Monthly Archives: June 2016

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Google Fiber could bring its speedy internet to Dallas

Good news Dallasites, Google Fiber could be headed your way soon. The Fiber team said yesterday it's considering bringing its high-speed gigabit internet service to Dallas, though it'll likely be a while before anything actually happens. Google is in…

Why E-Cigarettes Explode, and How You Can Vape Safely

Why E-Cigarettes Explode, and How You Can Vape Safely

In 2015, a man was hospitalized with critical injuries after his e-cigarette exploded in his face. Another victim suffered severe burns on his hands, a hole in his tongue, and knocked out teeth. Here’s why and how e-cigarettes can literally blow up on you, and what you can do to minimize your risk.

Admittedly, to say that e-cigarettes “explode” sounds over the top, but this video shows that something is clearly catching on fire. This concern over fire and consumer safety prompted the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) to conduct an investigation, which they published in late 2014, aptly titled Electronic Cigarette Fires and Explosions (PDF). The big caveat here is that their investigation rests on collected reports about e-cigarette accidents that occurred between 2009 and August 2014 (a total of 25).…

The Battery In Your E-Cigarette Is The Big Problem

Most e-cigarettes are powered by a lithium-ion battery, and that’s where the fire danger comes from. Lithium-ion batteries are found everywhere, from our cell phones to our cameras to our hybrid cars. When you puff on an e-cig, a battery powers the heating element that then turns the chemical solution in the canister into a vapor. In other, more manual e-cigs, you have to press a switch to take a drag. Either way, a lithium-ion battery is involved.

We know that lithium-ion batteries can pose a fire hazard if left in certain pressurized areas, like the baggage compartment of a plane. In early 2015, the Federal Aviation Association prohibited e-cigs and other spare lithium-ion batteries from being kept in checked baggage. Under normal conditions though, the possibility of a lithium-ion battery failing is pretty darn low (about one in a million). In the rare instance it does, the USFA report explains:

During the typical failure mode for a lithium-ion battery, the electrolyte is heated to its boiling point, the internal pressure in the battery builds to a point where the seal at the end of the battery ruptures, and the pressure is abruptly released through the sealed end of the battery case.

However, the cylindrical design of e-cigs and its structurally weak end points make it a bigger fire risk.

When the battery seal (at the end of the battery) ruptures, the pressure within the e-cigarette cylinder builds quickly and instantly ruptures, usually at the end. As a result of the battery and container failure, one or the other, or both, can be propelled across the room like a bullet or small rocket. In contrast to e-cigarettes, the cylindrical lithium-ion batteries used in laptop computers and portable tools are contained in rigid plastic cases that are generally strong enough to prevent the failing battery from “rocketing” away. Fires do occur as a result of battery failure, but most fires initially involve only the device that the battery pack is installed in.

In general, lithium-ion batteries cause problems when they’re overheated from outside heat sources (like direct sunlight), short circuits, or overcharging. In 20 of the 25 cited incidents in the USFA report, the battery malfunctioned while the e-cigarette was plugged into a USB port and recharging.

Normally, batteries have safety features to prevent short circuits and overcharging. However, e-cigarettes typically have a USB port that appears to be compatible with any USB cable and charger. People often assume that any charger will do, including manufacturer-approved ones and other non-sanctioned, third-party ones, as long as it fits and the device responds, but that’s not the case.

According to the USFA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), charging an e-cigarette with non-approved power adapters “could subject the battery to a higher voltage than is deemed safe” and increase the risk of overheating (called thermal runaway). During thermal runaway, the battery can melt, radiating lots of heat, and the electrolytes can reach a boiling point…and well, you can probably guess what could happen next.…

How You Can Minimize the Risk of an E-Cig Meltdown

Why E-Cigarettes Explode, and How You Can Vape Safely

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently said they will regulate vaping. Although the emphasis is on the ingredients and packaging, the FDA’s expanded authority includes “components and parts”, including “certain batteries.”……

The Federal Register confirms that the FDA has been concerned by reports of exploding e-cigarettes, and has provided a draft guidance on the safety requirements that companies will need to follow. For example, the FDA says that the product labeling should include text or a graphic to show users should recharge the product only with specified chargers to minimize the risk of battery failure. But as of right now, these guidelines haven’t been finalized yet.…

In the meantime, you can keep yourself safe with a little more education. Most importantly, handle your e-cigarette batteries (or any lithium-ion battery, for that matter) with care. Here are a few key pointers:

  • Stick with the manufacturer’s provided charger: Always use the charging appliance that comes with the unit and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. This way, you know the battery is compatible with the charger. Avoid leaving it connected to the charger overnight.
  • Be careful about what you plug your e-cig into: Avoid plugging the e-cig into any old USB port. The manufacturer’s user manual usually includes technical specifications for the proper voltage.
  • Buy from reputable companies and suppliers: There are a lot of homemade “mods”, or basically DIY, low-cost modifications of e-cigs. This isn’t exactly the safest way to go because homemade mods simply may not have the built-in safety mechanisms to prevent overheating.
  • Check to see if the battery is “safe”: The battery shouldn’t be more powerful than what the device is designed for. Plus, there are different quality of batteries. Poorly manufactured, low-cost, counterfeit ones typically do not perform as well and would be more likely to have problems. Internet forums like this one in Planet of the Vapes often share information on product recalls, safety notices, and what batteries not to buy.
  • Take care of your battery: The Ashtray blog (full disclosure, the blog is a subsidiary of a site that sells e-cigs) suggests that you clean the battery and terminal contents with tissue or alcohol wipes if it’s dirty. When you’re not using the e-cigarette, be sure to turn the battery off. Finally, they recommend that you don’t over tighten when attaching the battery to your clearomizer (the clear plastic or glass body of an e-cig if that’s the kind you have). If you suspect damage to your battery, get a new one or take it to an electronics service center for inspection.

