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Like your whisky straight, no color? Graphene turns aged spirit transparent

November 19, 2017

Like your whisky straight, no color? Graphene turns aged spirit transparent

Looking for a geeky magic trick to show your friends? All you need is a supply of all-around wonder material graphene and some booze. A membrane made of graphene oxide (GO), aka the world’s thinnest material, can filter the color out of whisky — leaving it as a transparent liquid you could potentially sip from a water glass throughout the day, with no one being the wiser. Well, the alcoholic beverage does retain one crucial telltale trait — its smell.

While the whisky component of the experiment is its most eye-catching element, the most exciting part of the work is actually the development of the ultrathin membrane itself. These new graphene-oxide sheets are assembled in such a way that pinholes formed during the assembly process produce an atomic-scale sieve, which can carry out incredibly fine grain filtering.

“Using GO membranes, we filtered several dye molecules — as small as 1 nanometer — dissolved in organic solvents, and found that the GO membrane only allows solvents to permeate, while blocking the dye molecules depending on their molecular size,” Professor Rahul Nair from the U.K.’s University of Manchester told Digital Trends. “The absence of dye molecule permeation was apparent even from the color of the solution after filtration. The original dye solution is colorful, while after filtering through the GO membrane, the solution lost its color and became a pure solvent.”

As to how this could be used in the real world, Dr. Yang Su, who also worked on the project, said: “Many chemical-related industries could [benefit] from this research — from [the] pharmaceutical and petroleum industry to food production. For example, in pharmaceutical manufacturing, most of the active ingredients are dissolved in organic solvent. Our research would enable efficient, stable extraction of the pharmaceutical ingredients from their organic solvents.” This could help reduce the costs of molecular extraction.

The team tested various dye molecules in addition to whisky and cognac. After filtering the whisky through the graphene-oxide membrane, its amber color (the result of small molecules leached from the oak barrels during production) was removed. As to how this affects the taste, Nair said, “We haven’t tested the flavor yet, due to safety rules in the lab.”

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AC/DC guitarist and co-founder Malcolm Young dies at 64

November 19, 2017

AC/DC guitarist and co-founder Malcolm Young dies at 64

Malcolm Young, guitarist and founding member of AC/DC, died on Saturday at the age of 64, Rolling Stone reports. For the past three years, Young had been dealing with dementia, which led him to retire from the band which he and his brother, Angus Young, founded in 1973. He was replaced by his nephew, Stevie Young.

The band issued a statement on the group’s Facebook page announcing Young’s passage.

acdc malcolm young death
Dena Flows/Flickr

“Today it is with deep heartfelt sadness that AC/DC has to announce the passing of Malcolm Young,” the post reads. “Malcolm, along with Angus, was the founder and creator of AC/DC. With enormous dedication and commitment he was the driving force behind the band. As a guitarist, songwriter and visionary he was a perfectionist and a unique man. He always stuck to his guns and did and said exactly what he wanted. He took great pride in all that he endeavored. His loyalty to the fans was unsurpassed.”

“As his brother it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life, the bond we had was unique and very special,” the post continues. “He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever. Malcolm, job well done.”

In addition to the band’s statement, Young’s family released one as well, which said that the Young died peacefully surrounded by friends and family.

“Renowned for his musical prowess, Malcolm was a songwriter, guitarist, performer, producer and visionary who inspired many,” the statement reads. “From the outset, he knew what he wanted to achieve and, along with his younger brother, took to the world stage giving their all at every show. Nothing less would do for their fans.”

In addition to being AC/DC’s guitarist, Young and his brother Angus are credited as the writers of every song the band released from their 1975 debut album, High Voltage, to 2014’s Rock or Bust.

The past few years have been a difficult one for music fans. Last year saw the loss of Prince, Paul Kanter, and many other celebrities This year saw the loss of Young, Tom Petty, among others. Hopefully, 2017 won’t take anyone else away from us.

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World’s largest retailer cautiously optimistic about Tesla’s electric big rig

November 19, 2017

World’s largest retailer cautiously optimistic about Tesla’s electric big rig

At its recent event, Tesla unveiled its newest vehicle in the form of the Tesla Semi. Unlike most of its vehicles, which are meant for individual consumers, Tesla’s Semi is aimed at commercial markets that rely on semi trucks to deliver their products from warehouses to stores. The company’s big rig, which can haul 80,000 pounds and can travel 500 miles on a single charge, has been greeted with cautious optimism by many companies that make use of huge haulers.

