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New world-record efficiency for thin-film silicon solar cells

February 14, 2013

Record efficiency with less than 2 micrometers of silicium (credit: PVLab/EPFL)

EPFL’s Institute of Microengineering has reached a remarkable 10.7% efficiency for a single-junction microcrystalline silicon solar cell, surpassing the previous world record of 10.1% held by the Japanese company Kaneka Corporation since 1998.

The efficiency increase was also achieved with with only 1.8 microns of photovoltaic active material — 100 times less material than with standard wafer-based crystalline silicon PV technology.

The new thin-film… read more

How the Internet (and sex) amplifies irrational group behavior

April 15, 2013

(Credit: New Line Home Video)

New research from the University of Copenhagen combines formal philosophy, social psychology, and decision theory to understand and tackle these phenomena.

“Group behavior that encourages us to make decisions based on false beliefs has always existed.

However, with the advent of the Internet and social media, this kind of behavior is more likely to occur than ever, and on a much larger scale, with… read more

The Singularity and schools: an interview with Vernor Vinge

July 24, 2012

(Credit: Vernor Vinge)

John Moravec of Education Futures interviewed mathematician and science-fiction writer Vernor Vinge, noted for his foundational 1993 essay, “The Coming Technological Singularity.

“I’m still where I was in my 1993 essay that I gave at a NASA meeting, and that is that I define the Technological Singularity as being our developing, through technology, superhuman intelligence — or becoming, ourselves, superhuman intelligent through technology,” said Vinge.

“And,… read more

Google has officially eaten the newspaper industry

November 16, 2012

google_ad_revenue

Newspapers have continued to churn out the same content while watching their advertisers steadily flee for sites like Craigslist, Yahoo, the Huffington Post/AOL, Facebook, and Google, says writer Will Oremus in Slate Future Tense.  

The chart above, from Statista’s Felix Richter, plots Google’s digital advertising revenue against the print advertising revenue of all U.S.… read more

Spooky alignment of quasar axes across billions of light-years with large-scale structure

November 21, 2014

This artist's impression shows schematically the mysterious alignments between the spin axes of quasars and the large-scale structures that they inhabit that observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed. These alignments are over billions of light-years and are the largest known in the Universe. The large-scale structure is shown in blue and quasars are marked in white with the rotation axes of their black holes indicated with a line around them. This picture is for illustration only and does not depict the real distribution of galaxies and quasars. (Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

New observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have revealed alignments over the largest structures ever discovered in the Universe. A European research team has found that the rotation axes of the central supermassive black holes in a sample of quasars are parallel to each other over distances of billions of light-years. The team has also found that the rotation axes of these quasars tend to… read more

Future foods: what will we be eating in 20 years’ time?

August 6, 2012

800px-Insect_food_stall

Volatile food prices and a growing population mean we have to rethink what we eat, say food futurologists. So what might we be serving up in 20 years’ time, asks BBC News?

  • Insects will become a staple of our diet: a great source of protein, cost less to raise than cattle, consume less water and do not have much of a carbon footprint.
  • Sonic-enhanced food: certain sounds could

read more

Chinese-made unmanned vehicle passes freeway test

January 24, 2013

fierce_lion_3

An unmanned vehicle designed by Military Transportation University of the PLA (MTU) recently won top prize in the fourth Future Challenge, a contest for intelligent vehicles, China.org.cn reports.

The vehicle, a third-generation prototype named “Fierce Lion 3,” completed a 114-kilometer journey within 85 minutes, with a top speed of 105 kilometers per hour, making itself China’s first unmanned vehicle to pass a freeway test.

Third party… read more

A new battery that’s cheap, clean, rechargeable, and organic

Could pave the way for renewable energy sources to make up a greater share of a country's energy generation by economically storing energy at night
July 3, 2014

USC professor Sri Narayan's research focuses on the fundamental and applied aspects of electrochemical energy conversion and storage to reduce the carbon footprint of energy use and by providing energy alternatives to fossil fuel (credit: USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Scientists at USC have developed a water-based organic battery that is long-lasting and built from cheap, eco-friendly components (no metals or toxic materials).

The new battery is intended for use in power plants, where it could make the energy grid more resilient and efficient by creating a large-scale means to store energy for use as needed.

“The batteries last for about 5,000 recharge cycles, giving them an estimated… read more

Interstellar film features radical new black-hole model

Special-effects design leads to astrophysics discovery
October 28, 2014

A CGI model of a black hole for the movie Interstellar based on new discoveries by astrophysicist Kip Thorne (credit: Warner Brothers)

With our time on Earth coming to an end, a team of explorers undertakes the most important mission in human history: traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.

That’s the theme of the upcoming film Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway and opening Nov. 7.

A black hole also plays a key role… read more

‘Neural dust’ brain implants could revolutionize brain-machine interfaces and allow large-scale data recording

July 17, 2013

Neural dust

In a potential neuroscience breakthrough, University of California Berkeley scientists have proposed a system that allows for thousands of ultra-tiny “neural dust” chips to be inserted into the brain to monitor neural signals at high resolution and communicate data highly efficiently via ultrasound.

The neural dust design promises to overcome a serious limitation of current invasive brain-machine interfaces (BMI): the lack of an implantable neural interface system that remains… read more

FBI launches face recognition project

The Next Generation Identification program will include a nationwide database of criminal faces and other biometric data
September 10, 2012

ngi_fbi

As part of an update to the national fingerprint database, the FBI has begun rolling out facial recognition to identify criminals, New Scientist reports.

It will form part of the bureau’s long-awaited, $1 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) program, which will also add biometrics such as iris scans, DNA analysis, and voice identification to the toolkit. A handful of states began uploading their photos as… read more

Migrant workers in China face competition from robots

July 20, 2012

400px-Seagate_Wuxi_China_Factory_Tour

The International Federation of Robotics tracked a 50 percent jump in purchases of advanced industrial robots by Chinese manufacturers in 2011, to 22,600 units, and now predicts that China will surpass Japan as the world’s largest market in two years, Technology Review reports.

Foxconn, said last July that the Taiwan-based manufacturing giant would add up to one million industrial robots to its assembly lines inside of three years.

The… read more

This Is how Dennis Tito plans to send people to Mars

February 28, 2013

Mars-Capsule_220213.m

If Dennis Tito has his way, two people will leave our planet in January 2018 and make a trip to Mars and back, with a quick flyby, SpaceRef reports.

The project is being spearheaded by a non-profit organization, the Inspiration Mars Foundation.

Tito’s mission will be facilitated by donors, not investors.

Tito and a group of coauthors from NASA and several aerospace companies… read more

Limb regeneration: do salamanders hold the key?

June 24, 2014

Salamander (credit: UCL)

The secret of how salamanders successfully regrow body parts is being unravelled by University College London (UCL) researchers in a bid to apply it to humans.

For the first time, researchers have found that the “ERK pathway” must be constantly active for salamander cells to be reprogrammed, and hence able to contribute to the regeneration of different body parts.

The team identified a key… read more

Space-based solar farms power up

February 28, 2013

spsalpha-concept

Space-based solar power (SBSP) has once again begun to attract attention with projects emerging in the US, Russia, China, India and Japan, among others. All are driven by increasing energy demands, soaring oil and gas prices, a desire to find clean alternatives to fossil fuels and by a burgeoning commercial space industry that promises to lower the cost of entry into space and spur on a host of new industries,… read more

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