all-electric pickup truck, which is expected to be unveiled later this year. The render, which was designed by auto enthusiast Giorgi Tedoradze, depicts the Tesla Pickup Truck as a massive machine that looks as tough as it is unashamedly electric.

The vehicle envisioned by the designer looks particularly stunning, with its high ground clearance, its wide stance, its muscular hood, and a fascia that appears to have been inspired by design elements of Tesla’s existing vehicles such as the Model X and Model 3. Giorgi Tedoradze only provided a quarter view of his Tesla Pickup Truck render, but it is evident that his design is optimized for off-road adventures.

Overall, the render gives the impression that the Tesla Truck is a strong, robust EV that can practically go anywhere, which makes perfect sense because the upcoming pickup most definitely is.

A render of the Tesla Pickup Truck. (Credit: Giorgi Tedoradze/Instagram)

Elon Musk has noted that Tesla’s upcoming pickup truck will be loaded to the teeth with tech, to the point where it won’t look out of place in the set of the Blade Runner franchise due to its notably “cyberpunk” design. In a podcast with veteran tech journalist Kara Swisher last November, Musk stated that he is excited about the vehicle, but if it does not do too well due to its design, Tesla would release a more “conventional” truck. The spirit of this more conventional take on Tesla’s pickup appears to have been captured perfectly in Tedoradze’s render.

The design of the Tesla Pickup Truck remains under wraps. Elon Musk shared a couple of early sketches of the vehicle during the Semi’s unveiling in 2017, depicting the pickup as a large machine whose appearance is heavily based on the electric long-hauler. Musk later showed a teaser of the actual vehicle’s design in the Model Y unveiling event, though the image only featured a cryptic, angular, lighted component that the CEO later confirmed was part of the vehicle’s front.

Tesla’s Pickup Truck will be entering a market that will likely be populated in the near future. The pickup truck segment is very lucrative in regions such as the United States, as shown by the fact that the country’s most popular vehicle is the Ford F-150. Considering that the pickup segment is currently dominated by more traditional workhorses such as the Chevy Silverado and the Dodge RAM, the industry is ripe for disruption.

All-electric pickups from other carmakers are coming, two of which are the Rivian R1T and the Ford F-150 EV. Both electric trucks have garnered a positive reaction from the EV community, the former partly due to Rivian’s clean-sheet approach, and the latter due to Ford’s pedigree in truck-building. With this in mind, it seems certain that when the Tesla Truck makes it to market, the arena of battery-electric pickups would likely become very, very competitive.,6308.html

Raspberry Pi: Projects, Models, Prices, How to Get Started

With over 25 million units sold, the Raspberry Pi is not only one of the world’s most popular computers; it’s also one of the most important. Originally designed to help kids learn about technology, this inexpensive single-board system is the leading choice for makers, developers and hobbyists who want to do everything from building industrial robots to setting up retro arcade machines.

Credit: Tom's Hardware

Credit: Tom’s HardwareWhether you’re eight or 80, if you love technology, the Raspberry Pi is made for you. And with models ranging in price from $5 to $55, anyone can afford to buy one. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of Raspberry Pi.

What You Do with a Raspberry Pi

The idea of sub-$50 computer sounds cool at first, but what exactly do you do with one? For most adults, even the highest-end Raspberry Pi isn’t powerful enough to serve as a primary PC. However, its small size, low-power usage and ability to connect to all kinds of electronic components via its 40-pin GPIO port make it ideal for tasks that a PC couldn’t perform.

Here are a few notable use cases.

  • Retro emulation machine: Due to the popularity of emulation environments, such as Retropie and Lakka, you can easily build a gaming console around your Raspberry Pi that can play old arcade games and titles on classic systems, like the Nintendo 64, Atari 2600 and Gameboy Advance. A number of third-party products, including the Pimoroni Picade, give you the parts to build your own Pi-powered arcade machine.
  • Kids’ learning computer: The Raspberry Pi was originally designed to get children interested in programming by giving them an inexpensive, infinitely configurable computer. The Raspberry Pi runs Scratch Desktop, the offline version of the kid-friendly Scratch programming language and has built-in Python support. It’s also powerful enough for kids to surf the web, play some games or write school papers.
  • Robot:  You can attach lights, motors and sensors to the Raspberry Pi, allowing it to power just about any kind of robot, from a robotic toy car to a mechanical arm that can pick up objects.
  • Sensor station: With the addition of add-ons like the Pi Sense Hat, you can monitor the temperature, humidity, light or even air quality of any location. This means that you can see the current weather or just build a fart detector.
  • Security camera: Using one of the many Raspberry Pi camera attachments or a USB-powered webcam, you can turn any Pi into a security system.
  • Magic mirror: You can build a system which displays your daily information, such as the weather and your calendar on a two-way mirror.