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, said that it had placed an order for 15 Tesla Semis. The company wants to have 10 trucks for use in the U.S. and five for Canada. In total, Walmart operates about 6,000 semi trucks within the U.S.

J.B. Hunt Transportation Inc. is one of the first major trucking companies to invest in Tesla’s new vehicle. The company did not say how many trucks it had ordered, but did state that it had reserved “multiple” trucks for use along the West Coast.

Loblaw, a Canadian-based grocery chain, has purchased a small number of the trucks and said it hopes to convert its entire fleet to electric by 2030.

While several major companies are willing to give the Tesla Semi a shot, the cautious reaction reflects general uncertainties within the trucking industry. The trucks can only travel about 500 miles on a single charge, which is roughly half what of what a standard diesel semi can do on one tank of gas.

That being said, Tesla and other makers of electric vehicles are investing in semi trucks due to their belief that the market will shift towards electric vehicles within the next decade. Those predictions are based, in part, on the efforts of the world’s governments to combat climate change. Numerous countries have implemented regulations focused on reducing the carbon footprint of semi trucks. Some cities and states within the U.S. are considering imposing taxes on diesel vehicles. China, one of the world’s largest markets, is hoping to convert all of its vehicles to electric within the next several years.

As of right now, it is unclear just how successful the Tesla Semi will be. The backing of Walmart and J.B. Hunt will certainly help, but other players within the trucking industry are taking a wait-and-see approach to electric semis.

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Payment Revolution: How Apple and Android Are Changing How We Pay for Products Today

November 19, 2017

Payment Revolution: How Apple and Android Are Changing How We Pay for Products Today

‘Paying for things’ is a huge business. Everyday, we spend $12 billion in the U.S. in over 200 million payment transactions, and we use our debit or credit cards for a most of that. Essentially, those cards are just little pieces of plastic with exposed numbers and a magnetic stripe interface that is vulnerable to skimmers. It’s so easy for them to be compromised, it’s no wonder people have been dreaming about replacing plastic cards for years.

Fortunately, the way we pay for things is changing–smartphones and wearables are redefining the way we pay for things. More and more, we’re seeing people pay for items in the real world with their mobile devices.

Your smartphone or smartwatch can be your ticket to a more streamlined shopping experience. In this article, I’ll outline two popular mobile payment solutions: Apple Pay and Android Pay by Google.

How They Work

If you put the two systems next to each other, you’ll notice they basically do the same thing, and even their user interfaces are similar. For both systems, users have the ability to add their debit and credit cards directly into the app by either taking a picture of the card or entering the information manually. Both Apple Pay and Android Pay utilize NFC (near field communication) technology to communicate transactions to NFC-enabled payment terminals. Paying using either technology is really simple; you don’t even need to open the app, instead you can just hold it to the terminal to pay.

Apple Pay and Android Pay work with NFC contactless payment terminals. You don’t need a WiFi or cellular connection on your device to complete a payment. Image credit: Google

While Apple Pay and Android Pay are mostly used to pay for items in the real world, many iOS and Android apps also support payment using these services.

Apple Pay and Android Pay allow simpler checkout in apps. For example, you can choose Apple Pay as a default payment option in the Uber app for iOS.

Apple Pay and Android Pay can also be used as payment methods on websites. The next time you make a purchase on the web using your iPhone/Android, check the payment methods and, if you see Apple Pay/Android Pay logo, you can pay in one click without having to create an account or fill out lengthy forms.

Services like Groupon eliminate the need to use credit or debit cards to purchase something.

Which Devices Support Them?

Which payment system you use will be down to which phone you have. Apple Pay is supported on Apple’s devices starting from iPhone 6 and up. Each transaction should be authenticated by using Touch ID or Face ID.

On the Android side, there are way more compatible phones. Pretty much every device running Android 4.4 KitKat with a NFC chip built in can support Android Pay. According to The Verge, Android Pay was already compatible with 70% of Android devices when it was released.

