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Updated May 9 97

Personal Rail Car

Next year Chicago will have a personal rail car mass transport. Passengers at a railway station get into small cars -seating 2to 4 - which goes non stop on a gudied mono rail to their destination. it can switch routes and overtake other rail cars . It would be ideal to link small towns where there are only a few passengers travelling . The cars dont start unless somebody requests one , so there is not the cost of running empty ones. Putting these guided rails underground could save congestion above . While we wait for these personal rail cars to become commonplace one idea is for the govt to subsidise taxis by say exempting $10,000 dollar so earned from income tax. One taxi could replace five or six cars during rush hours significantly easing congestion and could do quite a few journeys to and back and save on car parking charges in the city.

Swatch Car

A car just 8 ft long , two seater , 70 miles (110 km) per gallon (4 litres) costing about $10,000 has gone on sale in Europe .It does 70mph and is three cylinder and ideal for commuting and parking in cities.

30 Non Satellite TV Channels by air !

Britain will be the first country in the world to have within a few months 30 new digital satellites transmitted all over the country by air. At present the analogue system can transmit only five channels . With digital technology the same spectrum can accomodate 30 crystal clear channels and they can be transmitted at much lower power by transmitters. The BBC will have six of these channels while the ITV will get the rest. For the ITV franchise two groups are bidding . BDB which promises mostly more of the same- soap operas etc. and DTN which is going to have internet channels , a Knowledge Network with science and arts , a local channel and an Asian channel as well. Readers should write if they so feel to ITV to favour the DTN bid.
Third world countries like Pakistan and India can benefit enormously from this new technology which just needs an inexpensive set top box to be received on present TVs. If half or 16 channels were reserved for educational programs it could transform rural life with uptodate knowledge of planting , weather , soil conservation if one of these channels was reserved for agricultural programs.

Faxing without a machine

Everybody can now receive and send colorful faxes , sound files etc. for a few cents worldwide by joining . They store and forward faxes sent to them by email .

Road/Rail Lorries

The ever inventive British with the hovercraft and other marvellous inventions to their credit have come up with a lorry which can be turned into a train by merely lifting the rubber tyres and lowering steel ones. A new kind of hydraulic suspension enables better weight bearing , some of this is distributed to other rubber tyres which run on the rail just behind the steel ones. More info on the BBC world -tomorrow's world web page. With the ability to get on and come off the rail anywhere heavy loads can now go on rail lines powered by the engine of the lorry anywhere in the country. Many village roads will be saved traffic siruption.

Small planes

Small spy planes less than 3 feet across are being used to spy on enemy positions. They carry high resolution cameras . These cameras have got so good and so small that they are now the size of shirt buttons . Jet engines the size of fountain pens have been developed . In future 3 inch planes costing a few hundred dollars will be flown by soldiers over enemy positions to get a detailed view of the ground formations. Hot air baloons or even kites may do the same job as the cameras have become very small and lightweight.

Fast Trains

Europe and Japan are bringing fast trains into service. The latest in Japan does a top speed of 186 mph , an average speed of 160mph over 200 miles and can carry 1300 people in double decker compartments . They run so smoothly that water wont spill at turns. Trials are under way for underground trains running at 370mph . With cars and lorries driven on to these trains and big underground tunnels linking all the cities -its much cheaper than buying all the land overground - traffic jams will be a distant memory as more parallel tunnels can always be built when demand rises.

Computers which can smell

Dr Krishan Persaud at the University of Manchester in England has developed a computer which can differentiate between thousands of smells and promises some fantastic advances in medical diagnosis . All infections have a characteristic smell and taking a sample and putting it into the computer input with a bit of air blowing up the computer’s sensitive ‘nose’ gives an instant identification of the bacteria responsible , so appropriate drugs can be given.

Comet destroyed ancient Indian civilisation

Dr Courty will present a paper this summer in Cambridge where she will present evidence that the ancient civilisations of India , Iraq and Egypt collapsed after the impact of a comet in 2200 BC . This caused a world wide forest fire which left black carbon in soil layers worldwide. Traces of calcite material from meteorites has also been found. Other cometary impacts include one in 1650 BC those which destroyed the Crete and Chang civilisations in 1200 BC .
A one mile comet impact is thousands of times more powerful than if all the nuclear weapons (10,000 bombs) of the world exploded at the same time. Note one small hydrogen bomb at 3m tonnes is more powerful than all the explosives used in the World War 2 !. A few years ago a one mile comet hit Jupiter , a planet in our solar system and left a hole the size of the earth ! There is an urgent need to find a way to deflect a comet heading for earth which could destroy all life here. One may hit next month for all we know ! More details in the times of March 10th -link from the front page

Small robots

Japanese scientists have made small robots , less than an inch across and a couple of inches across which carry a camera and be controlled by radio. One could use them to travel down the gut to look for ulcers etc.