Choosing a Model and Getting Started with Raspberry Pi

If you don’t own a Pi, you should definitely get one; we recommend the Raspberry Pi 4 B, ideally with 4GB of RAM ($55), though you can settle for 2GB ($45) or 1GB ($35) configs if you want to save money (we explore other Pi models in the Noteworthy Raspberry Pi Models section). You probably won’t find one at your local big box retailers, but there are lots of places to buy a Raspberry Pi. You’ll also need:

  • A microSD card of at least 16GB
  • A compatible AC adapter. For the Pi 4, you need a USB Type-C charger with 5 volts and at least 3 amps. For earlier Pi models, a 2.5 amp, 5-volt charger with a micro USB interface fits the bill.

If you choose to do a Raspberry Pi headless install, which lets you control the Pi from another computer, those are the only things you’ll need.

However, if want to use the Pi as standalone, you will obviously need:

  • Keyboard / Mouse: The Pi has USB ports you can use to connect these. All models except the Raspberry Pi Zero (non-W) have Bluetooth you can use as well. We like using wireless keyboards that have built-in touchpads for our Pi, and the best of these is the Corsair K83.
  • Screen: While you can buy screens that attach to the Pi’s GPIO pins, the easiest thing is to run an HDMI cable from the Raspberry Pi to a monitor or TV. If you have the Pi 4, you’ll need a micro HDMI to HDMI cable, because that board has micro HDMI out. The Pi Zero / Zero W use mini HDMI out.

We’ve got a detailed article that explains how to set up your Raspberry PI for the first time. The whole process should take no more than 10 minutes. If you want to save money and desk space, we recommend trying a headless install of the Pi and logging into your Pi from your primary PC.

Noteworthy Raspberry Pi Models

There have been over a dozen different Raspberry Pi models released since the original, the Model B, launched in spring 2012. The company continues actively manufacturing all of them but the original Model A and B, because there are some companies that still use these legacy boards in their own products. However, there are really only a few models that the average shopper should consider getting right now.

  • Raspberry Pi 4 B with 1, 2 or 4GB of RAM ($35, $45 and $55): This is the latest model, and the 4GB edition is the top-of-the line. If you are planning to do physical computing (build a robot or gadget), 1GB should be fine, but 2-4GB is better if you plan to do web surfing and run programs on the Pi itself.

Here’s where you can buy the Raspberry Pi 4 and 11 USB-C cables that work with the Pi 4.

  • Raspberry Pi Zero W ($5 to $10): This is the least powerful Pi, but it’s also super tiny (about the size of a USB Flash drive) and super cheap, so you can use it in a lot of different projects. It has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so it can connect to your network and devices. There’s also a Raspberry Pi Zero that has no wireless connectivity, but we wouldn’t recommend that because it’s not much cheaper and in some places is the same price as the Zero W.
  • Raspberry Pi 3 B / 3 B+ ($35): These were the current-generation Raspberry Pis up until June 2019 and are a bit easier to find on sale and better supported (in terms of cases) than the Pi 4 at present. They also work flawlessly with game emulation software, like Retropie, which still don’t officially support Pi 4. While they are similar, the 3 B+ is 200 MHz faster than the 3 B and has better Wi-Fi.

Further down the page, we have a complete table of all the Raspberry Pi models ever made.

Tutorials and Support

Perhaps the best thing about the Raspberry Pi is the community of enthusiasts that stand behind it. If you’re looking for help, you can find support on Tom’s Hardware’s own Raspberry Pi forum, the Raspberry Pi’s official forums or on Reddit’s /r/raspberry_pi.

There are tons of great tutorials on the Internet that help you customize the Pi and use it for your specific needs. We have published a few helpful how-tos here at Tom’s Hardware:


Perhaps the most important feature of the Raspberry Pi is its set of 40 GPIO (General Purpose Input / Output) pins. The Raspberry Pi GPIO pins allow you to connect to all kinds of electronics, including LED lights, sensors, motors and controllers.

Each of the 40 pins serves a different purpose; some are grounds, others provide 3.3 or 5 volts of juice and still others can send data to different kinds of devices.
To learn what each pin does, see our article and chart on the Raspberry Pi GPIO pinout.

