Strange New World: Picks of the Week

This week, we give you a very special Mother's Day edition of our column. Apparently, gadget retailers believe that your mom is quite a geek and in fact no longer wants flowers for her holiday, but actually wants expensive electronics. There is also big news in computer circuitry (bear with us, it's actually pretty cool) and Sam's Club is going green! Here are our picks of the week.

Forget the Flowers: Mom Wants Flash Memory

Mother's Day is happening during a nasty recession and gadget vendors are not only falling over themselves offering discounts, they're almost illogically packaging everything from iPods to digital cameras for mom.

Discounting is nothing new for Mother's Day. But the sheer volume of packaging and the lengths some are going to in order to tie together merchandise to play off the annual celebration of moms is unprecedented in our memory.

Sure, you expect Best Buy and Radio Shack to be pushing cameras and phones for Mother's Day. But these outfits are pushing credibility to the max. Best Buy is offering nothing less than the EOS Digital Rebel for $629. That's about $70 off the list price. It's a nice deal, but exactly why would a sensible person consider Mother's Day the moment to pick up higher-end digital photography?

And phone companies are equally shameless. Sprint is pushing a whole bunch of phones ostensibly for mom. Again, a phone is a nice present, but why on earth are they including the multimedia Rumor by LG for $49? How many moms are really going to use a multimedia phone? One of our moms still can't figure out how to retrieve her voice mail.

Even some smaller stores are taking on the same twisted view of the day: Camera Wholesalers in Stamford, Conn., is pushing a $100 instant savings on a Nikon D40. Again, this is a top-of-the-line amateur camera.

HP Discovers a New Circuit

OK, it's about to get really dorky in here, but this is big news. HP has discovered a new circuit and it only took them 40 years! In electronics, there are three fundamental elements in a passive circuit: resistors, capacitors, and inductors. In the 1970s, University of California at Berkeley scientist Leon Chua theorized there should be a fourth called a memory resistor, or memristor. And HP has finally proven his theories correct.

"It's very different from any other electrical device," HP scientist Stanley Williams told Reuters. "No combination of resistor, capacitor or inductor will give you that property."

He then compared the circuit to water flowing through a garden hose: "In a regular circuit, the water flows from more than one direction," Williams said. "But in a memory resistor, the hose remembers what direction the water or current is flowing from, and it expands in that direction to improve the flow. If water or current flows from the other direction, the hose shrinks."

Computers using this new circuit would boot up much faster when you turned them on. The circuits would remember where they were when they were turned off and just go from there. Imagine if your PC was actually "instantly on," with no waiting at all!?!

Sam's Club Goes Green for Real

Here's a little tidbit that caught our eye: Sam's Club might actually be taking recycling seriously. The shopping club mega store quietly announced that it is kicking off what seems like a rather significant electronics recycling and trade-in program.

Simply visit the site and click through to the brand, make, model and stats you want to trade in.

The old HP sitting on our floor had value of $8. CRT monitors are not accepted. We got a $1 bonus for having spent $300 on some memory back in the day. We then were given instructions to sign in and become a member, at which point we would receive our $9 in the form of a gift card.

The Web site hardly seemed like the slickest we had ever used, but still there was a remarkable amount of inventory from which to choose. They accept items of no value for free. And they claim that nothing they take in will go to a landfill or be dumped off shore. Everything will either be refurbished and resold or broken down for parts.

The company claims it uses Department-of-Defense-level of drive reformatting to protect people's information and that the service is secure.

As much heat as we have given Wal-Mart and it sister brands over the years, we have to say this product does look intriguing.

Jonathan Blum and Dan Evans co-host "Strange New World," a weekly syndicated radio show. Blum hosts the blog and Evans is a features editor at PC Magazine.