science + technology news

The real Limitless drug

April 8, 2013

Modafinil (Provigil in the United States) was first approved by the FDA in 1998 for the treatment of narcolepsy, but since has become better known as a nootropic, a “smart drug,” especially among entrepreneurs, says New York magazine.

Rumored to be the model for the fictional pills in the movie Limitless, no scientist has conducted a study of its long-term effects on healthy brains yet. At the very… read more

3D graphene could replace expensive platinum in solar cells

August 22, 2013

A field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) image of 3D honeycomb-structured graphene. The novel material can replace platinum in dye-sensitized solar cells with virtually no loss of generating capacity. Hui Wang image

Michigan Technological University, scientists have replaced expensive ($1,500 an ounce) platinum in solar cells with low-cost 3D graphene.

Regular graphene is a two-dimensional form of carbon. Yun Hang Hu, the Charles and Caroll McArthur Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MTU, and his team invented a way to synthesize a 3D version, with a honeycomb-like structure.

The 3D graphene had excellent conductivity and high… 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

Navy’s Star Wars-style laser weapon to be tested in Persian Gulf this summer

A "revolutionary capability" -- Chief of Naval Research
April 10, 2014

navy-laws

The U.S. Navy plans to install a prototype of the first laser weapon on USS Ponce for at-sea testing in the Persian Gulf late this summer.

The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) is a “revolutionary capability,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder. “It’s absolutely critical that we get this out to sea with our Sailors for these trials, because this very affordable technology is going to change… read more

AR goggles restore depth perception to people blind in one eye

January 21, 2013

Wrap 920AR (credit:

People who’ve lost sight in one eye can still see with the other, but they lack binocular depth perception.

A pair of augmented reality glasses being built at the University of Yamanashi in Japan artificially introduces a feeling of depth in a person’s healthy eye, MIT Technology Review reports.

The researchers created software that makes use of the twin cameras in a Vuzix Wrap… 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

AI system performs better than 75 percent of American adults on standard visual intelligence test

Could shrink the gap between computer and human cognition
January 20, 2017

Raven's Progressive Matrices ft

A Northwestern University team has developed a new visual problem-solving computational model that performs in the 75th percentile for American adults on a standard intelligence test.

The research is an important step toward making artificial-intelligence systems that see and understand the world as humans do, says Northwestern Engineering’s Ken Forbus, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Northwestern’s McCormick School of… read more

GOP lawmaker seeks ‘virtual Congress’ with telecommuting plan

March 25, 2013

US_capitol_building

Under a resolution Pearce introduced on Thursday, Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) wants to create a “virtual Congress,” where lawmakers would leverage videoconferencing and other remote work technology to to hold hearings, debate and vote on legislation virtually from their home district offices, The Hill reports.

Pearce says the resolution would eradicate the need for members to jet back and forth from their districts to Washington each weekend. This… 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

Breaking the million-core supercomputer barrier

January 30, 2013

A floor view of the newly installed Sequoia supercomputer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories)

Stanford Engineering‘s Center for Turbulence Research (CTR) has set a new record in computational science by successfully using a supercomputer with more than 1.5 million computing cores to solve a complex fluid dynamics problem: the prediction of noise generated by a supersonic jet engine.

Joseph Nichols, a research associate in the center, worked on the newly installed Sequoia IBM Bluegene/Q system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL)… read more

Bionic leaf 2.0

Uses solar energy to split water molecules + hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels
June 14, 2016

credit: Jessica Polka

Harvard scientists have created a system that uses solar energy plus hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels with 10 percent efficiency, compared to the 1 percent seen in the fastest-growing plants.

The system, co-created by Daniel Nocera, the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, and Pamela Silver, the Elliott T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School,… 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

It might be possible to restore lost memories

Memories not stored in synapses, neurobiologist finds
December 22, 2014

Synapse (credit: Curtis Neveu/Wikimedia Commons)

New UCLA research indicates that lost memories can be restored, offering hope for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

For decades, most neuroscientists have believed that memories are stored at the synapses — the connections between brain cells, or neurons — which are destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease. The new study provides evidence contradicting the idea that long-term memory is stored at synapses.

“Long-term memory is not… read more

Events in the future seem closer than those in the past

We tend to feel closer to the future because we feel like we’re moving toward it
March 15, 2013

Screen capture of a virtual environment for testing time perception (credit: Caruso E M et al./Psychological Science)

We say that time flies, it marches on, it flows like a river — our descriptions of time are closely linked to our experiences of moving through space.

Now, new research suggests that the illusions that influence how we perceive movement through space also influence our perception of time. The findings provide evidence that our experiences of space and time have even more in common than previously… read more

How to use mind-controlled robots in manufacturing, medicine

December 6, 2013

robot control via bci

University at Buffalo researchers are developing brain-computer interface (BCI) devices to mentally control robots.

“The technology has practical applications that we’re only beginning to explore,” said Thenkurussi “Kesh” Kesavadas, PhD, UB professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of UB’s Virtual Reality Laboratory. “For example, it could help paraplegic patients to control assistive devices, or it could help factory workers perform advanced… read more

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