Happy Birthday, Nikola Tesla!

by Ariane Coffin via Geek Mom @ wired.com
Today marks NikolaTesla’s birthday. Google, too, is a fan and recognized his birthday back in 2009.
Tesla, Google doodleI am a huge fan of Tesla, much like normal people are fans of actors or singers, so I am happy to share my overzealous excitement with you! It is immensely difficult to summarize this man’s life and accomplishments in a few short paragraphs because he did so very much. If you can find the time, I highly suggest reading through the lengthy Wikipedia article about Tesla. The Oatmeal also has an excellent comic about Tesla and an equally fascinating response to Forbes‘ criticism of said comic. (Consider yourself forewarned about the profanity content on The Oatmeal.)
Tesla was born in modern day Croatia on July 10th 1856, became a naturalized American citizen at age 35, and died in New York at age 86 on January 7th, 1943. Unfortunately for Tesla, much of his work was either the basis for future popular inventions or created in parallel by other inventors. He worked on a radio before Marconiinvented his, an X-Ray machine before Roentgen invented his, an induction motor at the same timeFerrari invented his, and conducted an experiment to find “small charged particles” years before Thomson proved the existence of electrons.
Despite his setbacks with the scientific community, Tesla managed to collect around 300 patents in his lifetime, many of them for various motors and power generators, but also a few zany ones like a radio-control boat and a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft concept. Above all, though, Tesla will always be best known for his work on alternating current (AC) and his feud with Edison during the “War of Currents.”
Like so many other extraordinary minds, Tesla did not receive due respect in his time. While he was offered many scientific awards, the fact that he died penniless and in debt shows how little care we take of our most intelligent and productive scientists and inventors if their work doesn’t yield immediate financial reward. We owe so much of our industrial world to Tesla, but in the end his obsession over creating a wireless power transmitter, the Wardenclyffe Tower, caused him to lose everything. Including much of his sanity.
Please join me today in celebrating the life of Nikola Tesla! Do your reading (I didn’t even begin scratching the surface here), show off your Tesla gear (I suggest wearing this Tesla shirt designed by GeekMom Brigid or this Tesla shirt from ThinkGeek), and amaze innocent bystanders with your extensive knowledge of Tesla


Navigating UAVs without GPS
by Akros Labs from BAE [via BBC and Engadget]

Military drones rely heavily on GPS for navigation guidance while in the air. But in areas where a signal can't be found, or where someone is using a GPS jammer, a drone will find itself in a troublesome predicament. British defense contractor BAE Systems has come up with a solution to that problem: A positioning system called NAVSOP that uses any wireless signal to find its location.

NAVSOP (Navigation via Signals of Opportunity) doesn't care about the source of the signal. It can exploit any available signal  whether is source from a TV station, various forms of radio transmissions including wi-fi, cellular or even the the GPS jamming signal itself. The part that excites BAE engineers and designers is that the infrastructure is already in place. They don't have to build out a network of transmitters. Another  exciting aspect of this technology is that it can also works indoors, if integrated into consumer (and not just military tools) navigation products and therefore opening a new door to powerful location assistance technologies and services for indoors location based applications. The BBC says that the NAVSOP box requires GPS at first to learn about its surroundings. But over time as it amasses a database of location information, it will become less and less reliant on GPS.

Although, this technology is both promising and exciting is not completely new. Today, mobile telephone manufactures and service providers are using hybrid positioning systems that use a combination of network-based and handset-based technologies for location determination. One example, Assisted GPS (i.e. A-GPS available in most Android and Apple's IOS phones) which can use both GPS and network information to compute location information. The computation of both types of data signals provides more accurate information about the device location. In turn, internet service providers like Google have developed location-aware mobile applications like, Google Latitude, which allow mobile phone user to permit selected users to view their current location.

The NAVSOP is currently a prototype box that can be linked up to whatever is in need of navigation assistance, but BAE believes it can be shrunk down into a dongle-sized package.