science + technology news

IBM’s Watson shown to enhance human-computer co-creativity, support biologically inspired design

Watson Engagement Advisor AI system was trained to "learn" about biologically inspired design from biology articles, then answer questions
November 13, 2015

Using Watson for enhancing human-computer co-creativity (credit: Georgia Tech)

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers, working with student teams, trained a cloud-based version of IBM’s Watson called the Watson Engagement Advisor to provide answers to questions about biologically inspired design (biomimetics), a design paradigm that uses biological systems as analogues for inventing technological systems.

Ashok Goel, a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing who conducts research on computational creativity. In an… read more

‘Golden window’ wavelength range for optimal deep-brain near-infrared imaging determined

November 11, 2015

Raleigh scattering ft

Researchers at The City College of New York (CCNY) have determined the optimal wavelengths for bioimaging of the brain at longer near-infrared wavelengths, which permit deeper imaging.

Near-infrared (NIR) radiation has been used for one- and two-photon fluorescence imaging at near-infrared wavelengths of 650–950 nm (nanometers) for deep brain imaging, but it is limited in penetration depth. (The CCNY researchers dubbed this Window I, also known as the therapeutic… read more

Multi-layer nanoparticles glow when exposed to invisible near-infrared light

Emit light for bioimaging, solar energy, and currency security
November 11, 2015

An artist's rendering shows the layers of a new, onion-like nanoparticle whose specially crafted layers enable it to efficiently convert invisible near-infrared light to higher energy blue and UV light. (credit: Kaiheng Wei (

A new onion-like nanoparticle developed at the State University of New York University at Buffalo could open new frontiers in biomaging, solar-energy harvesting, and light-based security techniques.

The particle’s innovation lies in its layers: a coating of organic dye, a neodymium-containing shell, and a core that incorporates ytterbium and thulium. Together, these strata convert invisible near-infrared light to higher energy blue and UV light with record-high efficiency.… read more

New technology senses colors in the infrared spectrum

Could lead to low-cost infrared cameras and heat-cloaking systems
November 11, 2015

A closer look at a coated surface using a scanning electron microscope shows a tiny silver nanocubes sitting on a gold surface. (credit: Maiken Mikkelsen and Gleb Akselrod, Duke University)

Duke University scientists have invented a technology that can identify and image different wavelengths of the infrared spectrum.

The fabrication technique for the system is easily scalable, can be applied to any surface geometry, and costs much less than current light-absorption technologies, according to the researchers. Once adopted, the technique would allow advanced infrared imaging systems to be produced faster and cheaper than today’s counterparts and with higher sensitivity.… read more

New electron microscopy method sculpts 3-D structures with one-nanometer features

Think of it as atomic-level, bottom-up 3-D printing
November 10, 2015

ORNL researchers used a new scanning transmission electron microscopy technique to sculpt 3-D nanoscale features in a complex oxide material. (credit:<br />
Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have developed a way to build precision-sculpted 3-D strontium titanate nanostructures as small as one nanometer, using scanning transmission electron microscopes, which are normally used for imaging.

The technique could find uses in fabricating structures for functional nanoscale devices such as microchips. The structures grow epitaxially (in perfect crystalline alignment), which ensures that the same electrical and mechanical properties extend… read more

Disney Research-CMU design tool helps novices design 3-D-printable robotic creatures

November 9, 2015

robot designs

Now you can design and build your own customized walking robot using a 3-D printer and off-the-shelf servo motors, with the help of a new DYI design tool developed by Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University.

You can specify the shape, size, and number of legs for your robotic creature, using intuitive editing tools to interactively explore design alternatives. The system takes over much of the… read more

New ‘tricorder’ technology might be able to ‘hear’ tumors

November 9, 2015

packaged CMUT-ft

Stanford electrical engineers have developed an enhancement of technology intended to safely find buried plastic explosives and spot fast-growing tumors, using a combination of microwaves and ultrasound to develop a detector similar to the legendary Star Trek tricorder.

The work, led by Assistant Professor Amin Arbabian and Research Professor Pierre Khuri-Yakub, grows out of DARPA research designed to detect buried plastic… read more

Google open-sources its TensorFlow machine learning system

November 9, 2015


Google announced today that it will make its new second-generation “TensorFlow” machine-learning system open source.

