Headlines at 21st Century Tech for January 18, 2013

This week’s headlines include:

  • Breathing Out on Your Cell Phone Can Measure Your Lung Health;
  • Crowdfunding Finances New Solar Powered Electric City Car;
  • Tribe in Ecuador Fighting Exploitation by Oil Companies;
  • Star Trek” Holodeck a Decade Away;
  • Crab Lice Becoming an Endangered Species in the Age of Bikini Waxes.


Spirometer App Lets Cell Phone Users Test Their Lungs

One of the ways you can test for lung conditions is record the volume of air you breathe in and the amount you breathe out. The out breath tells doctors whether you have healthy or compromised airways. In hospitals breathing tests use a spirometer similar to the one displayed below in the picture on the top right hand side. But now a new smartphone app, called SpiroSmart, uses the built-in microphone to test the volume of exhaled air by recording it and sending the data to a remote server where expelled volume can be measured. For those who suffer from asthma, cystic fibrosis, right-side congenital heart problems and other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, SpiroSmart makes monitoring lung function continuously far easier for patients who don’t have to come to a hospital or clinic for regular testing but can now just phone it in.




Organic Transit Funds Its Development of Solar City Car Using Crowdfunding Site


Many years ago before my wife learned to drive a car we got her an adult tricycle which she used to run errands in our neighborhood. It was great in a tailwind and could haul several bags of groceries in its back carryall. But when fighting a stiff breeze it could have used an electric drive motor. Then recently I read about the ELF,  a product of Organic Transit of Durham, North Carolina. ELF is a three-wheeled electric vehicle. It was the tricycle we never had. The ELF is configured with two wheels upfront and one in the back. The driver sits in a completely enclosed space sheltered from wind, rain and snow. The motive power combines solar and muscle. Peddle it like a moped, or let the 850-watt neodymium magnetic motor take over when going up hills or fighting the wind. The motor gets its power from a 480-watt lithium battery and recharges using the 60-watt solar panel that covers the roof of the cab. Like a car the ELF comes with a windshield, headlights, disc brakes and lights, and turn signals. But the ELF isn’t a car. It’s classified as a bicycle. And when Organic Transit went to Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website to raise seed money for production, the response to their $100,000 funding request was immediate. They didn’t raise the $100,000 they were seeking. Instead 547 backers pledged $225,789. If you are thinking of buying an ELF seen in the image below, current base price is around $4,000.


ELF velomobile


Forest Tribe in Ecuador Battles Oil Company to Protect Rainforest

The Kichwa tribe who live in the rainforests of Ecuador are fighting the Ecuadorian government, the army and Petroamazonas, the state-backed oil company, to protect 70,000 hectares of land, much of which is pristine rainforest. Sounding very much like the Neytiri in Avatar, the Kichwa have found themselves outmaneuvered by oil company negotiators backed by the government. Originally offered financial assistance, a new school, guaranteed university placement for their children and healthcare, the Kichwa agreed to allow exploration, but when the signing documents were produced none of these promises  were included. Then the government told the Kichwa that prospecting would start on January 15, 2013 with the oil companies backed by the Ecuadorian army. The Kichwa assembled an arsenal of machetes, blowpipes, spears and guns to fight but yesterday won a reprieve with the oil company agreeing to sit down again at the negotiating table. James Cameron….are you looking for a new script?




The Holodeck of “Star Trek” Fame Getting Closer to Reality

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Tim Huckaby, founder and chairman of InterKnowlogy, of San Diego, California, and CEO of Actus Interactive Software, of Carlsbad, California, in his keynote address predicted that holodeck virtual reality will soon be a part of our daily lives.  Huckaby believes that the computer and gaming user interface of today is rapidly evolving into a fully immersive, three-dimensional environments with technology capable of reading thoughts and responding to our behavior. We are already seeing mind-controlled prosthetic devices so why not mind reading that can project thoughts to create holographic renderings. If you don’t believe me check out Emotiv and the wireless EPOC personal interface that costs only a few hundred dollars and detects user thoughts, feeling and expressions. Neural interfaces like EPOC will lead to the redefining of disability, opening doors for the locked in, paraplegics, quadriplegics, stroke victims, and others with communication impairments to participate more fully in both the real and virtual world.




The Bikini Wax is Leading to the Extinction of Crab Lice

This last story caught my eye because it’s catchy but not catching, a  great example of unintended environmental consequences caused by changing fashion. The fashion change is depilation, the removing of body hair and in particular pubic hair. The victim, the crab louse. These creatures have been with us from the beginning of humanity. But now they are fast disappearing and doctors attribute the population crash to bikini waxing and depilatories. In a recent survey 80% of U.S. college students reported removing some or all of their pubic hair and this trend is happening in many other countries. The result an 80% decline in reported cases of crab lice. Whether clipping, shaving or waxing, depilation is depriving the louse of its natural human habitat. It’s great advertising for depilatory makers and salons that do bikini waxes. Not so good for Phthirus pubis, the pubic louse seen on human hair in the image below.


Two pubic lice on a human hair


A Postscript

This blog is now featured on The Futurist, the eZine of the World Future Society.  That means a lot more of you can be a part of the conversation in 2013. If you are a first time visitor who found out about us through Google, Bing or Yahoo, you can subscribe to receive new blog posting notifications in your email. You’ll find the free subscriber registration on the right side of the 21st Century Tech Blog home page.

As always thanks for dropping by and please come back often.

– Len Rosen

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...