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Making solar power competitive with coal

February 24, 2012

This 25-micrometer-thick film of silicon, used to make solar cells, has a metal backing that keeps it from breaking (credit: Astrowatt)

By the end of the decade, U.S. manufacturers could make solar panels that are less than half as expensive as the ones they make now.

At 52 cents per watt, that would be cheap enough for solar power to compete with electricity from fossil fuels, according to a new study by MIT researchers in Energy & Environmental Science.

Assuming similar cost reductions for installation and equipment, solar power would… read more

Cloning quantum information from the past

January 8, 2014

In the film "Looper," time travel is invented by the year 2074 and, though immediately outlawed, is used by criminal organizations to send those they want killed into the past where they are killed by "loopers." (Credit: TriStar Pictures)

It is theoretically possible for time travelers to copy quantum data from the past, according to three scientists in a recent paper in Physical Review Letters.

It all started when David Deutsch, a pioneer of quantum computing and a physicist at Oxford, came up with a simplified model of time travel to deal with the Grandfather paradox*.  He solved the paradox originally using a slight change to quantum theory,… read more

Teaching household robots to manipulate objects more efficiently

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

mit_robot_lateral_thinking

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

Exercise reorganizes the brain to reduce stress and anxiety

July 5, 2013

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Physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function, according to a Princeton University research team.

The researchers report in the Journal of Neuroscience that when mice allowed to exercise regularly experienced a stressor — exposure to cold water — their brains exhibited a spike in the activity of neurons… read more

Researchers use light to coax stem cells to regenerate teeth

Low-level light therapy confirmed
May 29, 2014

tooth regeneration

A Harvard-led team is the first to demonstrate the ability to use low-power light to trigger stem cells inside the body to regenerate tissue.

The research, reported in Science Translational Medicine and led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member David Mooney, Ph.D., lays the foundation for a host of clinical applications in restorative dentistry and regenerative medicine more broadly, such as wound healing, bone regeneration, and more.… read more

Ultrasound-released nanoparticles may help diabetics avoid the needle

November 25, 2013

New technique allows diabetics to control insulin release with an injectable nano-network and portable ultrasound device.

A new nanotechnology-based technique for regulating blood sugar in diabetics could give patients the ability to release insulin painlessly using a small ultrasound device, allowing them to go days between injections — rather than using needles to give themselves multiple insulin injections each day.

A patient who has type 1 or advanced type 2 diabetes needs additional insulin, a hormone that transports glucose — or blood sugar — from… read more

Math ability requires hemisphere crosstalk in the brain

Could special training in improving hemispheric cross-communication improve math abilities? What kinds of devices or exercises would be most effective?
August 31, 2012

Numerical and Arthimetic Tasks

The strength of communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain predicts performance on basic arithmetic problems, a new study by researchers at UT Dallas’ Center for Vital Longevity, Duke University, and the University of Michigan has found.

The findings shed light on the neural basis of human math abilities and suggest a possible route to aiding those who suffer from dyscalculia — an… read more

Berkeley Lab scientists record first inside look at carbon-capture molecular structure

November 26, 2013

Mg-MOF-74 is an open metal site MOF whose porous crystalline structure could enable it to serve as a storage vessel for capturing and containing the carbon dioxide emitted from coal-burning power plants. (National Academy of Sciences)

Researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have recorded the first electronic structure observations of the adsorption of carbon dioxide inside a metal-organic framework (MOF).

The “Mg-MOF-74″ MOF’s porous crystalline structure could enable it to serve as a storage vessel for capturing and containing the carbon dioxide emitted from coal-burning power plants.

MOFs are molecular systems consisting of a metal oxide center surrounded by organic… read more

Commercial asteroid hunters announce plans for new robotic exploration fleet

World’s first fleet of asteroid-hunting spacecraft announced by Deep Space Industries
January 22, 2013

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Deep Space Industries (DSI) announced Monday night that it will send a fleet of asteroid-prospecting spacecraft out into the solar system to hunt for resources to accelerate space development to benefit Earth.

These “FireFly” spacecraft utilize low-cost cubesat components and get discounted delivery to space by ride-sharing on the launch of larger communications satellites.

“This is the first commercial campaign to explore the small… read more

Thiel tells Schmidt: ‘Google is out of ideas’

July 18, 2012

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and investor Peter Thiel took aim at each other in a recent debate, CNET reports.

Schmidt said technology and access to information has increased productivity and quality of life worldwide. Thiel thanked Schmidt for “doing a fantastic job” as “minister of propaganda” for Google. The tech sector has made remarkable strides in the areas of computers and software, he said, but has seen a “catastrophic” failure in other… read more

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

A world record for highest-surface-area materials

Greatly expands storage density for natural gas (for vehicles), light harvesting, and drug delivery
September 13, 2012

NU-110

Northwestern University researchers have broken a world record by creating two new synthetic materials with the greatest amount of surface areas reported to date.

Named NU-109 and NU-110, the materials belong to a class of crystalline nanostructure known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that are promising vessels for natural-gas and hydrogen storage for vehicles, and for catalysts, chemical sensing, light harvesting, drug delivery, and other uses requiring a large… read more

Chinese project probes the genetics of genius

May 15, 2013

(Credit: iStock)

Researchers at BGI (formerly the Beijing Genomics Institute) in Shenzhen, China, the largest gene-sequencing facility in the world, are searching for the quirks of DNA that may contribute to genius in an ethically controversial study.

They are scouring the genomes of 1,600 U.S. adolescents who signed up for the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) in the 1970s, Nature News reports.

Some geneticists say that the… read more

A radical new holistic view of health based on cooperation and disease based on competition

September 16, 2013

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Researchers at The Mount Sinai Medical Center have developed a radical holistic view of health — seeing it as a cooperative state among cells, while they see disease as result of cells at war that fight with each other for domination.

Their unique approach is backed by experimental evidence. The researchers show a network of genes in cells, which includes the powerful tumor suppressor p53,… read more

A cost-effective nanotube-based catalyst for producing hydrogen fuel

July 28, 2014

A new technology based on carbon nanotubes promises commercially viable hydrogen production from water (credit: Tewodros Asefa)

Rutgers researchers have used carbon nanotubes as a catalyst for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, which could replace expensive platinum for making clean-burning hydrogen fuel — which could one day replace expensive, environmentally harmful fossil fuels.

The Rutgers technology is also far more efficient than other low-cost catalysts investigated to date for electrolysis reactions, which use electric currents to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen,… read more

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