This Way Up for Saturday 17 September 2016

Line trimmers, tech (colour of the internet and web filtering plans), beehive monitoring using sensors, here comes the "hygge", and science news.

Typing monkeys

The Infinite Monkey theorem

The Infinite Monkey theorem Photo: (By New York Zoological Society - Picture on Early Office Museum, Public Domain)

Monkeys really can type Shakespeare, and you don't even need an infinite number of them either.

A team at Stanford University has used brain computer interfaces to get monkeys to type at speeds of up to 12 words per minute.

The text the monkeys transposed included sections of the New York Times and the Bard's immortal words "To be, or not to be", as well as the lesser known "A banana, a banana, my kingdom for a banana..."

Krishna Shenoy and his colleagues reported in the journal Proceedings of the IEEE, that they had used brain implants on two monkeys in the hope the technique could be used to help paralysed patients, or those affected by conditions like motor neurone disease which affect movement.

Throw in some predictive text capability - damn you, Autocorrect! - and the team hopes it can significantly improve  the typing speeds achieved in the lab.

“Our results demonstrate that this interface may have great promise for use in people. It enables a typing rate sufficient for a meaningful conversation” - Paul Nuyujukian

A buyer's guide to line trimmers

Should you go petrol or electric?

George Block of reviews the best line trimmers on the market.

Here comes the 'hygge'!

Sitting by a cosy fire, the smell of home baking, perhaps a few candles and your nearest and dearest around you....the Danes would call all of this 'hygge' (pronounced 'hoog-ah').


Photo: (Pixabay Public Domain)

With Denmark regularly ranked among the world's happiest countries, publishers and marketers are trying to export 'hygge' to the world, alongside other Danish mainstays like Lego, butter, and high-quality TV drama.

If you haven't heard of hygge yet, don't worry, you soon will!

A whole stack of books on the subject are expected on the market in time for Christmas. There's The Little Book of Hygge, How to Hygge, The Art of Hygge and of course Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures, Living the Danish Way... and plenty more, too.

Jeppe Trolle Linnet has become a go-to authority on all matters hygge since he published an academic paper on the subject back in 2011.

Beehive monitoring

New Zealand's honey exports are now worth around $280 million a year. With high-grade manuka honey fetching about $70 per kilo, beehives have also become a target for thieves.

Hivemind is a New Zealand company using sensor technology to measure things like hive weight, its temperature and bee movements in and out to help beekeepers keep an eye on exactly what's happening, and their beehives' health.

At the moment it's mainly being used by commercial beekeepers who sometimes have hundreds of beehives spread around various remote locations. But a version targeted at the backyard hobbyist is about to hit the market, too.

What colour is the internet?

Designer Paul Herbert has been using software to identify the dominant colours in the world's top 10 websites. The top colour? Blue!

Also the head of the UK's cybersecurity agency wants the internet to be filtered for malware - but how realistic is this?

Paul Herbert acknowledges that with nearly 5 billion webpages online right now. his sample size is relatively small size, but he has plans to analyse more websites using the web rating service

So why is blue so popular?

Rumour has it that Facebook uses blue because its CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg is red/green colour blind.

But what about Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn, Pandora and Google - why are they using so many shades of blue?

This Way Up's tech correspondent Peter Griffin says studies have shown that blue is a favoured colour among both men and women in most parts of the world. According to web developers, blue also conveys professionalism, authority, and it's an inviting and relaxing colour to look at (unlike, say, the colour red which elevates your heart beat and perspiration rate!)

However the trend is not so apparent when you look at the top New Zealand websites, says Griffin. TradeMe is predominantly yellow, Stuff is white, and the NZ Herald black and white. Of the big banks, although blue dominates both the ANZ and BNZ websites, others may need to review their colour palettes!

Test how many web site blues you can recognise.