“HELLO, HELLO. I am calling from a battery-free phone.” Vamsi Talla’s words in a cluttered lab at the University of Washington in Seattle are barely audible through pops and static. But the fact they can be heard at all, on a nearby Android smartphone, is revolutionary, because Talla’s own cell phone has no battery at all. It draws what little power it needs from thin air.

cell phone

The prototype cell phone is the culmination of a years-long quest by Talla, a research associate at the lab of Joshua Smith, who researches computer science and electrical engineering at UW. “If you had to pick one device to make battery-free, what would you pick,” asks Smith. “A cell phone is one of the most useful objects there is. Now imagine if your battery ran out and you could still send texts and make calls.”

Realizing that vision required rethinking almost everything about how cell phones function today. In order to operate without a battery, the phone would have to rely only on energy that it could harvest from its surroundings.

Ambient light can be turned into a trickle of electricity with solar panels or photodiodes. Radio-frequency TV and Wi-Fi broadcasts can be converted into energy using an antenna. A hybrid system using both technologies might generate a few tens of microwatts. The problem is that a traditional cell phone uses tens of thousands of times more power, around 800 milliwatts, when making a call.


Power Up

The first thing the team tackled was communication. Smith’s lab developed a technique called backscatter that allows a device to communicate by reflecting incoming radio waves, a bit like an injured hiker sending an SOS using the sun and a mirror. Smith has already spun out a start-up called Jeeva Wireless to commercialize what he calls “passive Wi-Fi”—digital backscatter technology for ultra-low power Wi-Fi gadgets. However, even passive Wi-Fi proved too power-hungry for the cell phone project.

 “Converting analog human speech to digital signals consumes a lot of power,” says Talla. “If you can communicate using analog technology, you’re actually more power efficient.” So although the cell phone uses digital signals to dial numbers, the backscatter process for voice calls is purely analog.



CLAUDE MONET USED brushes, Jackson Pollock liked a trowel, and Cartier-Bresson toted a Leica. Mario Klingemann makes art using artificial neural networks.

In the past few years this kind of software—loosely inspired by ideas from neuroscience—has enabled computers to rival humans at identifying objects in photos. Klingemann, who has worked part-time as an artist in residence at Google Cultural Institute in Paris since early 2016, is a prominent member of a new school of artists who are turning this technology inside out. He builds art-generating software by feeding photos, video, and line drawings into code borrowed from the cutting edge of machine learning research. Klingemann curates what spews out into collections of hauntingly distorted faces and figures, and abstracts. You can follow his work on a compelling Twitter feed.


“A photographer goes out into the world and frames good spots, I go inside these neural networks, which are like their own multidimensional worlds, and say ‘Tell me how it looks at this coordinate, now how about over here?’” Klingemann says. With tongue in cheek, he describes himself as a “neurographer.”

Klingemann’s one big project for Google so far is an interactive online installation launched in November that uses image recognition to find visual connections between any two images in a giant collection covering thousands of years of art history—say a roman sculpture and a Frida Kahlo self-portrait. While working in secret on a sequel to that project at Google, Klingemann has been exploring the potential of neurography in public on his own time. Many of his recent creations were made with a technique trendy among machine learning researchers called generative adversarial networks, which, given the right source material, can teach themselves to fabricate strikingly realistic digital images and audio files.

Some computer science researchers are using the method to fill in missing details in patchy radio telescope images. Others are using it to train systems to process health records without risking real patient data. [I don’t quite understand. How would records be put at risk? Clarify?] Klingemann has harnessed it to generate images that combine the styles of 19th century portraits and 21st century selfies, and fabricating impressively realistic footage like this clip of 1960s French chanteuse Francoise Hardy.



For years, dark matter has been behaving badly. The term was first invoked nearly 80 years ago by the astronomer Fritz Zwicky, who realized that some unseen gravitational force was needed to stop individual galaxies from escaping giant galaxy clusters. Later, Vera Rubin and Kent Ford used unseen dark matter to explain why galaxies themselves don’t fly apart.

Yet even though we use the term “dark matter” to describe these two situations, it’s not clear that the same kind of stuff is at work. The simplest and most popular model holds that dark matter is made of weakly interacting particles that move about slowly under the force of gravity. This so-called “cold” dark matter accurately describes large-scale structures like galaxy clusters. However, it doesn’t do a great job at predicting the rotation curves of individual galaxies. Dark matter seems to act differently at this scale.

Dark matter


In the latest effort to resolve this conundrum, two physicists have proposed that dark matter is capable of changing phases at different size scales. Justin Khoury, a physicist at the University of Pennsylvania, and his former postdoc Lasha Berezhiani, who is now at Princeton University, say that in the cold, dense environment of the galactic halo, dark matter condenses into a superfluid—an exotic quantum state of matter that has zero viscosity. If dark matter forms a superfluid at the galactic scale, it could give rise to a new force that would account for the observations that don’t fit the cold dark matter model. Yet at the scale of galaxy clusters, the special conditions required for a superfluid state to form don’t exist; here, dark matter behaves like conventional cold dark matter.