How Secure Are The Technologies?

As with so many new technologies today, the biggest worry about something like Apple Pay or Android Pay is security. We live in an age where security leaks are publicly reported almost all the time.

However, for both payment systems, security concerns are becoming less of an issue. Here are a few facts that show you don’t have to worry too much about security when using them:

  • Real credit card details are never stored on a device. Both Apple Pay and Android Pay don’t emulate the signal used when you make a contactless payment with your debit or credit card. Instead, they create a virtual card that’s used to make payments. If you loose your Android or iPhone there’s no need to cancel your credit card because it’s not stored on that device.
  • Credit card details are never shared during a payment transaction. Both Apple Pay and Android Pay leverage tokenization–each transaction is processed via individual random account numbers, rather than an actual credit or debit card account number. This means during payment transactions the merchant never sees real credit card numbers. In case that somebody intercepts the NFC signal, no valuable information can be stolen.

  • Both systems are able to use fingerprint scanners as an extra level of security (in fact, authentication with Touch ID or Face ID is mandatory for Apple Pay).

Touch ID on an Apple iPhone

  • Finally, payments are only sent out if your phone is working and unlocked. If it is locked and not in use, your account should be safe.

Which Banks Support Them?

All major American banks like American Express, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, BBVA Compass, Capital One, Chase, and Citi support both payment systems. You can see a full list of banks supporting Apple Pay in the US here. Check out this page to see a list of banks that support Android Pay.

Some banks (like Bank of America or Wells Fargo) go even further in supporting payment systems. They’ve installed NFC-enabled ATMs around the U.S., which allow you to access your bank account to withdraw cash using your phone.

Apple Pay and Android Pay now support card-free ATM transactions at Bank of America. Image credit: WhatWhatTech

Which Shops Accept Them?

Currently, Apple Pay is supported by 35% of retailers in the U.S. in more than 4 million locations. According to Jennifer Bailey, the head of Apple Pay, Apple expects that two thirds of the top 100 retailers will support Apple Pay this upcoming year.

As a user, you can check the point-of-sale device for the Apple Pay or Android Pay logo, or another symbol that indicates if contactless payments are accepted.

This symbol means contactless payments are accepted by the device.

How Many People Use It?

According to a report by Juniper Research, the number of Apple Pay and Android Pay users will be 86 and 24 million by the end of the year, respectively. While Juniper expects Apple to dominate the contactless payment market over the next four years, it’s clear that Android Pay is also seeing big increases in usage. Taking the number of devices into account, it could surpass Apple Pay usage within a few years.

Image credits: Juniper Research

Although both platforms have grown since their launch dates, the percentage of users who use Apple Pay or Android Pay is still pretty low. According to Crone Consulting, only 4% of Apple’s users with Apple Pay-enabled iPhones use the service. As for Android Pay, a paltry 1% of users with compatible devices use the service.

The Problem with Mobile Payments

Mobile payments have a few technical issues that will hopefully be solved in the near future:

  • Bank support. While the total number of banks supported by the payment systems is impressive, not all banks are supported and you may find your own bank is missing from the list.
  • Merchant support. Considering both Android Pay and Apple Pay are still relatively new, not all places actually use these technologies. While users may get a new phone every two years or so, merchants don’t replace their POS infrastructure nearly as often. The main problem mobile payment systems face in the U.S. and elsewhere is limited support for NFC payments.
  • Unnecessary actions during payment. Some point-of-sale terminals ask for a PIN or for a signature, even after the ‘done’ chime has sounded. While PINs may be considered a ‘security’ precaution, a signature doesn’t make sense. You can sign anything and it doesn’t matter. This negates one of the best features of Apple Pay and Android Pay: speed.

Mobile payment brings up another problem that doesn’t have much to do with technology–spendaholics love it. Less friction during the process of payment makes it much easier to spend extra money.

Conclusion

It’s clear that mobile payments are taking us one step closer to a wallet-free future. Both Apple Pay and Android Pay are great examples of hardware and software working in tandem. But no matter which service you choose, don’t recycle your old-fashioned leather wallet just yet. The mobile payments revolution is just getting started, and it’ll take some time before most merchants are ready to support mobile payment technology.(By Adobe Creative Cloud)

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