What's the Buzz

What's the Buzz

iHealth: a new baby monitor and scale

iHealth, makers of a Bluetooth blood pressure monitor for your iPhone, is now launching an iPhone-compatible baby monitor next month, reports mobile tech website Mobihealthnews. Also, the company plans to debut a Bluetooth-enabled iHealth Digital Scale, with both new products aiming to compete with Withings' versions.

While exact release dates and prices have not yet been announced, Mobihealthnews reports that the iHealth Digital Scale will offer similar features to the Withings model. Users can record and upload weight via Bluetooth to a free app, then aggregate the info for data-crunching, or upload details to doctors or social networks.

High-tech baby monitors are an emerging trend, and the iBaby Monitor lets parents remotely monitor their children on their iPhone via an app. Mobihealthnews also recently reported on another competitor: Evoz, a beta-version app that allows parents to listen to their baby from their iPhone or iPad from anywhere in the world, or watch using a WiFi-connected monitor. An Android version is expected to launch sometime this year.

Both Withings and iHealth launched their blood pressure cuffs this year and both products are currently being sold in Apple stores. Similar to the Withings model, the iHealth device comprises a hardware dock, blood pressure arm cuff, and iHealth App to allow users to self-monitor their blood pressure and heart rate, and then share the results with their doctors.

Over 50 potentially habitable exoplanets discovered
Astronomers have discovered more than 50 new exoplanets, including 16 super-Earths, one of which orbits at the edge of the habitable zone of its star, thanks to ESO’s world-leading exoplanet hunter HARPS.

By studying the properties of all the HARPS planets found so far, the team has found that about 40percent of stars similar to the Sun have at least one planet lighter than Saturn. The HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-meter telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile is the world’s most successful planet finder.

The discovery by HARPS team, led by Michel Mayor (University of Geneva, Switzerland), is the largest number of such planets ever announced at one time. “The harvest of discoveries from HARPS has exceeded all expectations and includes an exceptionally rich population of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets hosted by stars very similar to our Sun. And even better -- the new results show that the pace of discovery is accelerating,” said Mayor.

In the eight years since it started surveying stars like the Sun using the radial velocity technique HARPS has been used to discover more than 150 new planets. The new findings are being presented at a conference on Extreme Solar Systems where 350 exoplanet experts are meeting in Wyoming, USA.

A handheld device to detect nuclear bomb in a suitcase
Researchers at the Northwestern University have developed new materials that could lead to a handheld device for detecting nuclear weapons and materials, such as a “bomb in a suitcase”. “The terrorist attacks of 9/11 heightened interest in this area of security, but the problem remains a real challenge,” said lead researcher Mercouri G. Kanatzidis.

Kanatzidis and his colleagues designed promising semiconductor materials that, once optimized, could be a fast, effective and inexpensive method for detecting dangerous materials such as plutonium and uranium.

They developed the new materials from heavy elements that, when struck by gamma rays, excite the electrons, making them mobile and thus detectable. Because every element has a particular spectrum, the signal identifies the suspect material.

The problem the researchers faced was that the heavy elements have a lot of mobile electrons, so electrons excited by gamma radiation are hard to detect. “It’s like having a bucket of water and adding one drop -- the change is negligible,” Kanatzidis said. “We needed a heavy element material without a lot of electrons. This doesn’t exist naturally so we had to design a new material,” he added. The two new semiconductor materials - cesium-mercury-sulfide and cesium-mercury-selenide - operate at room temperature, and the process is scaleable.

“Our materials are very promising and competitive. With further development, they should outperform existing hard radiation detector materials,” said Kanatzidis.

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