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First contracting human muscle grown in laboratory

Could revolutionize drug discovery and personalized medicine, say Duke University researchers
January 14, 2015

A microscopic view of lab-grown human muscle bundles stained to show patterns made by basic muscle units and their associated proteins (red), which are a hallmark of human muscle. (Credit: Duke University)

In a laboratory first that could “revolutionize drug discovery and personalized medicine,” Duke researchers have grown human skeletal muscle that contracts and responds just like native tissue to external stimuli such as electrical pulses, biochemical signals and pharmaceuticals.

The lab-grown tissue should soon allow researchers to test new drugs and study diseases in functioning human muscle outside of the human body, according to study leader Nenad Bursac, associate… read more

Energy-harvesting discovery generates 200 times higher voltage to power wearables, other portable devices

January 13, 2015

Left: Zink oxide nanogenerator (gray: top electrode; gold: zink oxide layer; blue: bottom electrode; lime: substrate). Right: aluminum oxide insulating interlayer (purple) added, improving voltage up to 200 times and other characteristics. (Credit: Eunju Lee et al./Applied Physics Letters)

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) researchers have discovered how to radically improve conversion of ambient energy (such as body movement) to electrical energy for powering wearable and portable devices.

As has been noted on KurzweilAI, energy-harvesting devices can convert ambient mechanical energy sources — including body movement, sound, and other forms of vibration — into electricity. The energy-harvesting devices or “nanogenerators” typically use piezoelectric materials… read more

Solar at grid parity in most of the world within 2 years

January 13, 2015

solar capacity adds ft

In their 2015 solar outlook, investment bank Deutsche Bank is predicting that solar systems will be at grid parity (when an alternative energy source cost is lower or equal to that of electricity from the electrical grid) in up to 80 per cent of the global market within 2 years, Renew Economy notes.

That’s because grid-based electricity prices are rising across the world… read more

How to create the world’s most complex 3D-motion nanomachines from DNA

New technique uses DNA origami; allows for new biomedical applications
January 12, 2015

A machine design (left) made with DNA "origami" (image: right) (Credit: The Ohio State University)

Mechanical engineers at The Ohio State University have designed and constructed complex nanoscale mechanical parts using “DNA origami” — proving that the same basic design principles that apply to typical full-size machine parts can now also be applied to DNA — and can produce complex, controllable components for future nanorobots.

In a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the engineers… read more

One million metric tons of CO2 stored underground in Illinois

Goal is to help slow global warming trends
January 12, 2015

Carbon storage concept (credit: U.S. Department of Energy)

One of the largest carbon sequestration projects in the U.S., the Illinois Basin – Decatur Project (IBDP), has reached its goal of capturing 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and injecting it deep underground in the Mount Simon Sandstone formation beneath Decatur, Illinois, a Deep Saline reservoir.

For context, three million tons are emitted annually from a typical medium-sized, coal-fired power plant.… read more

Using flashes from faster-than-light spots to view objects in the universe

January 9, 2015

Hubble's variable nebula. (Credit: William Sparks (STScI), Sylvia Baggett (STScI) et al., & the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/ STScI/ NASA))

If you sweep a laser pointer across the Moon fast enough, you can create spots that actually move faster than light

At a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle Thursday Jan. 8, Robert Nemiroff, a physics professor at Michigan Technological University, reported that this theoretical curiosity may turn out to be practically useful out in the cosmos.

When a superluminal sweep occurs,… read more

Finally, an antibiotic that kills pathogens like MRSA without resistance

January 9, 2015

The iChip houses growing microorganisms, using semi-permeable membranes (shown as circles) on each side of the plate. After adding agar nutrient, it is placed in the soil from which the sample originated. (Credit: Losee L. Ling et al./Nature)

North­eastern University researchers have dis­cov­ered an antibi­otic called “teixobactin” that elim­i­nates pathogens without encoun­tering any detectable resistance — a finding that chal­lenges long-held sci­en­tific beliefs and holds great promise for treating chronic infec­tions like tuber­cu­losis and those caused by MRSA.

Pathogens’ resis­tance to antibi­otics is causing a public health crisis, according to Northwest’s Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor Kim Lewis.

