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Stumped by a problem? The ‘generic parts technique’ technique unsticks you

March 8, 2012

CocaCola

University of Massachusetts psychologist Dr. Tony McCaffrey has developed a systematic way of overcoming “functional fixedness” (the tendency to fixate on the common use of an object or its parts, hindering people from solving problems). He calls it the “generic parts technique” (GPT).

He found that people trained in GPT solved eight problems 67 percent more often than those who weren’t trained, and the trained group… read more

NASA’s Kepler mission discovers 715 new planets

February 27, 2014

The artist concept depicts multiple-transiting planet systems, which are stars with more than one planet. The planets eclipse or transit their host star from the vantage point of the observer. This angle is called edge-on. (Credit:  NASA)

NASA’s Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.

Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets (planets… read more

More-efficient solar-powered steam

Can convert 85 percent of incoming solar energy into steam, eliminating need for complex, costly systems to highly concentrate sunlight
July 22, 2014

solar steam generator - ft

A new carbon-based material structure developed at MIT generates steam from solar energy.

The structure — a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam — is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water.

When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light,… read more

White House announces new US ‘open access’ policy

A "massive sellout" to big publishers, with 12-month embargo on research, says a PLOS founder
February 25, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

The White House said Friday that publications from taxpayer-funded research should be available to you, but only after a year’s delay.

“The Obama Administration is committed to the proposition that citizens deserve easy access to the results of scientific research their tax dollars have paid for,” the memo said.

But that doesn’t mean fast access. And the policy would, strangely, only apply to Federal agencies with more… read more

Jetpack to be available in 2014

September 23, 2013

martin_jetpack

New Zealand’s Martin Aircraft is developing the “first practical jetpack” and has done manned and unmanned flight tests of its latest prototype, Aviation Week reports.

When completed it will be aimed at first responders (such as fire services), planned to be available in 2014.

You will have to wait a bit longer for a personal JetPack.

Flight control is fly-by-wire (computer-controlled) and there’s… read more

Hubble sees cloudy ‘super-Earth’ 40 light-years away

January 2, 2014

GJ1214b

Two teams of scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope report they have characterized the atmospheres of a pair of planets with masses intermediate between gas giants, like Jupiter, and smaller, rockier planets, like Earth.

A survey by NASA’s Kepler space telescope mission previously showed that objects in this size range are among the most common type of planets in our Milky Way galaxy. The researchers described their… read more

A virus that kills cancer: the cure that’s waiting in the cold

September 5, 2012

oncolytic_virus

Professor Magnus Essand has developed a virus that may kill cancer cells, The Telegraph reports.

Cheap to produce, the virus is exquisitely precise, with only mild, flu-like side-effects in humans. But Ad5[CgA-E1A-miR122]PTD is never going to be tested to see if it might also save humans, due to lack of funding.

Contact info.

Homeland Security looking for (more than) a few good drones

September 28, 2012

Reaper Drone (Credit: USAF)

DHS to test unmanned aircraft for variety of applications.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security this week issued a call for unmanned systems makers to participate in a program that will ultimately determine their safety and performance for use in first responder, law enforcement and border security situations, Network World Layer 8 reports.

In a twist that will certainly raise some eyebrows,  the program’s results  of… read more

SpiderFab: low-cost kilometer-scale antennas in space

September 17, 2012

SpiderFabConcept

“We’d like someday to be able to have a spacecraft create itself entirely from scratch, but realistically that’s quite a ways out; that’s still science fiction,” says Robert Hoyt, CEO and chief scientist of Tethers Unlimited Inc. Instead, with his “SpiderFab” project, he proposes to use 3D printing technology aboard a tiny CubeSat to create a much larger structure in space.

The  project received $100,000 from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts… read more

IBM unveils cognitive computing chips, combining digital ‘neurons’ and ‘synapses’

August 18, 2011

Cognitive computing chip (credit: IBM Research)

IBM researchers unveiled today a new generation of experimental computer chips designed to emulate the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition.

In a sharp departure from traditional von Neumann computing concepts in designing and building computers, IBM’s first neurosynaptic computing chips recreate the phenomena between spiking neurons and synapses in biological systems, such as the brain, through advanced algorithms and silicon circuitry.

The technology could yield many orders… read more

Companies discover untapped brain power: autistics

July 21, 2013

Autistic_teenage_girl

Companies are discovering the untapped brain power of a group long thought ill suited to the office: adults on the autistic spectrum. Joshua Kendall, author of America’s Obsessives, reports at The Daily Beast on one Danish man’s mission to employ the seemingly unemployable — and successful famous “obsessives”* (think Jefferson and Heinz) in American history.

While the 1% of the population with ASDs may have considerable difficulty navigating… read more

‘Nanozyme’ nanoparticles can be programmed to target different diseases

July 19, 2012

Nanozymes (colloidal nanoparticles with a diameter of 48 nm, with a core/shell structure consisting of a 13-nm gold nanoparticle core and a shell of single-stranded DNA oligonucleotides

University of Florida researchers have moved a step closer to treating diseases on a cellular level by creating a nanoparticle that can be programmed to shut down the genetic production line that cranks out disease-related proteins.

In laboratory tests, these newly created nanoparticles eradicated most of a hepatitis C virus infection. The programmable nature of the particle makes it also potentially useful against diseases such… read more

With evolved brains, robots creep closer to animal-like learning

February 7, 2013

aracna

Get ready for four-legged bots of all shapes and sizes — and for all sorts of uses — that learn how to maneuver through landscapes with the grace of a cheetah, Fast Company reports.

The most nightmare-inducing characteristic of Big Dog, DARPA’s robotic military mule, might be the way it moves so stiffly, yet unrelentingly, over treacherous battleground. Turns out the repetitive mechanical gait that… read more

A wireless low-power, high-quality EEG headset

October 10, 2012

EEG-imec

Imec, Holst Centre and Panasonic have developed a new prototype of a wireless EEG (electroencephalogram, or brain waves) headset designed to be a reliable, high-quality and wearable EEG monitoring system.
The system combines ease-of-use with ultra-low power electronics. Continuous impedance monitoring and the use of active electrodes increases the quality of EEG signal recording compared to former versions of the system.
How it works

The EEG… read more

Assembling big structures out of small ultralight pieces

"Can you 3-D print an airplane?" question leads to major design breakthrough
August 19, 2013

Assemblies of the cellular composite material are seen from different perspectives, showing the repeating "cuboct" lattice structure, made from many identical flat cross-shaped pieces.<br />
PHOTO COURTESY OF KENNETH CHEUNG

MIT researchers have developed a lightweight structure whose tiny blocks can be snapped together much like the bricks of a child’s construction toy.

The new material, the researchers say, could revolutionize the assembly of airplanes, spacecraft, and even larger structures, such as dikes and levees.

The new approach to construction is described in a paper appearing in the journal Science, co-authored by postdoc Kenneth Cheung and… read more

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