Raspberry Pi HATs

While you can run wires to the GPIO pins or create your own circuit board to put on top of them, there are dozens of premade HATs (Hardware Attached on Top) you can buy. Some of the more interesting Raspberry Pi HATs are:

  • Raspberry Pi Sense HAT ($37): Used on the International Space Station, this first-party attachment has a series of sensors, including ones for pressure, humidity, temperature, along with an 8×8 LED light panel and a small joystick.
  • Picade X-HAT ($22): Provides inputs for an analog joystick, buttons, power and audio output. Just what you need to make an arcade machine.

Overclocking the Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi was built for people who like to tinker so all current models are unlocked for overclocking, which is really easy to do. We’ve got an article that shows you how to overclock the Raspberry Pi 4 B all the way up to 2 GHz, but you’ll definitely want to add a fan like the Pimoroni Fan Shim or the 52Pi Ice Tower Cooler.

Brief History of Raspberry Pi

Eben Upton

Eben UptonThis world-conquering computer has some humble origins. In 2008, Raspberry Pi Founder Eben Upton started working on the project in an attempt to simply increase the number of young people applying to Cambridge University’s computer science program. Upton only planned to make 1,000 units in total, but when the Pi launched in 2012, there was so much interest from adult makers that the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the non-profit which develops the computer, had to mass produce it.In 2014, the Foundation released the Raspberry Pi 1 A+ and B+, which were the first to have the 40-pin GPIO set all models still have today (earlier models had a 26-pin set). In 2015, the Raspberry Pi 2 launched, moving to a faster processor and 1GB of RAM (earlier models had up to 512MB). Also in 2015, the Pi Zero, a tiny model that’s the size of a USB stick and costs $5, hit the market. That same year a pair of rugged Raspberry Pis were installed at the International Space Station as part of a program that lets kids submit code to be run on them.

2016 saw the launch of the Raspberry Pi 3 B, which offered a faster processor with a 1.2 GHz clock speed. In 2017, the Pi Zero W, which adds Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity to the Zero, appeared. And in 2019, the Raspberry Pi 4 B launched, upgrading to a quad-core, Cortex A-72-powered CPU, providing dual micro HDMI outputs and, for the first time, 2GB and 4GB RAM capacities.

Today, after more than 25 million Raspberry Pis have been sold, half of the units are being used by businesses that need them to perform industrial tasks or use them as part of products. However, children and schools are still a core constituency. According to the Pi Foundation, 250,000 kids a week take part in Raspberry Pi competitions, clubs or other programs.

All Raspberry Pi Models

Here’s a list of all major Raspberry Pi models released since 2012. Note that the Compute Modules have no ports, because they are designed to plug into custom PCBs and are usually used by businesses that build them into products.

Release CPU RAM I/O Ports Connectivity
Raspberry Pi 4 B Jun 2019 1.5-GHz, 4-core Broadcom BCM2711 (Cortex-A72) 1 / 2 / 4GB 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 2 x micro HDMI, 3.5mm audio 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, Gigabit Ethernet
Compute Model 3+ Lite Jan 2019 1.2-GHz, 4-core Broadcom BCM2837B0 (Cortex-A53) 1GB N/A N/A
Compute Model 3+ Jan 2019 1.2-GHz, 4-core Broadcom BCM2837B0 (Cortex-A53) 1GB N/A N/A
Raspberry Pi 3 A+ Nov 2018 1.4-GHz, 4-core Broadcom BCM2837B0 (Cortex-A53) 512MB 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI, 3.5mm audio 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Mar 2018 1.4-GHz, 4-core Broadcom BCM2837B0 (Cortex-A53) 1GB 4 x USB 2.0, HDMI, 3.5mm audio 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, Ethernet
Raspberry Pi Zero W Feb 2017 1-GHz, 1-core Broadcom BCM2835 (ARM1176JZF-S) 512MB 1x micro USB, mini HDMI 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.1
Compute Module 3 Lite Jan 2017 1.2-GHz, 4-core Broadcom BCM2837 (Cortex-A53) 1GB N/A N/A
Compute Module 3 Jan 2017 1.2-GHz, 4-core Broadcom BCM2837 (Cortex-A53) 1GB N/A N/A
Raspberry Pi 2 B (v 1.2) Oct 2016 900-MHz, 4-core, Broadcom BCM2837 (Cortex-A53) 1GB 4x USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio, HDMI 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.1, Ethernet
Raspberry Pi Zero (v 1.3) May 2016 1-GHz, 1-core Broadcom BCM2835 (ARM1176JZF-S) 512MB 1x micro USB, mini HDMI N/A
Raspberry Pi 3 B Feb 2016 1.2-GHz, 4-core, Broadcom BCM2837 (Cortex-A53) 1GB 4x USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio, HDMI 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.1, Ethernet
Raspberry Pi Zero (v 1.2) Oct 2015 1-GHz, 1-core Broadcom BCM2835 (ARM1176JZF-S) 512MB 1x micro USB, mini HDMI N/A
Raspberry Pi 2 B Feb 2015 900-MHz, 4-Core Broadcom BCM2836 (Cortex-A7) 1GB 4x USB, 3.5mm audio, HDMI Ethernet
Raspberry Pi 1 A+ Nov 2014 700 Mhz, 1-core Broadcom BCM2835 (ARM1176JZF-S) 512MB 1x USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio, HDMI, composite video N/A
Raspberry Pi 1 B+ Jul 2014 700 Mhz, 1-core Broadcom BCM2835 (ARM1176JZF-S) 512MB 4x USB 2.0, HDMI, composite video Ethernet
Compute Module 1 Apr 2014 700 Mhz, 1-core Broadcom BCM2835 (ARM1176JZF-S) 512MB N/A N/A
Raspberry Pi 1 A Feb 2013 700 Mhz, 1-core Broadcom BCM2835 (ARM1176JZF-S) 256MB 1x USB 2.0, HDMI, composite video, 3.5mm audio N/A
Raspberry Pi 1 B Mar 2012 700 Mhz, 1-core Broadcom BCM2835 (ARM1176JZF-S) 512MB 2x USB 2.0, HDMI, 3.5mm audio Ethernet

