science + technology news

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

A new 3-​​D printing method for creating patient-​​specific medical devices

Especially valuable for creating catheters for prema­ture babies
November 4, 2015

Preemie (credit: March of Dimes)

Northeastern University engineers have devel­oped a 3-D printing process that uses mag­netic fields to shape com­posite materials (mixes of plas­tics and ceramics) into patient-specific biomedical devices, such as catheters.

The devices are intended to be stronger and lighter than cur­rent models and the cus­tomized design could ensure an appro­priate fit, said Ran­dall Erb, assis­tant pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Mechan­ical and Indus­trial Engi­neering.

The magnetic field… read more

Chemical storage advance may enable more cost-effective concentrated solar-power storage

New thermochemical energy storage system is twice as efficient, with 10 times higher energy density
November 4, 2015

An advance in the storage of concentrated solar thermal energy may reduce reduce its cost and make it more practical for wider use. (credit: Kelvin Randhir, courtesy of the University of Florida)

Oregon State University (OSU) engineers have developed an innovation in chemical storage of concentrated solar thermal energy that may reduce its cost and make it more practical for wider use.

The new system uses thermochemical storage, in which chemical transformation is used in repeated cycles to hold heat, use it to drive turbines to create electricity, and then be re-heated to continue the cycle. Most commonly, this… read more

Engineers design enhanced magnetic protein nanoparticles to better track cells

November 3, 2015



MIT engineers have designed magnetic protein nanoparticles that can be used to track cells or to monitor interactions within cells. The particles, described Monday (Nov. 2) in an open-access paper in Nature Communications, are an enhanced version of a naturally occurring, weakly magnetic protein called ferritin.

“We used the tools of protein engineering to try to boost the magnetic… read more

Semantic Scholar uses AI to transform scientific search

November 3, 2015

Semantic Search

The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) launched Monday (Nov. 2) its free Semantic Scholar service, intended to allow scientific researchers to quickly cull through the millions of scientific papers published each year to find those most relevant to their work.

Semantic Scholar leverages AI2’s expertise in data mining, natural-language processing, and computer vision, according to according to Oren Etzioni, PhD, CEO at… read more

First complete pictures of cells’ DNA-copying machinery

Electron microscope images reveal that structure of DNA-copying protein complex differs from long-held textbook view
November 3, 2015

These cartoons show the old "textbook" view of the replisome, left, and the new view, right, revealed by electron micrograph images in the current study. Prior to this study, scientists believed the two polymerases (green) were located at the bottom (or back end) of the helicase (tan), adding complementary DNA strands to the split DNA to produce copies side by side. The new images reveal that one polymerase is located at the front end of the helicase. The scientists are conducting additional studies to explore the biological significance of this unexpected location. (credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory)

The first-ever electron microscope images of the protein complex that unwinds, splits, and copies double-stranded DNA reveal something rather different from the standard textbook view.

The images, created by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory with partners from Stony Brook University and Rockefeller University, offer new insight into how this molecular machinery functions, including new possibilities about its role… read more

Just one junk-food snack triggers signals of metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes
November 3, 2015

(credit: iStock)

Just one high-calorie milkshake was enough to make metabolic syndrome worse for some people. And overindulgence in just a single meal or snack (especially junk food) is enough to trigger the beginnings of metabolic syndrome, which is associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes (obesity around the waist and trunk is the main sign).

That finding… read more

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