16 February  2018

We know we've been harping a bit on the Falcon Heavy launch of late, but this really is a very significant moment in man's  quest to become a multi-planetary species. The 70m high rocket , carrying a payload that included "Starman" behind the wheel of a Tesla Roadster, launched perfectly, and  minutes later, the twin rocket boosters landed in near perfect synchronization back on earth, ready to be used again. Our Banner of the Week celebrates the event. Put on your headphones and check out the link for a stunning experience as you go through the aural experience that those in attendance must have enjoyed.
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Elephone is a brand that featured quite a bit in our multiple (non) award-winning tome in the last year.  Their newest offering is the U Pro, and it has more than a hint of  the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S9 to it, including a dinkum curved screen. The rear finish is truly dazzling, although the all-glass design will have you polishing the thing like a madman.  At a price just shy of the $400 mark, it is not a bargain bin buy (see what we did there?), but still pitched at about half the price of the flagships whose thrones it is shooting for. No shortage of specifications to make it competitive, either.

We're flying behind the time curve a bit here, if you'll pardon the pun, but we simply had to feature this story for in case you haven't seen it. The Winter Olympics in South Korea is in full flight (ahem) now, but the opening ceremony offered something truly memorable. Intel broke a world record with  more than 1200 drones flying in a perfect synchronized dance to make up fantasy pictures in the sky, including a 300 foot high snowboarder. The result was truly stunning.  The show that was seen was actually the dress rehearsal, since atmospheric conditions weren't quite right for the 1200 whizzers to go out on actual opening night.  What is truly amazing, is that 2 pilots can handle all of the intricate air dancing. Stunning achievement.
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The more electronic devices we have, and the more electric vehicles we whizz around in, the more we will be dependent on the raw materials for batteries.  The thing is, cobalt, a mineral that we rely on a lot for modern batteries, is a finite resource, and market forces will come into play in the form of rapidly-rising prices. This is aided (ahem) no little by the Congolese Government's actions to get ever bigger slices of the pie in the form of higher taxes and royalties.  Samsung SDI is a leading battery maker, and  faced with this dilemma, has had to resort to some out of the (already opened) box thinking. The company ha unveiled plans to recycle cobalt from discarded mobile phones, and also to develop batteries with less cobalt content. When market forces press, innovation will out.
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Tying in with our previous story, we (re)feature something that we've touched on before, namely Samsung's continuing research into ever-improving battery tech. The holy grail  would be to find batteries that are made of plentiful raw materials,  charge over a cup of tea and last for days. Our current batteries can actually charge much faster, but  safety concerns due to the materials used force manufacturers to throttle down quite a bit. Enter graphene, the one micron thick magic material that we've expended quite a few e-ink inches on before. Graphene is made from graphite, so no shortage there. It's got a host of other amazing qualities that makes it pretty much the best thing since sliced bread with a side of pizza and ice cream, delivered by panda cubs. Samsung has come up with a graphene ball, which will in future lead to high capacity batteries that could charge up in a manner of minutes.  So that will be one of humankind's existential worries out of the way, then.
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In the clichèd spy scenario, Boris, wearing a trench coat and a fedora, has gotten his team to tap into a telephone exchange, and he puffs contentedly on his cigar as he listens to every word whispered by his enemies.  Communications monitoring and tapping of conversations are a reality of our lives, for information is the most valuable resource. The Chinese, quite justifiably, have earned  themselves  the dubious distinction as the world's top spy masters, and their increasing grip on the world's communications technology market  is making it all the easier for them.  Naturally, they focus their attentions on older technology as well, such as undersea cables, and mysterious Chinese companies have been popping up at key data points. This is part of the reason that Chinese communications companies with government links, such as ZTE and Huawei, are regarded with such  suspicion by authorities.
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Setting up to rob a store at night already sets you up for Wallydom, but if your bungling efforts get captured by CCTV and  elevate you to internet infamy, you really earn our Wally of the Week cap. Our two protagonists set off for the storefront at night, bricks in hand, for some alternative shopping, we presume. The first one flung the brick at the glass pane, but the fortified screen rebuffed his efforts, leaving it up to Wally number 2 to try. The thing is, in his effort to get out of the way of his own rebounding brick, Wally number one slightly miscalculated the trajectory of things, and promptly  moved into man down status, courtesy of his friend's throw. Lamentably, with the  CCTV footage not belonging to them, they won't even get to enjoy  the benefits of the millions of clicks their few seconds of entertainment generated.
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