Image Credits: Tom’s Hardware

Ranchers have a beef with plant-based burger companies

Bob Lowe has never tasted a Beyond Meat burger.

A Beyond Meat burger and its packaging. BEYOND MEAT

Bob Lowe has never tasted a Beyond Meat burger.

He has never tried an Impossible Burger, either. For the Nanton-area rancher and vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the thought of eating either of the meatless patties — both of which have rocketed to popularity in 2019, popping up on menus at an ever-growing list of restaurants and fast-food chains — leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

“These two companies are actually out to globally kill the cattle industry … so that kind  of goes against the grain if you raise cattle for a living,” Lowe said. “But I think I am going to have to try one eventually. If you put enough ketchup on it, apparently, it’s edible.”

Lowe and many other ranchers in the heart of Alberta’s cattle country have watched with dismay this summer as countless media headlines have loudly declared 2019 to be “the year of the plant-based burger.” Beyond Meat — the California company whose pea protein-based product started the trend — is now worth more than US$10 billion and had Wall Street’s best-performing IPO this year. While A&W was the first restaurant chain in Canada to get on board (its version of the Beyond Meat burger completely sold out weeks after its launch last year), others quickly followed suit and imitation meat products are now on offer at Burger King, Subway, Tim Hortons, and a host of other mainstream outlets.

A Beyond Meat breakfast sandwich at A&W. Tim Hortons also now offers plant-based protein in certain products.HANDOUT

But it’s not just the rapid rise in popularity of meatless eating — and what it could mean for beef’s market share — that so irks some cattle producers. Many ranchers are concerned that these vegan products are inappropriately masquerading as meat. Earlier this year, the Quebec Cattle Producers Federation filed a complaint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) claiming that Beyond Meat shouldn’t be allowed to advertise its products as “meat.” Several U.S. states have also passed laws this year banning companies from using words such as meat, burger, and sausage unless the product came from an animal that was born, raised and slaughtered in a traditional way.

Lowe said for its part, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association believes plant-based patties should not be allowed display space at the meat counter in grocery stores. He said the organization also has a beef with Beyond Meat’s use of an image of a cow — albeit one wearing a superhero cape — in its logo.

“That is a major concern. We’re looking into it right now about what avenues we can take,” he said. “With limited budgets, we’ve got to be pretty sure of ourselves because they’ve got unlimited budgets. But we have to stand up for ourselves.”

Lowe — who, like many ranchers, has refused to go to A&W ever since the chain’s hormone-free ad campaign of several years ago seemed to imply conventionally raised beef was unhealthy — said he encourages friends to avoid the chains that have embraced the meatless trend and eat at McDonald’s instead. The burger giant, which has so far refrained from offering any form of meat alternative, has long been beloved by Canadian ranchers for its promotion of “100 per cent Canadian” beef. In fact, McDonald’s appears to be doubling down on beef with ads talking up its new enhanced version of the Big Mac.

