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How to build a robotic bat wing

Could lead to the design of a small aircraft
February 26, 2013

A robotic bat wing lets researchers measure forces, joint movements, and flight parameters — and learn more about how the real thing operates in nature (credit: Breuer and Swartz labs/Brown University)

Researchers at Brown University have developed a robotic bat wing that is providing valuable new information about dynamics of flapping flight in real bats — the function of ligaments, the elasticity of skin, the structural support of musculature, skeletal flexibility, upstroke, and downstroke.

The strong, flapping flight of bats offers great possibilities for the design of small aircraft, among other applications.

The robot, which… read more

New carbon-nanotube films improve prospects of solar energy devices

February 26, 2013

New research by Yale University scientists helps pave the way for the next generation of solar cells, a renewable energy technology that directly converts solar energy into electricity (credit: /Yale university)

New research by Yale University scientists helps pave the way for the next generation of solar cells, a renewable energy technology that directly converts solar energy into electricity.

Yale engineers have developed a cost-effective new way to improve the efficiency of crystalline silicon solar cells: using thin, smooth carbon nanotube films.

These films could be used to produce hybrid carbon/silicon solar cells with far… read more

Teaching household robots to manipulate objects more efficiently

New algorithms could help household robots work around their physical shortcomings
February 26, 2013


At this year’s IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, students in the Learning and Intelligent Systems Group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory will present a pair of papers showing how household robots could use a little lateral thinking to compensate for their physical shortcomings.

Many commercial robotic arms perform what roboticists call “pick and place” tasks: The arm picks… read more

Quantum algorithm breakthrough

February 26, 2013

entanglement-based circuit

An international research group led by scientists from the University of Bristol, UK, and the University of Queensland, Australia, has demonstrated a quantum algorithm that performs a true calculation for the first time.

The team implemented the “phase estimation algorithm” — a central quantum algorithm that  achieves an exponential speedup over all classical algorithms.

It lies at the heart of quantum computing and… read more

Insects inspiring new robot vision technology for collision avoidance

Reverse-engineering the locust's motion sensitive movement-detector interneuron
February 25, 2013

locust-controlled robot

A computerized system that allows for autonomous navigation of mobile robots based on the locust’s unique visual system has been created by scientists from the University of Lincoln and Newcastle University

The work could provide the blueprint for the development of highly accurate vehicle collision sensors, surveillance technology, and even aid video game programming, according to the researchers.

Locusts have a distinctive way of… read more

New Google campus planned, turning the Googleplex into a megaplex

February 25, 2013


.Google Inc. is preparing to break ground on a 42-acre, 1.1-million-square-foot campus called Bayview,  scheduled to be completed in 2015, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The new campus is on the grounds of NASA’s Ames Research Center.


White House announces new US ‘open access’ policy

A "massive sellout" to big publishers, with 12-month embargo on research, says a PLOS founder
February 25, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

The White House said Friday that publications from taxpayer-funded research should be available to you, but only after a year’s delay.

“The Obama Administration is committed to the proposition that citizens deserve easy access to the results of scientific research their tax dollars have paid for,” the memo said.

But that doesn’t mean fast access. And the policy would, strangely, only apply to Federal agencies with more… read more

Independent Mars mission planned for 2018

February 25, 2013


The Inspiration Mars Foundation,  led by Dennis Tito, the first space tourist, will announce on Wednesday Feb. 27 a planned mission to Mars in 2018.

The mission would take advantage of a unique window of opportunity; the orbits of Earth and Mars will be closely aligned. The round-trip journey would start in January 2018 and take 501 days.

No details are available yet on how they… read more

A 3D-printing pen

February 25, 2013


Have you ever wished you could just draw a object in the air and have it magically printed out? 

WoobbleWorks has created 3Doodler (a Kickstarter project), the world’s first “3D printing pen” to do just that.

As you draw, it extrudes ABS plastic (the material used by many 3D printers) in the air or on surfaces — no software or computers required.

The… read more

A solid-state sequencer

February 25, 2013


Nabsys has developed a solid-state gene sequencing machine that will allow researchers to determine the structural organization of long stretches of DNA, MIT Technology Review reports.

This differs from most existing sequencing methods, which read DNA in short snippets that are later stitched together by software. The new system will, at first, complement existing methods, but it could eventually offer cheaper and faster sequencing than… read more

Transparent solar cells

A spectrally selective approach could let tablets, e-readers, and windows turn light into power
February 25, 2013


Imagine a world where any surface could be coated with solar cells, converting sunlight and even the glow of light bulbs into small amounts of usable energy. This is the goal of a new startup called Ubiquitous EnergyMIT Technology Review reports.

The company hopes to develop affordable, transparent coatings and films that could harvest light energy… read more

New injectable hydrogel encourages regeneration and improves functionality after a heart attack

February 22, 2013

Microscopic images of pig hearts damaged by heart attack show the growth of new heart muscle tissue (Shown in Red, Figure A) after treatment with an injectable hydrogel compared to a heart left untreated (Figure B, right) (credit: Karen Christman/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

University of California, San Diego bioengineers have demonstrated in a study in pigs that a new injectable hydrogel can repair damage from heart attacks, help the heart grow new tissue and blood vessels, and get the heart moving closer to how a healthy heart should.

The gel is injected through a catheter without requiring surgery or general anesthesia — a less invasive procedure for patients.… read more

Russia asteroid impact: ESA update and assessment

February 22, 2013

The estimated orbit around the Sun of the Chelyabinsk object. It illustrates the orbits of Venus, Mars and Earth, together with the Sun and Earth at impact. The illustration is based on data provided by Dr Peter Brown. (Credit: NASA)

The first firm details of the 15 February asteroid impact in Russia, the largest in more than a century, are becoming clear. ESA is carefully assessing the information as crucial input for developing the Agency’s asteroid-hunting effort.

At 03:20 GMT on 15 February, a natural object entered the atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Extensive video records indicate a northeast to… read more

Carver Mead: ‘A bunch of big egos’ are strangling science

The scientific revolution has stalled, here's how to kickstart it
February 22, 2013


ISSCC Microelectronics pioneer, Caltech professor emeritus, and all-around smart guy Carver Mead believes that the scientific revolution that began with the discovery of special relativity and quantum mechanics has stalled, and that it’s up to us to kickstart it, The Register reports.

“A bunch of big egos got in the way,” he told his audience of 3,000-plus chipheads at the International Soild-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC)… read more

New retinal implant gives sight to nine blind people

1500 pixels, with no camera required; patients able to read letters
February 22, 2013

subretinal implant powered by external battery-powered coil (credit: K. Stingl et al./Proc. Royal Soc. B)

German and Hungarian researchers have brought sight to nine blind patients with hereditary retinal degeneration, using a subretinally implanted microelectronic chip with 1500 pixels.

The chip size is approximately 3mm x 3mm and is surgically implanted below the fovea (area of sharpest vision in the retina).

It provides a diamond-shaped visual field of 15 degrees diagonally across chip corners.

It is powered by a subdermal coil behind… read more

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