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First Earth-size planet in ‘habitable zone’ discovered

April 18, 2014

An artistic concept of Kepler-186f based on a collaboration of scientists and artists (credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

Astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the “habitable zone” — the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun.

Planets have previously been found in the habitable zone, but they are all… read more

Brain abnormalities associated with casual marijuana use

April 17, 2014

Cannabis leaf (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Young adults who used marijuana only recreationally showed significant abnormalities in two key brain regions that are important in emotion and motivation, scientists report.

The study was a collaboration between Northwestern Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

This is the first study to show casual use of marijuana is related to major brain changes. It showed the degree of brain abnormalities in these regions is directly related… read more

Functional brain imaging reliably predicts which vegetative patients have potential to recover consciousness

Up to 40% of severely brain-damaged patients are misdiagnosed in bedside clinical examinations
April 17, 2014

lancet-consciousness-1

A functional brain imaging technique known as positron emission tomography (PET) is a promising tool for determining which severely brain damaged individuals in vegetative states have the potential to recover consciousness, according to new research published in The Lancet.

Surprisingly, this is the first time that researchers have tested the diagnostic accuracy of functional brain imaging techniques in clinical practice.

“Our findings suggest that PET imaging can reveal… read more

Low-cost, compact optics that turn a smartphone into a powerful portable microscope

April 17, 2014

Lens-uw-larson

University of Washington (UW) graduate Thomas Larson is developing a lens that will turn any smartphone or tablet computer into a handheld microscope that magnifies by 150 times.

It’s an improved version of his Micro Phone Lens, a pliable lens that magnifies 15 times, or 60x with phone zoom. (Standard laboratory microscopes usually magnify between 50 and 400 times.)

Users simply stick the lens… read more

Drones to extend Internet to remote areas

April 16, 2014

Titan Solera 50 drone (credit: Titan Aerospace)

Two companies have just extended the reach of the  Internet.

Google has acquired Titan Aerospace, a developer of jet-sized drones intended to fly nonstop for years,the New Mexico company has announced. Titan says it could help people by “providing internet connections in remote areas or helping monitor environmental damage like oil spills and deforestation.”

The Wall Street Journal quotes Google as saying the technology could… read more

The lowest-price, easiest-to-use 3D printer yet

April 16, 2014

The Micro 3D printer (credit: MD3)

If you’re on the edge about deciding to get a 3D printer, this Kickstarter campaign for The Micro, billed as the “first truly consumer 3D printer,” may just push you off it.

It already has for more than 9,000 backers, who have pledged an impressive $2.7 million since April 7 — far exceeding the $50,000 goal.

For a pledge of $299, you get the pre-assembled printer… read more

Ten ways 3D printing could change space

April 16, 2014

A close up of a ligthweight titanium lattice ball manufactured using the Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing process. This design is a good example of AM capabilities: these hollow balls possesing a complex external geometry could not have been manufactured in a single part using a conventional manufacturing process. But they are incredibly light while also stiff, opening up possibilities for future space applications.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is investigating the potential of additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, to transform how space missions are put together, and has identified ten ways.

1. Items impossible to make any other way

This titanium-lattice ball is a good example of additive manufacturing capabilities. These hollow balls have a complex external geometry,  making them incredibly light while remaining stiff and… read more

International Space Station to beam video via laser back to Earth

April 15, 2014

nasa-opals

NASA is preparing for an April 14 launch to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX-3 mission to test NASA’s first space-to-Earth optical communication system.

The Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) system will demonstrate up to 50 megabits per second transmission, compared to 200 to 400 kilobits per second for many deep-space missions.

Future deep space optical communication systems will provide more than… read more

Bio-inspired transparent synthetic materials could protect cars and people

April 15, 2014

NewsImage_BioCeramic3

MIT researchers have analyzed the shells of a sea creature, the mollusk Placuna placenta to determine exactly why they are so resistant to penetration and damage — even though they are 99 percent calcite, a weak, brittle mineral. The shells are exceptionally tough but clear enough to read through,

The properties of this natural armor make it a promising template for the development of bio-inspired synthetic materials… read more

A new self-healing chemistry for plastics

April 15, 2014

Self-healing process (credit:  Kim K. Oehlenschlaeger et al./Advanced Materials)

Scientists at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Evonik Industries have developed a self-healing chemistry that allows for rapid healing of a plastic material using mild heating, restoring its initial molecular structure. It is based on a reversible chemical crosslinking reaction*.

  • The reaction happens at temperatures from 50°C (122°F) to 120°C (248°F).
  • The material can be restored completely in less than 5 minutes, and

read more

3D-printed tumor model allows for more realistic testing of how cancer cells grow and spread

April 15, 2014

3D cellular morphology on day 8

A group of researchers in China and the U.S. has created a 3D-printed model of a cancerous tumor to help discover new anti-cancer drugs and better understand how tumors develop, grow, and spread throughout the body.

The model consists of a scaffold of fibrous proteins (gelatin, alginate, and fibrin) corresponding to the extracellular matrix (support structure) of a tumor, in the form of a grid structure 10… read more

What is the optimal size of a power grid?

April 14, 2014

Areas affected by the blackout of 2003 (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

David Newman, a physicist at the University of Alaska, believes that smaller grids would reduce the likelihood of severe outages, such as the 2003 Northeast blackout that cut power to 50 million people in the United States and Canada for up to two days.

Newman and co-authors make their case in the journal Chaos.

North America has three power grids that transmit electricity from hundreds of… read more

Improving the human-robot connection

April 14, 2014

robot-eyes-to-bottle

Researchers at the University of British Columbia enlisted the help of a human-friendly robot named Charlie to study the simple task of handing an object to a person. Past research has shown that people have difficulty figuring out when to reach out and take an object from a robot because robots fail to provide appropriate nonverbal cues.

“We hand things to other people multiple times a day… read more

Body-hack app shortcuts jet-lag recovery

April 14, 2014

Entrain iOS app

A new jet-lag mobile app called Entrain released by University of Michigan mathematicians reveals previously unknown shortcuts that can help travelers entrain (synchronize) their circadian rhythms to new time zones as efficiently as possible.

Entrain is built around the premise that light, particularly from the sun and in wavelengths that appear to our eyes as the color blue, is the strongest signal to regulate circadian… read more

Nanoelectronic circuits that operate more than 10,000 times faster than current microprocessors

Could revolutionize high-speed electronics, nanoscale optoelectronics, and nonlinear optics
April 14, 2014

nus-focused-electron-beam

Circuits that can operate at frequencies up to 245 terahertz — tens of thousands times faster than today’s state-of-the-art microprocessors — have been designed and fabricated by researchers at National University of Singapore and Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

The new circuits can potentially be used to construct ultra-fast computers or single-molecule detectors in the future, and open up new possibilities in nanoelectronic devices. For… read more

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