Lesley Kelly, who farms in Saskatchewan, is not a rancher. In fact, she grows peas and lentils, the very commodities at the heart of the plant-based eating trend. But recently she posted a picture on Twitter of herself holding a McDonald’s beef burger and an A&W Beyond Meat burger and wrote, “I’ll always choose the beef burger.”

Twitter photo of farmer Lesley Kelly posing with two burgers, A&W’s plant-based burger and McDonald’s beef burger. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Kelly said she did it to support her ranching friends and neighbours, whom she said are frustrated by the advertising campaign that has accompanied the plant-based eating trend. The message seems to be that products like Beyond Meat are both better for your health and better for the environment than old-fashioned beef, and it’s one that makes ranchers feel as if they under attack.

“It’s hard not to take it personally when people are telling you how to farm, telling you that what you do is bad and that you’re a bad person,” Kelly said. “I really felt compelled to speak out.”

For Anne Wasko, chair of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, one of the biggest concerns around the plant-based trend has been the tendency for meat imitation products to position themselves as a better environmental choice — that by eating less beef, you can help save the planet. Wasko said while it’s true beef has an environmental footprint, the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions only account for 2.4 per cent of the country’s total. And she added ranching has other, positive, impacts on the environment through its protection of native grasslands and ability to sequester carbon in the soil.

I think there’s room for all at the restaurant table or the retail counter.

Anne Wasko

“I think there’s room for all at the restaurant table or the retail counter,” Wasko said. “We’re all agriculture — on our ranch, we have cattle and all around me, there’s certainly lots of peas and lentils. But it’s just making sure that messaging is correct — and we will call them out when it’s wrong.”

There’s no denying that this summer’s fake meat phenomenon has become a divisive topic, and that’s unfortunate, said Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the agri-food analytics lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He added he believes there is still time for the beef industry to twist the narrative to their advantage — for example, critics have already started to point out that Beyond Meat’s sodium and calorie count does not make it a health food.

“Beyond Meat’s marketing strategy is trying to replicate beef. That’s to the advantage of cattle producers, because beef is a natural, unprocessed food, and Beyond Meat is anything but,” Charlebois said. “If they (ranchers) actually play their cards well, they could not only position their product as a natural product, but as a premium product.”

New CRISPR tools can cut, splice whole chromosomes

Experts are saying it’s a “huge step forward for synthetic biology.”

  • Until recently, the gene-editing tool CRISPR has only been able to make changes within single genes.
  • The new tools allow scientists to cut and splice larger chunks of genetic material.
  • The findings will likely have major implications for a variety of research fields, and also allow researchers to create synthetic species that can produce molecules not made by natural organisms.

Since 2012, the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 has enabled scientists to target and modify DNA with remarkable precision. But one constraint of this technique has been that it’s only able to make changes within single genes. Now, scientists have developed new tools that allow them to cut and splice large chunks of chromosomes, and to assemble new synthetic genomes from distinct strains.

The findings, published in a paper on August 30 in Science, likely have major implications for fields such as synthetic biology, computational biology, and biological computing, and could lead to better treatments for a wide array of diseases.

“This new paper is incredibly exciting and a huge step forward for synthetic biology,” Anne Meyer, a synthetic biologist at the University of Rochester in New York who was not involved in the paper, told Science.

Unlike previous gene-editing tools, the new tools are able to make many precise cuts to long strands of DNA without leaving any scarring.

The researchers, as Robert F. Service wrote for Science, also altered “another well-known tool, an enzyme called lambda red recombinase, so it could glue the ends of the original chromosome—minus the removed portion—back together, as well as fuse the ends of the removed portion. Both circular strands of DNA are protected from endonucleases. The technique can create different circular chromosome pairs in other cells, and researchers can then swap chromosomes at will, eventually inserting whatever chunk they choose into the original genome.”

“Now, I can make a series of changes in one segment and then another and combine them together. That’s a big deal,” Chang Liu, a synthetic biologist at the University of California, Irvine, told Science.

Tesla’s clean exterior and minimalist interior are now preferred by luxury buyers

Tesla’s exterior and interior design elements are unlike other cars on the market. Save for the pre-facelift Model S and the original Roadster, all of Tesla’s vehicles have no grille, giving the current-gen Model S, Model X, and Model 3 a look that notably different compared to traditional automobiles. The interiors of Tesla’s electric cars are even more unique. Unapologetically minimalistic, Tesla’s interiors are centered on bleeding-edge tech and sustainability.