Robot Cockroaches

These can now be controlled by a device mounted on the back which makes the cockroach turn left , right or go straight ahead on command. The device is connected to a nerve in the roaches head. The wings and antennas are taken off. With video cameras now smaller than a grain of rice these insects and moths could fly over enemy territory and send back pictures. The big breakthrough is that they carry their own fuel and top up on vegetable matter anywhere. Peaceful uses include locating people trapped in rubble after earthquakes.


American scientists have found that adding fly ash and micro silica makes concrete much stronger and makes it waterproof so that it lasts 100 years instead of 20. In the subcontinent where potholes are common the new concrete could prove a great advance.

TV Modem

An excellent series of computer related programs is shown on Saturday mornings on NBC on Cable and satellite. During one of these Internet data and software including games are downloaded directly to the computer at speeds thirty times normal using a few of the 600 or so lines that make up the normal TV picture . A 4Mb file in 2 minutes instead of half an hour from the site . The whole 300MB newsfeed of usenet could be sent in a short time with the software choosing which groups you want to download . With 200 channels coming via digital satellites this method of internet transfer via TV programmes could prove to be revolutionary. Asian TV stations like Zee could for example download songs , picutres etc in seconds to home computers

Fibre Optic link to the subcontinent

A new fibre optic link starting in Singapore and going through the subcontinent to the West will be completed this year , increasing many times the number of telephone and video links to Pakistan and India. Telephone calls should become much cheaper . Already many rail reservations in Europe etc are handled by satellite links to India. With cheaper links many other real time jobs like directory , telephone , even medical info by patients etc. may locate to these countries. Digital Theatre Sound

There is only a small amount of space on the side of a movie print to record sound. With DTS each frame has a time code and on it. A computer reads off these numbers and matches the time code with a sound that is recorded on a CD and then plays that sound.
Much higher quality sound can now be recorded for each movie. Also the same time code can represent a different sound on a different disc so that a movie can be dubbed in unlimited number of languages quite cheaply . Only a few tens of thousands of dollars for each dubbed language compared to the millions it might cost to make the movie itself.
Some Bollywood movies like Mane Pyar Kiya and HAHK have already been dubbed into English and Spanish and have been playing to record crowds in South and Central America. Many of these entertaining movies can now be dubbed into Arabic , Russian and other languages where they are popular. Judwa is the first Hindi movie to have DTS encoding after Hindustani. Koyla is another. For theatres which do not have DTS there is sound recording on the print as well. DTS is so much superior to conventional movie sound that it has won all sound awards in recent years. It will now be possible to enjoy intercultural movies on the big screen in one’s own language- More details in movie magazine Screen Dec 27 from Mumbai.

Plant energy

Experiments are starting with fast growing willow trees . These can be cut to ground level and regrow to three meters within a year. The harvest from one quarter of Britain's farmland could supply most of the electrical power when burnt in power stations. Instead of set aside farmland when grain supplies are too high this method could be used to grow trees as an energy source.

8000km electric car

Nelly Rodriguez at Boston University has developed new nano tubes which can store three times their weight of hydrogen under pressure.This is then burnt in a fuel cell to give a car about 8000 km (5000 miles) between charges. The material which costs only a $1 a kilogram to make can be used about three times. More details from the New Scientist.

Clean water

A remarkably low tech but effective method of cleaning water in cholera affected areas has been discovered by trial and error. Passing the water through a four layer thick of sari cloth -a few mm - is enough to trap all harmful bacteria and makes the water safe enough to drink. The saris are dried in the sun killing the bacteria and can then be reused many times. It is hoped to apply this technique to control cholera in the next outbreak.

DVD a revolutionary new medium

Britain's T3 a technology magazine has reviewed the first DVD players from Japan in the January 97 edition. . Costing about £450 only demo discs were available and some of the recording apparently was not good but where it was done properly it was better even than THX Laser Video Disc . Colors were richer and sound quality superb.

