science + technology news

Further proof for controversial quantum computer

April 29, 2013

dwave_ones_in_the_lab_large

Is the world’s only commercial quantum computer really a quantum device, or a just regular computer in disguise? Controversy has long swirled around the computer produced by D-Wave, a company based near Vancouver, Canada.

Now a paper published on the arXiv preprint server takes a step forward in showing that it really does operate on a quantum level, Nature News Blog reports.
In… read more

Fast, cheap water desalination using graphene

Graphene sheets with precise one-nanometer pores have potential to purify seawater more efficiently than existing methods
July 2, 2012

graphene-desalination

MIT researchers have invented a new kind of filtration material for desalination: sheets of graphene, a one-atom-thick form of the element carbon, which they say can be far more efficient and possibly less expensive than existing desalination systems.

The availability of fresh water is dwindling in many parts of the world, a problem that is expected to grow with populations. The world’s supply of seawater is virtually… 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

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 cheap, long-lasting, sustainable battery for grid energy storage

Oh, and they don't explode
September 2, 2016

Zinc-ion battery (credit: Dipan Kundu et al./Nature Energy

University of Waterloo chemists have developed a long-lasting, safe, zinc-ion battery that costs half the price of current lithium-ion batteries. It could help communities shift from traditional power plants to renewable solar and wind energy production, where electricity storage overnight is needed.

The battery is water-based and uses cheap but safe, non-flammable, non-toxic materials, compared to expensive, flammable, organic electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries, which are used in the… 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

California passes driverless car bill

September 1, 2012

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Catching up with Nevada, it will be legal for autonomous cars to drive in California, probably within the next five years, if Gov. Brown signs SB 1298, just passed by the California Senate, the San Jose Mercury reports.

The bill charges the DMV by January 2015 with determining standards for vehicles and rules.

Automakers would have to get their vehicles approved by the state, and then licensed… read more

Are populations aging more slowly than we think?

60 is the new middle age
April 16, 2015

(credit: iStock)

Increases in life expectancy do not necessarily produce faster overall population aging, according to new open-access research published in the journal PLOS ONE.

This counterintuitive finding was the result of applying new measures of aging, developed at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) to future population projections for Europe up to the year 2050.

IIASA World Population Program Deputy Director Sergei Scherbov led… read more

Mapping brain circuits for specific functions

New way to image brain-cell activity could shed light on psychiatric disorders
October 19, 2012

MIT neuroscientists used calcium imaging to label these pyramidal cells in the brain (credit: Qian Chen/MIT)

A team led by MIT neuroscientists has developed a way to monitor how brain cells coordinate with each other to control specific behaviors, such as initiating movement or detecting an odor.

The researchers’ new imaging technique, based on the detection of calcium ions in neurons, could help them map the brain circuits that perform such functions.

It could also provide new insights into the… 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

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

World’s first green piglets born in China, sheep next

December 30, 2013

glowing_piglets

In Guangdong Province in Southern China, ten transgenic piglets have been born this year, in  and under a black light, they glow a greenish tint.

A technique developed by reproductive scientists from the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine was used to quadruple the success rate at which plasmids carrying a fluorescent protein from jellyfish DNA were transferred into the… read more

Could emotion detectors make driving safer?

March 17, 2014

epfl_emotion_recognition_driving

Researchers in EPFL’s Signal Processing 5 Laboratory (LTS5), working with PSA Peugeot Citroën, have developed an emotion detector based on the analysis of facial expressions in a car, using an infrared camera placed behind the steering wheel.

The researchers say they can read facial expressions and identify which of the seven universal emotions a person is feeling: fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, surprise, or… read more

How to identify and predict human activities from video

October 30, 2012

minds_eye_cmu

A video shows a woman carrying a box into a building.  Later, it shows her leaving the building without it. What was she doing?

Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) Mind’s Eye program is creating intelligent software that will recognize human activities in video and predict what might happen next. It will also flag unusual events and deduce actions that may be occurring off-camera.

Automating the time-consuming job of… read more

Flexible sensors turn skin into a touch-sensitive interface for mobile devices

March 4, 2015

iSkin2

Computer scientists at Saarland University and Carnegie Mellon University are studying the potential use of the human body as a touch sensitive surface for controlling mobile devices. They have developed flexible silicone rubber stickers with pressure-sensitive sensors that fit snugly to the skin.

By operating these touch input stickers, users can use their own body to control mobile devices. Because of the flexible material used, the sensors can be… read more

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