These unique elements make Teslas stand out from the crowd of competitors from traditional automakers like Lexus and BMW. At the same time, it also makes the designs of the company’s vehicles incredibly polarizing. Among the auto community, it is just as easy to find reviewers who rave about Tesla’s exterior and interior design as it is to find those that find them downright offensive.

The minimalist interior of the Tesla Model 3. (Photo: Andres GE)

Top Gear host Chris Harris, for example, loved the Model 3 Performance’s instant acceleration and track capability, but he was notably critical of the vehicle’s exterior styling, fondly remarking that the all-electric sedan was an “AK-47 disguised as a butter knife” in his review. It is also pretty common to see noted reviewers of premium electric cars such as the Jaguar I-PACE compare the British crossover’s plush interior favorably to the Model 3’s spaceship-like cabin.

Yet, if the results of the Q2 2019 Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch are an indication, it appears that a notable number of luxury car buyers are actually starting to prefer the clean lines and minimalist themes of Tesla’s electric cars over more conventional accents found in traditional luxury automobiles. KBB’s survey ranked automakers according to 12 categories that ranged from safety to prestige. Tesla dominated the list, ranking first in seven out of the list’s 12 categories.

The Jaguar I-PACE’s interior invokes the legacy carmaker’s luxury roots. (Credit: Jaguar)

Some of the categories that Tesla topped were pretty unsurprising, such as Technology and Driving Performance, as these are aspects that the electric car company is known for. What is surprising was the fact that Tesla was also the first-ranked brand for Exterior Styling, beating Audi and Porsche in the process. Tesla’s Interior Layout also ranked first in KBB’s rankings, placing the company above Acura and Genesis.

These results bode well for Tesla and its approach to vehicle design. They do, for one, hint that consumers might be starting to relate clean exterior lines and minimalist interior themes to luxury. This is especially notable considering that the respondents of KBB’s survey are shopping in the luxury car segment, which suggests that they are familiar with the expected flourishes of conventional premium vehicles from veteran brands such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW. 

When Tesla Chief of Design Franz von Holzhausen designed the Model S, he opted to create a vehicle that is unapologetically electric that still looks recognizable as a car. This theme has been followed in every vehicle that Tesla has released to date, from the Model X to the Tesla Semi. Tesla’s designs will likely remain polarizing for years to come, especially among conventional auto enthusiasts. But considering the results of KBB’s study, a shift among luxury vehicle consumers appears to be happening, and winds could very well be blowing in Tesla’s favor.,40279.html

190-Raspberry Pi 4 Cluster Matches One ThunderX2 Processor

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: ShutterstockBy now we’ve learned to accept that Raspberry Pi enthusiasts will figure out how to use the single-board computers in new ways no matter how practical their experiments are. Serve The Home(STH) offered the latest glimpse into the realm of technically possible, but inadvisable, Raspberry Pi-nnovation by comparing the costs of building a server rack from more than 100 of the single-board computers with the cost of buying a Marvell ThunderX2 server.

We’ll spoil STH’s findings upfront: building a Marvell ThunderX2 competitor from a bunch of Raspberry Pi 4 units costs anywhere between 1.85x and 2.14x more than just buying an off-the-rack server. (The first estimate features 190 Raspberry Pi 4 units; the second features 220.) Setting up the Raspberry Pi server would be far more frustrating, too, because it involves setting up hundreds of units rather than just plugging in the Marvell server.

So why even bother estimating the costs of building, operating and maintaining a server made from Raspberry Pi 4 units? STH explained that it met with “a Silicon Valley dev-ops team” using “shelves of ODROID and Raspberry Pi devices instead of traditional servers” for their Android continuous integration / delivery pipelines. The team would rather use these single-board computers than emulate Arm processors on x86-based servers.

STH then figured out how one could assemble such a Raspberry Pi-based server and compared it to a Gigabyte ThunderX2 server. It found that building the former cost roughly $111 per Raspberry Pi 4 4GB node, which totals $21,254 for the server featuring 190 units and $24,609 for the one featuring 220. The Gigabyte ThunderX2 cost just $11,500 in comparison. (All of these figures would vary, of course, based on configurations and discounts.)

Finding new uses for the Raspberry Pi 4 is always interesting; we’ve even overclocked the Pi 4. But unless someone is vehemently opposed to emulating Arm on an x86 server, or content to answer “because I could” whenever someone asks why they bothered to set up hundreds of single-board computers instead of just buying a server, this definitely seems more like an experiment than the future of computing.