Video music discs are out already - Khamoshi is one of the first ones - but one needs a CDi machine or a computer with a MPEG card and it cannot match DVD.

DVD presents an ideal opportunity for South Asian film producers to tap a rich source of new income . If the music tapes could be put on these before releasing the movie a lot more interest would be generated. Many old movies and music tapes can be transferred on to this medium. DVD being the same size and weight as CD also is much less bulky .

The cost to stamp these out is less than a dollar each and there are little royalty payments on older movies . If they made the cost cheap enough outright sales could replace a lot of the rentals of VHS tapes and many could build up a collection . There has been some resistance by Hollywood since they do not want people in different countries to be able to watch movies at the same time, this however is no longer so important as the new movies are now being released simultaneously in many countries.

Phillips have also proposed a new 3 inch DVD , half the current CD size able to store over an hour of music one side. It looks likely that DVD will kill VHS tapes even for rental as the quality remains the same after each viewing while VHS is unwatcheable after about 60 . Eight languages can be dubbed as well as 32 others in subtitles ! For instance watching an Urdu film one could read the Urdu subtitles as well helping to learn to read the language. It will lead to a new era in being able to watch intercultural movies .

Electric Bikes

Clive Sinclair reports big sales for his Zeta - an add on for bicycles -which gives electric power to the back wheels , making pedaling much easier. It costs about $250 . Range is many tens of miles . Honda will start selling electric bicycles for about $700 next year.

Room temperature superconductor !

French scientists reported at a conference in Lyons that they have developed a white powder made of lithium , berrylium and hydrogen which superconducts at 25 degrees C , room temperature ! Superconducting means that electric current can be carried without loss , so that very small generators and motors can be built . Also electric power can be stored in superconducting rings saving the building of a lot of expensive storage facitlites. More details when available.

Electric cars on lease

General Motors have started leasing at $500 a month electric cars in California. The driving range is 90 miles ,more than enough for daily commuting and it costs just pennies to recharge. It should save commuters a lot of money in fuel costs . The batteries need changing every three years, hence the reason to lease rather than sell. Many consider them to be a hazard however , they are so silent pedestrians cant hear them coming and so may need an artificial noise system!.

Underground heating of roads

Heat pump exchangers which pump water from 10-30 meters down heat the roads in the winter in some parts of Japan and have cut down accidents to near zero. It is much cheaper than clearing the snow . It could make large parts of countries like Canada inhabitable. In hot countries the same technique can be used to keep the roads cool by pumping the heat below ground . The temp at that depth tends to stay constant throughout the year.

Making anti matter atoms

American scientists at the Fermilab in Illinois have succeeded in making anti matter atoms of hydrogen in a collider . They say the process makes it easy to make thousands of anti matter atoms making star trek propulsion possible. Experiments to see if anti matter reflects light in the same way and if it behaves similarly in a gravitational field.

Mountain comes to London

Millions of dollars are spent each year by Londoners going rock climbing in North Wales. Now there is proposal to move a mountain down next to a motorway near London. It is estimated that the cost of the project will be recovered in travelling costs saved in just a few years. City dwellers will be able to go rock climbing without having to travel far if this idea takes off.

DVD goes on Sale

Digital video discs have gone on sale in Japan . The machine costs $700 . A DVD can have two layers on each side , each layer can store as much information as seven CDRoms. A movie with dubbing in 8 languages and subtitling in sixteen is possible on just one layer , so theoretically four English or 2 Indian movies in broadcast quality could be stored on each DVD. They are the same size as CDs and cost less than a couple of dollars to make.

Meanwhile Sage Technology of Atlanta Georgia has found a way to make CDs for less than 5 cents each ! It consists of imprinting the information on a continous sheet of mylar and that can be read by the much cheaper LED light. The layers are much thinner making possible so many on each side that one disc could hold 2,500 GB of information or equivalent to 1000 movies ! More details in New Scientist of Nov 9 96

DVD could lead to a revolution in teaching in the third world. Even small schools can afford this kind of money to give schoolchildren access to multimedia education on an unlimited number of topics.

Living Underground

This is becoming popular as the temparature is at a constant 21C just a few- about 20- feet below the ground so there is no need to heat or cool bulidings. Ventilation shafts can be built to supply air. Solar panels can pump up deep water. Even food can be grown with extremely high yields underground from light piped from the surface with reflectors. Large areas of rocky deserts in South Asia could become prime estate areas. Once the caves / homes are dug out of rocks maintainence is minimal. In Australia such dwellings have been used by miners in the desert - 3 bedroom homes for over 50 years and are becoming ever more popular. If an extra bedroom is needed you just start digging ...

