The Daily Flash -Eco, Space, Tech (2/01)

Greensea Vikings' "Sunstones" Method of Navigation

Viking sagas may have been more truthful than we realised. Crystal "sunstones" could have helped Viking sailors to navigate even when cloud or fog hid the sun. Vikings navigated using sundials calibrated to show the direction of the North Pole. While there is no physical evidence for the navigational techniques adopted on cloudy days, there are references in the Viking sagas to "sunstones" being used. In 1967, Danish archaeologist Thorkild Ramskou suggested that sunstones may work by creating a pattern of light that revealed the hidden sun's location – although sceptics countered that the method is unwieldy, if not unworkable. It is only within the last 10 years that Ramskou's theory has been put to the test, and the results, claim to demonstrate that the sunstone method does work in cloudy or foggy conditions. Sunstones – translucent crystals of minerals such as calcite – are potentially useful because both they, and the atmosphere, behave like natural Polaroid filters. This means they polarise light, causing its photons to vibrate in only one plane. Crucially for this navigation technique, the atmosphere leaves sunlight polarised in a series of concentric rings centred on the sun.

Next-74-robot-2 Anybots Releases Segway-Style Telepresence Robot

They're here. After over a year of whetting robot fanatic appetites with the promise of a $15,000 Segway-like telepresence business bot, Anybots has finally started shipping the friendly-faced device named QB.The bot, billed as the first professional-quality telepresence robot to allow users to work remotely through a simple web interface, features wireless roaming, two-way streaming video, high-definition zoom, and a skinny pole of a body that allows users to navigate through tight spaces.

Speak Google Offers Twitter Fix for Egyptian Protesters: Voice-Based Speak-to-Tweet Access

Egypt's single remaining mainstream internet carrier–the Noor Group–went down late Monday night, prompting Twitter, Google, and Google's recently acquired SayNow to quickly launch Speak to Tweet, which allows individuals to call one of three numbers, leave a voicemail, and that message is then sent out as a tweet under the hashtag #egypt. "Like many people we’ve been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground. Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service–the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection," said Ujjwal Singh, CoFounder of SayNow and AbdelKarim Mardini, Product Manager, Middle East & North Africa, on the official Google blog. "We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone there."

500x_img_3613 "Pandemic": Sundance's Interactive Outbreak Movie

The most experimental story told at this year's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah wasn't just on a movie screen. Pandemic 1.0, a transmedia project including film, phones, actors, interaction, tweets and multitouch, made the entire town its set. Pandemic, the creation of writer and director Lance Weiler, is the story of a mysterious viral outbreak in Park City, making 40,000 Sundance attendants its actors (many, presumably, unwittingly). The players on the ground used NFC-equipped Nexus S's and a specially developed Microsoft Surface displays to find artifacts and piece together the story around the city, sometimes directed by online participants working remotely. Actors were given scripts of tweets to send over a five day period, encouraged to improvise from those leads.

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