That means programmers can now achieve some of what Google engineers have done, using TensorFlow — from speech recognition in the Google app, to Smart Reply in Inbox, to search in Google Photos, to reading a sign in a foreign language using Google Translate.

Google says TensorFlow is a highly scalable… read more

Bitdrones: Interactive quadcopters allow for ‘programmable matter’ explorations

November 6, 2015

Could an interactive swarm of flying "3D pixels" (voxels) allow users to explore virtual 3D information by interacting with physical self-levitating building blocks? (credit: Roel Vertegaal)

We’ll find out Monday, Nov. 9, when Canadian Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab professor Roel Vertegaal and his students will unleash their “BitDrones” at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Programmable matter

Vertegaal believes his BitDrones invention is the first step towards creating interactive self-levitating programmable matter — materials capable of changing their 3D shape… read more

3D-printed microchannels deliver oxygen, nutrients from artery to tissue implant

Solves one of the biggest challenges in regenerative medicine: keeping implant tissues alive during growth in a lab
November 6, 2015

A miniature 3D-printed network of microchannels designed to link up an artery to a tissue implant to ensure blood flow of oxygen and nutrients. Flow rate at the inlet is equal to 0.12 mL/min. (credit: Renganaden Sooppan et al./Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods)

Scientists have designed an innovative structure containing an intricate microchannel network of simulated blood vessels that solves one of the biggest challenges in regenerative medicine: How to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all cells in an artificial organ or tissue implant that takes days or weeks to grow in the lab prior to surgery.

The new study was performed by a research team led by Jordan Miller, assistant professor… read more

New dimension to high-temperature superconductivity discovered

An unprecedented blend of intense magnetic and X-ray laser pulses produces surprising 3-D effect
November 5, 2015

In this artistic rendering, a magnetic pulse (right) and X-ray laser light (left) converge on a high-temperature superconductor to study the behavior of its electrons. (credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

The dream to push the operating temperature for superconductors to room temperature — leading to future advances in computing, electronics and power grid technologies — has just become more real.

A team led by scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has combined powerful magnetic pulses with some of the brightest X-rays on the planet, discovering a surprising 3-D arrangement of a material’s electrons that appears… read more

Minuscule, flexible compound lenses magnify large fields of view

May lead to miniaturized lenses in cameras, cell phones, and other optical devices
November 5, 2015


Drawing inspiration from an insect’s multi-faceted eye, University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers have created miniature lenses with a vast range of vision. They’ve created the first flexible Fresnel zone plate microlenses with a wide field of view — a development that could allow everything from surgical scopes to security cameras and cell phones to capture a broader perspective at a fraction of the size required by conventional… read more

Graphene could take night-vision thermal imagers beyond ‘Predator’

November 5, 2015

predator alient view ft

In the 1987 movie “Predator,” an alien who sees in the far thermal infrared region of the spectrum hunts down Arnold Schwarzenegger and his team — introducing a generation of science-fiction fans to thermal imaging.

The ability of humans (or aliens) to see in the infrared allows military, police, firefighters, and others to do their jobs successfully at night and in smoky conditions. It also helps… read more

Fastest brain-computer-interface speller developed

Allows paralyzed patients to communicate at 60 characters per minute
November 5, 2015

SSVEP-based BCI speller-ft

Brain–computer interface (BCI) spellers allow a paralyzed patient to spell out words by looking at letters on a screen. Paralyzed patients can communicate by gazing at different letters to spell out a word.

Currently, the most advanced systems for doing this use “steady state visually evoked potential” (SSVEP). This method tags different characters on a screen by flashing each character at a different frequency (from… read more

3-D printed ‘building blocks’ of life

Could be used to build tissue structures and eventually micro-organs
November 4, 2015

3D printed cellular model-ft

Chinese and U.S. scientists have developed a 3-D printing method capable of producing embryoid bodies — highly uniform “blocks” of embryonic stem cells. These cells, which are capable of generating all cell types in the body, could be used to build tissue structures and potentially even micro-organs.

The results were published Wednesday Nov. 4 in an open-access paper in the journal Biofabrication. “The embryoid body is… read more

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