Deep Flight One

This is a kind of a space suit with a large head bubble and the pilot 'flies'

the plane through the water. If he runs out of fuel the plane just crashes up to the surface! It is cheap to make and will revolutionise deep sea exploration. Trials have started in America. Robin Reliant goes electric

This is a very popular three wheel car built in Britain . It can give over 70mpg. Now it is being adapted for electric battery use and should give the most range. Further details when availaible.

Electric runarounds

The city of Coventry will have electric cars for its utility journies this month. With a range of 90 miles and a top speed of 60mph these will lead to lower pollution. Tourists who want to test drive an electric car themselves will be able to do so in Jersey from next year. They will cost about $45 a day to hire and are so quiet that they can be a hazard to pedestrians!

Diamonds in the Lab

Yogesh Vohra a scientist at the University of Alabama has devised a scheme to grow diamonds. A positively charged silicon wafer is dipped into a diamond solution with a negative charge . It acquires a thin coating and is then baked in a microwave oven which has carbon gases. Carbon in these is attracted to the diamond film forming more diamond about a sixth of a carat every 10 mins. it still costs twice as much as natural diamond but the prices should come down.

Cheap Power for Remote Areas

Paul Bromley a British scientist has invented a new type of water wheel which can extract 2kw of electricity enough to provide 20 homes with power for TV and lighting , from small streams with 70 litres per second flow and a fall of just three meters . The 10 revs per minute water wheel turns another at a 1000 rpm by using a reverse tractor gearbox . A control box makes sure that the rpm stay constant no matter the flow to convert it to AC.The first wheel at a cost of $7000 has been installed in Sri Lanka in the village of Matigahatanne. By eliminating the need for costly batteries this invention could lead to a revolution in the third world especially in the hilly areas of the subcontinent bringing them phone , TV and other the latest scientific information about agriculture etc. on the internet. More details on the Daily Telegraph web site.

Cheap transport for the masses

It costs only a few hundred dollars , maximum speed is 15mph, more than rush hour traffic ,and looks like a motorized skateboard with a long handle but it does give 300 miles to the gallon ! The GO-Ped could be the ideal vehicle for transporting commuters to work in third world countries and being extremely light would save the roads from being damaged .

Ocean swell energy

Scientists have invented a device to extract energy from the ocean swell . An underwater phenomenon which mirrors the waves above. The devices are not subject to the same forces as wave power ones above sea level. 50 MW of energy per kilometer of shoreline can be extracted.

Magnetic Suspension

Nabeel Sherazee of Magnetic Suspension Ltd has built powerful electromagnets where a microprocessor changes the current and so the field depending on the movements of the object suspended below keeping the object in perfect suspension. First application is a globe which floats in space. Maybe slipping one plate under a heavy object will enable one to lift it and carry it effortlessly.

Walk around 3D Image

Dr Elizabeth Downing at Stanford University has succeeded in creating a 3d image one can walk around - as in the movie Total Recall where Sahron Stone gets tennis lessons. Infra red laser beams intersect at a point in a glass cube and the ions of rare earth metals abosrb these rays and fire off visble red , green and blue lights which can be seen. The images have a transparent look. Full article in the Economist magazine.

Phillips flat large screen TV

Phillips have unveiled a new high resolution gas plasma flat screen -less than 4 inches thick - TV / Computer monitor which will go on sale in a few months. Its quite affordable -the cost a second car at about $15000 and because of its huge size will give a cinematic experience in the house.

Genetic soya been

This genetically engineered soya crop will be on sale next month. It is resistant to herbicide while weeds are not and so the herbicide can be sprayed . Yields are therefore much higher. It should make much more protein available for third world countries.

Underground village

The worlds first underground village is under construction in Newark near Nottingham . All the houses will be underground with cattle grazing on the roofs and just the top windows showing. Such houses are cheaper to construct and consume hardly any electricity or gas to heat or cool. A windmill on the roof will supply the little extra power needed to run appliances. The village will be ready in about a year . Much of modern Canada and mountainous and cold areas of the subcontinent could be made inhabitable with this technology.

Prints both sides

Clickbook 2 is a software program that enables printing on both sides of the paper in Laser printers . It should save a lot of trees.