North’s Focals smart glasses now support Android’s notification actions

Manage your emails or retweet directly from your face

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

North has added native support for Android’s notification actions to its Focals smart glasses. Using the new functionality, you’ll now be able to access any shortcuts app developers include in their app’s notifications. 9to5Google, which first spotted the update, notes that these actions can include deleting or archiving emails in the Gmail app or retweeting tweets on Twitter.

The feature should make it easier to rely more on your smart glasses without having to take your phone out of your pocket, similar to the functionality that was previously available with Google Glass. Unfortunately, the new feature is only available to Android users for the time being, so it’s unable to help with one of our biggest issues with the Focals, which is its poor app support on iOS.

If you want to enable the new feature, then you can do so by heading into the “Experiments” section of the Focals app. Once enabled, you can then click a notification once to expand it, and then select it again to access any available actions.

A Linux-to-Cloud IoT Solution the Microsoft Way

Avnet has developed an end-to-end IoT solution that revolves around MediaTek’s MT3620 running Microsoft’s Azure Sphere OS.

William G. Wong | Aug 28, 2019

Delivering secure, end-to-end IoT connectivity is no easy task, and properly integrating this support with an operating system is critical to delivering a secure product. Most developers would prefer to concentrate on their part of the solution while leaving the IoT management and security to others. The challenge is that many players are involved, so doing this from scratch is possible but painful, time-consuming, and expensive.

A host of vendors provide end-to-end IoT solutions, from giants like Google to Amazon to open-source platforms. Of course, Microsoft is up there, too, and ties its IoT offerings to its Azure cloud solution. Microsoft does make some hardware, but it usually wants to sell software and services to companies that develop hardware to work with their solutions. The advantage for Microsoft is that IoT devices garner income for the life of the device, since IoT devices these days are locked into one cloud platform.

Currently, IoT is a matter of partnerships and even Microsoft does this with a vengeance. Of course, the company has been doing this for decades. In our case, it has partnered with MediaTek and Avnet to deliver the Avnet Azure Sphere MT3620 development kit (Fig. 1). The module in the kit is based on MediaTek’s MT3620 SoC.


1. Avnet’s starter kit board includes the compact MT3620 module. It also has sensors and a pair of mikroBus Click board sockets.

This IoT development kit is similar to many others on the market, but it comes with a few major twists including base security built into the chip and a customized version of Linux that takes advantage of that security. That’s right, Microsoft Linux is the base. They don’t actually call it Microsoft Linux—it’s their Linux that includes the company’s own security framework, which is designed to work with its security hardware called Pluton. Microsoft calls its Linux instance Azure Sphere OS.

Pluton is a security subsystem built around an ARM Cortex-M4F (Fig. 2). This core is isolated and controls the rest of the system. It provides secure boot support as well as handles encryption chores. The MT3620 also has a Cortex-A7 with Arm TrustZone support for heavy lifting and running the Azure Sphere OS. Another Cortex-M4F handles most of the peripherals. There’s also wireless support, including dual-band Wi-Fi. That has its own dedicated processor.


2. The MT3620 block diagram highlights the Corex-M4F-based Pluton security subsystem. The Cortex-A7 runs Microsoft’s Linux-based Azure Sphere OS.

NXP Semiconductors announced an i.MX 8 platform with Pluton supportthat’s similar to MediaTek’s chip. NXP’s chip will also run the Azure Sphere OS.

I like the design of the development board. The MT3620 chip is actually on a module (Fig. 3) that incorporates the wireless support, which has FCC approval. This makes using the module a snap for developers, since additional FCC approval of a product may not be necessary. An on-module antenna and a connector are included for a separate antenna. The pinouts are nicely portioned, making design of a carrier board a snap.


3. The MediaTek MT3620 is available on Avnet’s module used in the development kit. The pinouts are easy to work with when designing a custom PCB.

The mikroBus Click board sockets are a handy way to add extra sensors to augment the ones already on the board (Fig. 4). These include an ambient light sensor, three-axis accelerometer, three-axis gyro, temperature sensor, and barometric pressure sensor. There’s also an unpopulated Pmod socket solder pad, but it shares space with one of the Click board sockets. A couple of I2C sockets for displays and Grove interfaces are in the mix, too. Power sockets can be soldered on, but power can also be supplied by the USB interface used for initial configuration as well as debugging.


4. A range of Click boards are available from a number of sources; it’s easy to design custom boards given the limited number of interface pins.

Getting Started

Now that we’re done with the long explanation about the hardware and operating system, we can move onto what it took to get started. The kit comes in a small box with the board and a short USB cable. The page of directions, typical these days, directs you to the web for more details.

