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A thermal invisibility cloak that actively redirects heat

Uses may include electronic systems cooling, high-power engines, MRI instruments, thermal sensors, and clothing
September 21, 2015

Active thermal cloak hides a circular object in conductive heat flow by “pumping” heat from hot end to cold end. (credit: Xu & Zhang/NTU)

A new thermal cloak that can render an object thermally invisible by actively redirecting incident heat has been developed by scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. It’s similar to how optical invisibility cloaks can bend and diffract light to shield an object from sight and specially fabricated acoustic metamaterials can hide an object from sound waves.

The system has the potential to fine-tune temperature… read more

A thermodynamic limit on brain size

May 26, 2009

The thermodynamics of heat balance does not restrict brain size, which could be heavier than 5 kg, leaving plenty of growing room for humans, which have brains of only 1.5 kilograms on average, calculates Jan Karbowski at the Sloan-Swartz Center for Theoretical Neurobiology at the California Institute of Technology.

A Thin Line Between Film and Joystick

February 23, 2003

Enter the Matrix, the first commercial video game based on the world and characters of The Matrix, represents the closest collaboration so far between moviemaking and game production.

“There are scenes that start in the video game and will complete the movie,” Joel Silver, the films’ producer, noting that the game was conceived to “feel like it’s a part and experience of the movie.” Some of the plot lines… read more

A thumbnail track pad

Unobtrusive wearable sensor could operate digital devices or augment other device interfaces
April 17, 2015


Researchers at the MIT Media Laboratory are developing a new wearable device that turns the user’s thumbnail into a miniature wireless track pad (for controlling the position of a cursor on a screen, for example).

They envision that the technology could let users control wireless devices when their hands are full — answering the phone while cooking, for instance.

It could also augment other interfaces, allowing someone texting… read more

A Time-Lapse Movie Shot Inside the Brain

January 26, 2011

A new type of micro-endoscope developed by Stanford University researchers lets scientists watch nerve cells and blood vessels deep inside the brain of a living animal over days, weeks, or even months.

Dubbed the optical needle, it is 500 to 1,000 microns in diameter.

A tiny computer attracts a million tinkerers

January 31, 2013

The Raspberry Pi Model B is a credit–card sized computer board that plugs into a TV. It’s a miniature ARM–based PC that can perform many of the functions of a large desktop PC such as spreadsheets, word–processers and games. It also plays High–Definition videos. (Credit: Raspberry Pi)

Almost one million $35 Raspberry Pi computers have shipped since last February, capturing the imaginations of educators, hobbyists and tinkerers around the world, The New York Times reports.

The Raspberry Pi — about 3 inches by 2 inches and less than an inch high — was intended to replace the expensive computers in school science labs. For less than the price of a new keyboard, a… read more

A tiny ultrasound-powered chip to serve as medical device

October 20, 2014

Stanford engineers can already power this prototype medical implant chip without wires by using ultrasound. Now they want to make it much smaller. (Credit: Arbabian Lab / Stanford School of Engineering)

Stanford engineers are developing a way to send power — safely and wirelessly — to “smart chips” in the body that are programmed to perform medical tasks and report back the results.

The idea is to get rid of wires and batteries, which would make the implant too big or clumsy.

Their approach involves beaming ultrasound at a tiny device inside the body designed to do three things:… read more

A Tissue Engineer Sows Cells and Grows Organs

July 11, 2006

Tissue-engineering researchers are working on tissue replacement projects for practically every body part — blood vessels and nerves, muscles, cartilage and bones, esophagus and trachea, pancreas, kidneys, liver, heart and even uterus.

A more immediate goal is to improve upon a multitude of smaller therapies: transplantable valves for ailing hearts, cell-and-gel preparations for crushed nerves, injections of skeletal muscle cells for urinary continence or new salivary gland tissue to… read more

A tool to make the Internet of Things safer

June 4, 2014

Is your car hackable? Cadillac XTS instrument panel (Credit: General Motors)

Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego have developed a tool that allows hardware designers and system builders to test security — a first for the field.

One of the tool’s potential uses is described in the May–June issue of IEEE Micro magazine.

“The stakes in hardware security are high,” said Ryan Kastner, a professor of computer science at the… read more

A Tool to Verify Digital Records, Even as Technology Shifts

January 27, 2009

University of Washington scientists have developed the initial component of a public system for digitally preserving and authenticating first-hand accounts of war crimes, atrocities and genocide.

The solution is a publicly available digital fingerprint, known as a cryptographic hash mark, that will make it possible for anyone to determine that the documents are authentic and have not been tampered with.

At the heart of the system is an… read more

A touch-sensitive conductive plastic skin that heals itself

November 12, 2012


The first synthetic material that is both sensitive to touch and capable of healing itself quickly and repeatedly if torn or cut at room temperature has been developed by a team of Stanford University chemists and engineers headed by Professor Zhenan Bao.

The advance could lead to smarter prosthetics, resilient personal electronics that repair themselves, and more sensitive soft robotics (such as the “Frankenoctopus“).

Not only is… read more

A touchscreen you can really feel

November 17, 2011

Tactile surface with relief effects

A new user interface with tactile surfaces — users can feel actual raised keys under their fingertips — has been developed by researchers at the Integrated Actuators Laboratory (LAI) of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

The technology could be used to enrich online texts, drawing the reader’s attention to certain elements on the page, or to make video games even more entertaining, by… read more

A transistor material intended to replace silicon by 2024

July 7, 2014

Hybrid CNT/IGZO circuits fabricated on a polyimide film laminated on a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrate (credit: USC Viterbi / Chongwu Zhou)

USC Viterbi School of Engineering researchers have developed a flexible, transparent, energy-efficient, lower-cost hybrid design that could replace silicon as the traditional transistor material used in electronic chips.

The new design, described in a paper recently published in Nature Communications, combines carbon nanotube thin-film transistors with thin-film transistors comprised of indium, gallium and zinc oxide (IGZO).

Electrical engineering professor Dr. Chongwu Zhou and USC… read more

A Translator Tool With a Human Touch

November 23, 2009

IBM’s n.Fluent project is using crowdsourcing by IBM’s 400,000-member work force spread across more than 170 countries to create machine translation between languages with the speed and accuracy used in instant-messaging between speakers of two different languages.

A Turing machine built using LEGO Mindstorms

June 21, 2012


To honor Alan Turing, the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) built a simple LEGO Turing Machine — part of the Turing’s Erfenis exhibition at CWI — to show how simple a computer actually is, making every operation as visible as possible and using just a single LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT set.

“A Turing machine is a device that manipulates symbols on a strip of tape according to a… read more

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