Lewis’ lab played a key role in ana­lyzing and… read more

‘Pop-up’ fabrication technique trumps 3D printing

January 8, 2015

3D silicon microstructures formed using concepts similar to those in children's "pop-up" books, based on colorized scanning electron micrograph (credit: University of Illinois College of Engineering)

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a simple new fabrication technique to create beautiful, complex 3D micro- and nanostructures with advantages over 3D printing for a variety of uses.

The technique mimics the action of a children’s pop-up book — starting as a flat two-dimensional structure and popping up into a more complex 3D structure. Using a variety… read more

Neuroscientists find neuron-network area that filters visual information and ignores distractions

Research has implications for people who suffer from diseases such as autism, ADHD, and schizophrenia and for better brain-mind interface devices
January 8, 2015

Anatomical location of multielectrode-array implant (red square) in the macaque lateral prefrontal cortex area (8A), where simultaneously active neuron ensembles filter visual information and allocate attention (credit: Tremblay et al./Neuron)

McGill University researchers have identified a network of neurons in the lateral prefrontal cortex of the brain that interact with one another to enable us to quickly filter visual information while ignoring distractions.

The discovery could have far-reaching implications for people who suffer from diseases such as autism, ADHD, and schizophrenia and for brain-mind interface devices.

Our ability to pay attention to certain things while ignoring… read more

Wave energy costs should compare favorably to other energy sources

January 7, 2015

The Ocean Sentinel, one of the nation's first wave-energy testing devices, has been deployed off the Oregon Coast (credit: Pat Kight, Oregon Sea Grant)

Large-scale wave energy systems developed in the Pacific Northwest should be comparatively steady, dependable, and able to be integrated into the overall energy grid at lower costs than some other forms of alternative energy, including wind power, a new analysis suggests.

The findings, published in the journal Renewable Energy, confirm what scientists have expected — that wave energy will have fewer problems with variability than some energy sources and… read more

Precisely controllable acoustic levitation

Opens the door for some cool new levitation gadgets and toys
January 7, 2015


University of São Paulo researchers have developed a new levitation device that can hover a tiny object with more control than was previously possible.

Featured on this week’s cover of the journal Applied Physics Letters in an open-access paper, the device can levitate polystyrene particles by reflecting sound waves from a source off a concave reflector below.

Changing the orientation of the reflector also allows… read more

Largest Hubble Space Telescope image ever assembled offers awesome view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy

Captures individual stars 2 million light-years away
January 6, 2015


NASA announced Monday the largest NASA Hubble Space Telescope image ever assembled — a sweeping bird’s-eye view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy (M31) and the sharpest large composite image ever taken of our nearest galaxy. The galaxy is over 2 million light-years away, but the Hubble Space Telescope is powerful enough to resolve individual stars in a 61,000-light-year-long stretch of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disk. This is the first… read more

‘Imaginary meal’ tricks the body into losing weight

January 5, 2015

Ronald Evans, director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory, has developed a compound called fexaramine that acts like an imaginary meal. Fexaramine, which tricks the body into reacting as if it has consumed calories, could lead to an effective obesity and diabetes treatment in humans. (credit: Courtesy of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies)

Salk researchers have developed an entirely new type of pill that tricks the body into thinking it has consumed calories, causing it to burn fat.

The compound effectively stopped weight gain, lowered cholesterol, controlled blood sugar, and minimized inflammation in mice, making it an excellent candidate for a rapid transition into human clinical trials.

Unlike most diet pills on the market, this new pill, called fexaramine,… read more

‘Glowing’ nanotech guides cancer surgery, kills remaining cancer cells

“If it glows, cut it out.”
January 5, 2015

A “dendrimer” nanoparticle carries a drug into cancer cells for improved surgery and phototherapy (credit: Oregon State University)

Oregon State University researchers have developed a new way to selectively  insert compounds into cancer cells — a system that will help surgeons identify malignant tissues and then, in combination with phototherapy, kill any remaining cancer cells after a tumor is removed.

The method should allow more accurate surgical removal of solid tumors at the same time it eradicates any remaining cancer cells. In laboratory tests, it… read more

Astronomers simulate the universe with realistic galaxies

January 4, 2015


An international team of astronomers has developed a simulation of the universe in which realistic galaxies are created — their mass, size, and age are similar to those of observed galaxies.

Previous computer simulations had limited success because their simulations were too old, too spherical, and either too massive or too small.

In the new study, by astronomers based at Durham University and Leidenread more

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