In case a battery overheats, Battery University recommends moving the device away from other flammable objects (if it’s safe to handle) and placing it on a hard, non-combustible surface. If it’s even possible, remove the battery and let it “burn out” outdoors. If a fire occurs, grab a fire extinguisher (only if it’s a lithium-metal battery) or just use water or another non-alcoholic liquid (soda works!) to prevent the fire from spreading.

Not all battery failures can be prevented, but the likelihood of an e-cigarette battery failing is statistically low. Still, with the growing popularity of vaping (last count was more than 2.5 million Americans, according to the USFA report), it is a very real possibility. If you vape, vape with care.

Illustration by: Sam Woolley. Images by Ozont.

The Cadillac CT6 Is Swathed In Cameras For Our Glorious Constant Surveillance Future

We here at Jalopnik frequently post wild videos captured from dash cams or surveillance cameras. It’s usually silly stuff like cows falling out of trucks , or fights between crazy Russians . Well, looks like Cadillac wants to give us more crazed internet fodder, as they’ve thrown a surround-vision video recording system on their CT6. This should be good.

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Xbox Project Scorpio: Will it really do 4K?

While Project Scorpio was no secret before this year’s E3, it’s safe to say that few expected Microsoft to announce it alongside the slimmed down Xbox One S. Fewer still expected the company to one-up the recently confirmed PlayStation Neo. If the leaked Neo specs are to be believed—and several developers have confirmed the specs to multiple publications, including Ars Technica—Microsoft’s Project Scorpio is set to be around 40 percent faster, a reversal of the performance difference between the current Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

It’s safe to say that Microsoft was growing tired of all those 1080p resolution memes.

And so gamers have been promised a console for release in 2017 that packs a whopping 6 teraflops of processing power (compared to the current Xbox One’s mere 1.31), along with a much improved 320GB/s of memory bandwidth. Even ignoring some of Microsoft’s more questionable claims (uncompressed pixels anyone?), those are some impressive specs. Forget 1080p/60fps: Microsoft says that this system is more than enough hardware to push a VR headset (the company isn’t saying which one yet, but I’d bet on Oculus), and run regular games at 4K resolution with support for High Dynamic Range (HDR).

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Pebble’s Time Round now comes in polished gold and silver

When Pebble unveiled its latest line of watches for 2016, noticeably absent was a successor to the Time Round, a bummer for those who love its thinner and circular design. To appease Round lovers, the company is releasing a couple of new special Kick…

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee Is Great With Just Cars

The new season of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee goes live tomorrow. Meanwhile, Crackle’s YouTube channel uploaded the first mini episode of bonus clips from the show called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Without Comedians or Coffee, Just Cars.

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SpaceX tries to land again—and increase its launch cadence [Updated]

Two communications satellites are today’s payload for a SpaceX launch. (credit: SpaceX)

Update: Just before the video feed cut out from the autonomous drone ship it appeared the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket made a hard landing at sea. About 20 minutes later a SpaceX engineer confirmed that, “Unfortunately it appears as though we lost the vehicle.” A bit later Elon Musk added further clarity with a delightful bit of rocket jargon, tweeting that the “booster rocket had a RUD on droneship.” Which is to say a rapid, unscheduled disassembly.

This offers a good reminder that first stage landings, especially those for missions to geostationary transfer orbit, remain experimental. A company spokesman said SpaceX did glean valuable data from the descent that will improve future recovery attempts, and the rocket did fulfill its primary purpose of delivering two satellites to space.

SpaceX’s likely next flight is a resupply mission to the International Space Station, tentatively scheduled for July 16. This mission offers a more benign flight profile for a landing at sea. It might also be possible to return this rocket all the way to the company’s ground-based landing site along the Florida coast.

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Get Glorious Roasted Garlic in Just Fifteen Minutes

Get Glorious Roasted Garlic in Just Fifteen Minutes

Roasted garlic is somewhat magical, but leaving the oven on for 50 minutes or so isn’t always feasible (or desired in these hot-weather months). If you want to mellow out the pungent allium without heating up the house, turn to your skillet.

It really couldn’t be easier. Just separate cloves of garlic from the bulb, leaving the skins on, and drop them in a skillet over medium heat. You don’t even need any oil. In about fifteen minutes, the skins will be black and the insides will be soft, ready to bread spread on bread, mixed into sauces, or added to guacamole or salsa. It should be noted that roasting garlic this way won’t give you the exact same results as the traditional method—it won’t be quite as sweet and complex—but the harsh bite will be reduced significantly, it’s much faster, and you don’t have to mess with oven, which is a big plus this time of year. (Bonus: take the whole thing outside by heating your skillet up on the grill.)

The Mexican Trick for Roasting Garlic Faster | Epicurious

Photo by JMacPherson.

Nanoflowers can detect bacteria before they make you sick

You typically won't know you're infected with E. coli until it starts wreaking havoc on your gut. That's why a group of scientists from Washington State University are building a handheld biosensor that can sniff out even tiny amounts of pathogen in…

AMC threatens spoiler site over what Walking Dead comics already say

A Walking Dead spoiler website has acquiesced to a threatened copyright lawsuit from AMC, the television studio behind the hit series. The Spoiling Dead will not publish who the character “Negan” killed at the end of Season 6, which aired in early April 2016. During that episode it was not revealed who in fact was killed in that particular episode.

According to a demand letter that The Spoiling Dead received on June 7, 2016, the production company behind the hit television show threatened to sue if The Spoiling Dead did not halt its planned reveal, citing trade secrets and potential copyright infringement.

This demand doesn’t take into account the fact that the “victim” here [SPOILER ALERT] was already revealed in the comics upon which the TV show is based.

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