“It’s a neat idea,” said Tim Tait, a particle physicist at the University of California, Irvine. “You get to have two different kinds of dark matter described by one thing.” And that neat idea may soon be testable. Although other physicists have toyed with similar ideas, Khoury and Berezhiani are nearing the point where they can extract testable predictions that would allow astronomers to explore whether our galaxy is swimming in a superfluid sea.

Impossible Superfluids

Here on Earth, superfluids aren’t exactly commonplace. But physicists have been cooking them up in their labs since 1938. Cool down particles to sufficiently low temperatures and their quantum nature will start to emerge. Their matter waves will spread out and overlap with one other, eventually coordinating themselves to behave as if they were one big “superatom.” They will become coherent, much like the light particles in a laser all have the same energy and vibrate as one. These days even undergraduates create so-called Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) in the lab, many of which can be classified as superfluids.

Superfluids don’t exist in the everyday world—it’s too warm for the necessary quantum effects to hold sway. Because of that, “probably ten years ago, people would have balked at this idea and just said ‘this is impossible,’” said Tait. But recently, more physicists have warmed to the possibility of superfluid phases forming naturally in the extreme conditions of space. Superfluids may exist inside neutron stars, and some researchers have speculated that space-time itself may be a superfluid. So why shouldn’t dark matter have a superfluid phase, too?

To make a superfluid out of a collection of particles, you need to do two things: Pack the particles together at very high densities and cool them down to extremely low temperatures. In the lab, physicists (or undergraduates) confine the particles in an electromagnetic trap, then zap them with lasers to remove the kinetic energy and lower the temperature to just above absolute zero.


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What is Affiliate Marketing? Earn Money Online

What is Affiliate Marketing?

It seems that more readers are asking this question than I previously thought.
In a recent poll here on ProBlogger I asked readers whether they’d done any affiliate marketing on their blogs. The results revealed that:

• 29% of readers regularly do it
• 24% occasionally do it
• 27% have never done affiliate marketing on their blogs
• 6% used to do it but don’t any more
• 14% don’t know what affiliate marketing is

There’s some interesting results there but it was the last category (of bloggers not knowing what affiliate marketing is) that I wanted to write this post for with the hope of answering the question. It’s pretty basic and quite beginner focused but for the 14% of you who don’t know what affiliate marketing is – here’s a brief introduction.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Perhaps the simplest way to explain affiliate marketing is that it is a way of making money online whereby you as a publisher are rewarded for helping a business by promoting their product, service or site.

There are a number of forms of these types of promotions but in most cases they involve you as a publisher earning a commission when someone follows a link on your blog to another site where they then buy something.

Other variations on this are where you earn an amount for referring a visitor who takes some kind of action – for example when they sign up for something and give an email address, where they complete a survey, where they leave a name and address etc.

affiliate marketing
Commissions are often a percentage of a sale but can also be a fixed amount per conversion. Conversions are generally tracked when the publisher (you) uses a link with a code only being used by you embedded into it that enables the advertiser to track where conversions come from (usually by cookies). Other times an advertiser might give a publisher a ‘coupon code’ for their readers to use that helps to track conversions.

For example: when I recently released my 31 Days to Build a Better Blog WorkbookI also give people an opportunity to promote the workbook with an affiliate program whereby they could earn a 40% commission for each sale. When you sign up to become an affiliate you are given a special code unique to you that enables you to promote the workbook and make $7.98 per sale. The top affiliates earned over $2000 in the first few weeks after launch through these commissions.

• Advertisers often prefer affiliate marketing as a way to promote their products because they know they’ll only need to pay for the advertising when there’s a conversion. I knew when I started this affiliate program that while I’d earn less for each sale that having a network of affiliates promoting it would almost certainly increase overall sales levels.

• Publishers often prefer affiliate marketing because if they find a product that is relevant to their niche that earnings can go well in excess of any cost per click or cost per impression advertising campaign.

Why Affiliate Marketing Can Work Well on Blogs

Affiliate marketing isn’t the only way to make money from blogs and it won’t suit every blog/blogger (more on this below) but there are a few reasons why it can be profitable in our medium. Perhaps the biggest of these reasons is that affiliate marketing seems to work best when there’s a relationship with trust between the publisher and their readership.

I’ve found that as this trust deepens that readers are more likely to follow the recommendations that a blogger makes.

Of course this can also be a negative with affiliate marketing – promote the wrong product and trust can be broken (more on this below).

Affiliate Marketing – Easy Money?

While affiliate marketing can be incredibly lucrative it is important to know that affiliate marketing is not easy money. Most people who try it make very little as it relies upon numerous factors including:

• traffic (high traffic helps a lot)
• finding relevant products
• finding quality products
• building trust with your readers
• having a readership who is in a ‘buying mood’
• you being able to write good sales copy (and more)

There’s also some risk associated with affiliate marketing in that if you push too hard or promote products of a low quality you can actually burn readers and hurt your reputation and brand.

It’s also worth noting that affiliate marketing doesn’t work on all blogs. Some blogs are on topics where it is hard to find products to promote – other blogs attract audiences who are not in a buying frame of mind and for other blogs it just doesn’t fit with the blogger’s style or approach.


What is Affiliate Marketing?


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