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Electronic connections

Hobbyist engineering triggers distribution rethink

4 Feb 2016 by Chris Edwards

Information is everything. So today, catalogue distributors are sitting in an unusually good position. They have ready access to a very large number of customers and a bunch of suppliers who see small companies and makers -  people working part-time on engineering projects - as potentially blowing up into big business if their designs take off. Some startups, such as software-defined radio specialist SDRplay, have launched specifically to tap into that market.

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View from Brussels

Europe gears up for the driverless car revolution, but at what cost?

4 Feb 2016 by Pelle Neroth

Driverless vehicles is the trend everyone in Europe is talking about.

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After All

Readers' Bookshelves Stretching from France to Australia

20 Jan 2016 by Vitali Vitaliev

There's an old Russian tradition to visit a steam bath in the company of friends on the New Year Eve. Behind it is the desire to start the new year fresh and clean - an aim easy to achieve after a couple of hours of frantically whipping each other with hot-water-soaked birch-tree branches and then jumping into an ice-cold contrast pool. This time-tested cleansing ritual leaves you relaxed and nearly weightless (or so it feels). But, more importantly, it makes you forget your last year's problems, including unpaid debts and unfulfilled promises.

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View from Washington

US climate change 'doubt' isn't just about the science

14 Jan 2016 by Paul Dempsey

Recent polling suggests that even most Republican Party voters believe the US government should be doing more about climate change, and President Obama pushed the button hard again in his final State of the Union address this week. But just how highly does the issue rank in terms of voters' priorities?

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Editor's letter

Star Wars Science: Lightsabers to Hyperdrives

14 Dec 2015 by Dickon Ross

As the new Star Wars offering hits the cinemas, its fictional technology will be making yet another return to the toy shops. The series has lost none of its allure, even though it's nearly 40 years since the appearance of the first film, which later became Episode 4 in a strange time warp that people of my generation have never quite got to grips with. Science fiction films are so full of desirable gadgetry that sometimes the technology seems almost inevitable - that it's only a matter of time before engineers somehow manage to make them. The fictional forerunner of the touchscreen tablet appears in '2001: A Space Odyssey', while Star Trek's communicators became the template for the early flip-open mobile phones. Sci-fi writers and prop designers clearly have a feel for what consumers want. Star Wars tech however seems more unattainable, but that doesn't stop people wishing for it. A survey published this month revealed what technology from the series Americans who had seen Star Wars would most like to have: Hover bike 32 per cent Lightsaber 31 per cent Landspeeder  26 per cent Hologram messages 24 per cent Droid 23 per cent Hyperdrive 22 per cent Galaxy gun 14 per cent Wrist rocket 11 per cent Death star 9 per cent We have covered most of those concepts in the pages of E&T in recent years. But the hyperdrive would seem to be ruled out by the laws of physics - or is it? Could a hyperdrive travel faster than light or a warp drive bend space to do so? It certainly hasn't stopped scientists thinking about the problem and leads us to some truly mind-boggling discussions. Forget the 'EastEnders' special this year and curl up instead with Chris Edwards' feature. It all seems very improbable, but is it impossible? Perhaps surprisingly, 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' was filmed on celluloid. Paul Dempsey explains why directors are dusting off the film cannisters. I am just about old enough to have owned one of the original slide-out plastic lightsabers with a battery-powered light inside. When I was told we would get a diagram of how a lightsaber works for this feature I had to give a sigh and patiently explain that the lightsaber is not a real but just a prop from a film. Au contraire, I was told. I clearly underestimated the Force and the power of the Star Wars fan base, because it seems such diagrams really do exist. Rebecca Northfield tells the fascinating story of how the most famous prop came about on set and how various scientists and engineers suggest you could build such a weapon for real one day. Or maybe not.

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#OculusRift launch date getting closer – #VR fans getting frothy for March 28 – an annotated infographic

8 Feb 2016

Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset developed by a subsidiary of Facebook, is taking pre-orders for its hardware, due to ship on March 28. The level of excitement in the tech sphere can be gauged by the three-hour wait in line at CES 2016 that VR fan boys were prepared to patiently endure, simply for […]

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