The board comes preprogrammed, but there’s nothing to do with it until you download a bunch of Microsoft software on to your PC, including Microsoft Visual Studio and the Azure SDK. You also need a free account on Azure to connect your newly acquired dev board to the cloud.

I won’t bore you with the details because there are quite a few. Likewise, a number of blogs, PDF files and videos about this platform are available. Unfortunately, though, there’s not one place to find all of them. They’re also all over the place from Avnet’s website, to MediaTek to Microsoft and also Element 14. This is where I found a three-part blog entitled Avnet’s Azure Sphere Starter-Kit (Out of Box Demo). It duplicates information found in other sources, but it’s the best for getting started.

The blog and other sources are needed because this kit is designed to be used for development, not just evaluation of an IoT end-to-end solution. In that sense, it’s an ideal platform for developers, since it’s designed to work with the tools that include Azure Sphere and Visual Studio.

The first blog post addresses initial setup and configuration of the board. The second gets into connecting to the cloud and setting up a logical, cloud-based IoT hub that’s used manage the device; in this case, the dev board. The result of this second blog is support for Azure’s Time Series Insights (Fig. 5). This is just one aspect of Azure Sphere. The third blog gets into using IoT Central. I still need to finish this one, but I don’t get a lot of large blocks of free time.


5. Azure Sphere’s web-based cloud interface provides access to the data delivered from the MT3620.

Though it will take a day or three to get to this point, the results are well worth the effort. Once completed, you have the Visual Studio and SDK all set up and have a couple projects in the bag albeit canned demos from the walkthrough.

I still need to explore the development side of things, especially the Azure Sphere OS’s security aspects and how they differ from support like SELinux or Ubuntu’s AppArmor, which I’m more familiar with. I won’t even mention the Azure side of things, as cloud development is a whole other area of development.

In closing, I will mention that the kit differs from many others in that it comes locked down. It’s not an open system on a network when you plug it in, and it takes time and effort to get to the point of doing the programming. This is actually a good thing, because it works from the opposite approach of being very open and unsecured. It would be nice if other development platforms followed this rule.

On the flip side, the system locks you into hardware, a toolset, an operating system, and cloud provider.  But this tends to be par for the course when it comes to most IoT solutions. The big hook to all the “free software” is monthly charges for cloud support. Again, this is the norm for an IoT solution where you’re not providing your own cloud.

Though it’s taken me a while to get the kit to do what I expected, I’m happy with the results. I don’t claim to be an expert at developing IoT apps for the MT3620, but I have a good starting point.

Elon Musk says humans communicate so slowly with computers that it will sound like whale speech to future AI

Elon Musk
Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink CEO Elon Musk.
  • Elon Musk is the CEO of three companies: TeslaNeuralink, andSpaceX. The second of those three, Neuralink, is focused on creating human-computer interfaces to connect artificial intelligence with the human mind and body.
  • Musk is focused on human-computer interfaces because he’s worried about the human race getting left behind as AI gets better and better.
  • One major problem Musk pointed to in a talk on AI this week in Shanghai: Humans communicate data far, far more slowly than computers. “Human speech to a computer will sound like very slow tonal wheezing, kind of like whale sounds,” he said.

There are major language barriers between human beings and computers.

For one, human beings communicate with language and text and images — all inputs that are inherently slower at communicating information than straight-up data.

But also, crucially, computers perceive time differently than human beings. That’s because of their ability to process data at a far higher speed than humans can.

The information is inside the computer?
YouTube / Movieclips

“To a computer… a millisecond is an eternity, but to us it’s nothing,” Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink CEO Elon Musk said in a wide-ranging conversation about AI in Shanghai, China this week. “Human speech to a computer will sound like very slow tonal wheezing, kind of like whale sounds. Because what’s our bandwidth — a few hundred bits per second, basically, maybe a few kilobits per second if you’re going to be generous?”

In so many words, Musk is saying that human forms of communication — speech, gestures, etc. — are built for communicating with other human beings. When those inputs are applied to “speaking” to a computer, they become woefully inadequate.

Computers, however, can communicate data far, far more quickly — “at a terabyte level,” Musk said.

apple watch siri shazamApple

And that communication difference could be a major issue for future AI-human relations, to the point where it would be similar to a tree trying to communicate with a human being.

“The computer will just get impatient, if nothing else,” Musk said. “It will be like talking to a tree — that’s humans.”

Check out the full video of the talk with Musk and Ma right here.