The cool, the quirky, the notable...you'll find it here in today's quick news roundup. You'll read about programmable origami, an electrifying IPO for a company with real drive, and a science fiction film with grassroots financing.
Who says you can't improve a centuries-old art with technology? Origami, meet MIT and Harvard. The result? Self-folding origami sheets. These sheets feature thin foil actuators and universal crease patterns that make them programmable. So they can be set up to fold themselves into a variety of shapes.
What's the point? Imagine “smart cups” that adjust their size based on how much liquid they need to hold, or tools that can change themselves based on what kind of task they have to perform. Don't use a wrench like a hammer – turn your wrench INTO a hammer!
It should come as no surprise that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) helped fund this research. They're hoping the material will be useful in military applications. Think of the reduction in pack weight, for instance, if you have a material that can do several different things depending on what is needed at that moment.
It must be a good time to invest in a car company – if it's the right car company, that is. California-based Tesla Motors just held its initial public offering yesterday, and just about redefined the phrase “performance vehicle.” Reaching a closing price of almost $24, the stock attained the second-biggest gain of an IPO this year. For those who keep track of the numbers, Tesla shares rose 41 percent, on the same day that the Nasdaq was down nearly four percent.
So what's special about this car company? It's all-electric vehicles have almost single-handedly proven that electric cars can be both fast and sexy. Tesla's electric Roadster sells for $109,000, can go from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds, and claims a 236-mile range – all without using a drop of gasoline. Let's see a Lamborghini do that! For those with more practical (and financially restricted) leanings, the company plans to start building a five-person sedan, the Model S, in 2012. It will set you back $57,400.
If you'd rather invest in the company than an actual car, be warned: so far, it has sold only 1,000 Roadsters and lost $236 million. On top of this, the company expects “the rate at which we incur losses to increase significantly” as it develops the Model S and expands its marketing and sales operations. So this is not exactly a stock for the risk averse. Check here for the full story.
From the Creators of Star Wreck...
You'll find many fake movie trailers on YouTube, but few as compelling as the one put together by Energia Productions, a team of Finnish filmmakers, two years ago for “Iron Sky.” The movie's supposed premise: in the closing days of World War II, the Nazis flew to the moon in flying saucers to set up a colony. In 2018, they plan a victorious return to Earth. The trailer has been viewed more than a million times.
And some fans want more than just the trailer. The project's website gained enough money in microinvestments from fans to cast and prepare to actually shoot the film. Filming is set to begin in Germany and Australia this fall. While it's not a big budget by Hollywood standards, it's no small potatoes either – and the $8.5 million raised will be well-spent, as the group behind it is not inexperienced.
These are the same people that created “Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning,” a 45-minute well-done science fiction parody film that was available to download for free. If the trailer's visuals are any indication, Iron Sky's visual effects will be even more stunning. While the fan investments were augmented by money from 12 traditional financiers, if Iron Sky is successful, it could lead to a future which blurs the lines between the audience for a film and its investors.
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