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Feeling virtual objects in mid-air using ultrasound

December 3, 2014

Focused ultrasound creates haptic shape of a virtual sphere (credit: Bristol Interaction and Graphics group, University of Bristol)

University of Bristol researchers have developed a method for using ultrasound to generate an 3D haptic shape that can be added to 3D displays so that invisible images can be felt in mid-air.

The new technology could enable surgeons to explore a CT scan by enabling them to feel a disease, such as a tumor, using haptic feedback.

By focusing ultrasound from a phased array of transducers,… read more

A magnetic levitating gear system for zero friction and wear

December 2, 2014

Credit: UC3M

Researchers from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) are developing a new gear transmission mechanism with no touching parts, based on magnetic forces that prevent friction and wear and make lubrication unnecessary.

The device has potential applications in railroad and aircraft industries, as well as in space travel and exploration.

The design uses a magnetic gear reducer, that is, a mechanism that transforms speed from an input axle… read more

Replacing wires with light, future computers may operate faster with less energy

Stanford optical device splits a beam of light into different colors and bends the light at opposite right angles, based on wavelength
December 2, 2014

This tiny slice of silicon, etched with a grating pattern that resembles a bar code, is a key step toward linking computer components with light instead of wires (credit: Vuckovic Lab)

Stanford engineers have designed and built a prism-like silicon device that can split a beam of light into different colors and bend the light at right angles — a development that could eventually lead to computers that use nanophotonics to transmit data faster and more efficiently than electricity.

They describe this “optical link” —a tiny slice of silicon etched with a pattern that resembles a bar code — in… read more

Software equal to or better than humans at cataloging published science data

December 2, 2014

Computer-generated genus-level diversity curves (credit: Shanan E. Peters et al./PLOS ONE)

A computer system called PaleoDeepDive has equaled (or bested in some categories) scientists at the complex task of extracting data from scientific publications and placing it in a database that catalogs the results of tens of thousands of individual studies.

The development, described in the current issue of PLoS, marks a milestone in the quest to rapidly and precisely summarize, collate, and index the vast output of scientists… read more

Star Trek-like invisible shield discovered 7200 miles above Earth that blocks ‘killer electrons’

December 1, 2014

Scientists have discovered an invisible shield about 7,200 miles above Earth (credit: Andy Kale/University of Alberta)

A team led by the University of Colorado Boulder has discovered an invisible shield some 7,200 miles above Earth that blocks “killer electrons,” which whip around the planet at near-light speed and have been known to threaten astronauts, fry satellites, and degrade space systems during intense solar storms.

The barrier to the particle motion was discovered in the Van Allen radiation belts, two doughnut-shaped rings above Earth — an inner… read more

Protons found to pass through graphene, raising hopes for efficient fuel cells

Graphene membranes could also extract hydrogen gas out of the atmosphere
December 1, 2014

Graphene is an atomic-scale honeycomb lattice made of carbon atoms (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Graphene, which is impermeable to all gases and liquids, can actually allow protons to pass through it, University of Manchester researchers have found, to their surprise.

Published in the journal Nature, the discovery could revolutionize fuel cells and other hydrogen-based technologies, the researchers say, because that’s exactly what fuel cells require: a barrier that only allows protons (hydrogen atoms with their electrons stripped off) to pass through, while blocking hydrogen.… read more

The Imitation Game

November 30, 2014

The_Immitation_Game

Released in theaters in the U.S. on Friday (Nov. 28) and in the UK on Nov. 14, The Imitation Game portrays the race by Alan Turing and his team of code-breakers to crack the German Enigma machine code at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park during World War II.

The title of the film

read more

Decoding nervous-system signals to the brain could speed up diagnosis of infections or inflammation

The nervous system may play a bigger role in infections and autoimmune diseases than previously known
November 28, 2014

Peripheral nervous system (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In a commentary published Thursday (Nov. 27) in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reviewed new pre-clinical trials that show that the nervous system may play a bigger role in infections and inflammation than previously known.

The researchers, at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, noted that neurons of the peripheral nervous system are known to send information about… read more

DNA survives rocket return from space

November 28, 2014

Launch of the TEXUS-49 rocket from the Esrange Space Center in Sweden (credit: Adrian Mettauer)

DNA can survive a flight through space and re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere and still pass on genetic information, scientists from the University of Zurich (UZH) found during a March 2011 experiment on the TEXUS-49 research rocket, the researchers reported in the journal PLOS ONE (open access) Thursday (Nov. 26, 2014).

The researchers applied plasmid DNA molecules to the outer shell of the payload section… read more

Disruptive sounds help aging brain ignore distractions

November 26, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

As we age, we have an increasingly harder time ignoring distractions. But by learning to discriminate a sound amidst progressively more disruptive distractions, we can diminish our distractibility, new research in Cell Press journal Neuron reveals.

A similar strategy might also help children with attention deficits or individuals with other mental challenges.

Distractibility (the inability to sustain focus on a goal due to attention to irrelevant stimuli) can have… read more

New targeted, noninvasive treatments for mental illness to combine TMS and ultrasound

November 26, 2014

Transcranial magnetic stimulation can stimulate brain circuits near the surface for treating conditions like depression and anxiety; ultrasound (right) can reach deeper into the brain and more precisely. Stanford researchers hope to combine them. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons and Stanford University)

A new interdisciplinary Stanford University initiative called NeuroCircuit aims to find the specific brain circuits that are responsible for mental-health conditions and then develop ways of noninvasively stimulate those circuits to potentially lead to improved treatments for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“You see things activated in brain images but you can’t tell just by watching what is cause and what is effect,” said Amit Etkin, Neurocircuit co-leader… read more

Wireless electronic implants deliver antibiotic, then harmlessly dissolve

November 25, 2014

coil + resistor

Imagine an electronic implant that delivers a drug when triggered by a remote wireless signal — then harmlessly dissolves (no post-surgical infection concerns, no fuss, no muss) within minutes or weeks.

That’s what researchers at Tufts University and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana have demonstrated* in mice, using a resistor (as a source of heat for releasing drug and help dissolving the implant) and a power-receiving coil made… read more

Does virtual reality space you out?

November 25, 2014

(Credit: IMAX Corporation)

Put rats in an IMAX-like surround virtual world limited to vision only, and the neurons in their hippocampi* seem to fire completely randomly — and more than half of those neurons shut down — as if the neurons had no idea where the rat was, UCLA neurophysicists found in a recent experiment.

Put another group of rats in a real room (with sounds and odors) designed to look likeread more

How permanent stress may lead to mental disorders

November 24, 2014

Microglia cells from rat cortex before (left) and after (right) traumatic brain injury (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells in the brain can cause changes to the brain, resulting in mental disorders, a research team headed by professor Georg Juckel, Medical Director of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) LWL university clinic, has found. The research was based on psychoneuroimmunology, the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body.

The team focused mainly on … read more

A wearable to help measure stress, epileptic seizures, activity, and sleep

November 24, 2014

Embrace (credit: Empatica)

MIT spinoff Empatica, which is developing a medical-quality wearable device to monitor epileptic seizures* and alert caregivers, has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to fund its development.

“When people that have epilepsy wear Embrace, they will get an alert when an unusual event happens, like a convulsive seizure,” the Indiegogo site says. “It will go via their smartphone to parents, roommates or caregivers, so somebody can check… read more

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