science + technology news

Whole-body vibration may be as effective as regular exercise

March 16, 2017

Hate treadmills? The Tranquility Pod uses “pleasant sound, gentle vibration, and soothing light to transport the body, mind, and spirit to a tranquil state of relaxation” --- and maybe lose weight (and $30,000). (credit: Hammacher Schlemmer)

If you’re overweight and find it challenging to exercise regularly, now there’s good news: A less strenuous form of exercise known as whole-body vibration (WBV) can mimic the muscle and bone health benefits of regular exercise — at least in mice — according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology.

Lack of exercise is contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemics, according to the researchers. These… read more

Transcranial alternating current stimulation used to boost working memory

March 16, 2017

The scans show that stimulation 'in beat' increases brain activity in the regions involved in task performance. On the other hand, stimulation 'out of beat' showed activity in regions usually associated with resting. (credit: Ines Violante)

In a study published Tuesday Mar. 14 in the open-access journal eLife, researchers at Imperial College London found that applying transcranial alternating current stimulation (TACS) through the scalp helped to synchronize brain waves in different areas of the brain, enabling subjects to perform better on tasks involving short-term working memory.

The hope is that the approach could one day be used to bypass… read more

First nanoengineered retinal implant could help the blind regain functional vision

Nanowires provide higher resolution than anything achieved by other devices --- closer to the dense spacing of photoreceptors in the human retina
March 16, 2017

nanowire device ft

A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego and La Jolla-based startup Nanovision Biosciences Inc. have developed the first nanoengineered retinal prosthesis — a step closer to restoring the ability of neurons in the retina to respond to light.

The technology could help tens of millions of people worldwide suffering from neurodegenerative diseases that affect eyesight, including macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, and loss of… read more

Reboot of The Matrix in the works

Yes, please.
March 14, 2017

MATRIX

Warner Bros. is in the early stages of developing a relaunch of The Matrix, The Hollywood Reporter revealed today (March 14, Pi day, appropriately).

The Matrix, the iconic 1999 sci-fi movie, “is considered one of the most original films in cinematic history,” says THR.

The film “depicts a dystopian future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called… read more

Resisting microcracks from metal fatigue

Novel laminated nanostructure gives steel bone-like resistance to fracturing under repeated stress
March 14, 2017

avoiding microcracks ft

A team of researchers at MIT and in Japan and Germany has found a way to greatly reduce the effects of metal fatigue by incorporating a laminated nanostructure into the steel. The layered structuring gives the steel a kind of bone-like resilience, allowing it to deform without allowing the spread of microcracks that can lead to fatigue failure.

Metal fatigue can lead to abrupt and sometimes catastrophic… read more

Future ‘lightwave’ computers could run 100,000 times faster

March 14, 2017

TeraHertz pulses in semiconductor crystal (credit: Fabian Langer, Regensburg University)

Using extremely short pulses of teraHertz (THz) radiation instead of electrical currents could lead to future computers that run ten to 100,000 times faster than today’s state-of-the-art electronics, according to an international team of researchers, writing in the journal Nature Photonics.

In a conventional computer, electrons moving through a semiconductor occasionally run into other electrons, releasing energy in the form of heat and slowing them down. With the proposed… read more

Engineers shrink atomic-force microscope to dime-sized device

March 10, 2017

A MEMS-based atomic force microscope developed by engineers at the University of Texas at Dallas that is about 1 square centimeter in size (top center), shown attached here to a small printed circuit board that contains circuitry, sensors and other miniaturized components that control the movement and other aspects of the device. (credit: University of Texas at Dallas)

University of Texas at Dallas researchers have created an atomic force microscope (AFM) on a chip, dramatically shrinking the size — and, hopefully, the price — of a microscope used to characterize material properties down to molecular dimensions.

“A standard atomic force microscope is a large, bulky instrument, with multiple control loops, electronics and amplifiers,” said Dr. Reza Moheimani, professor of mechanical engineering at UT Dallas.  “We have… read more

A biocompatible stretchable material for brain implants and ‘electronic skin’

March 10, 2017

stretchy polymer-ft

Stanford chemical engineers have developed a soft, flexible plastic electrode that stretches like rubber but carries electricity like wires — ideal for brain interfaces and other implantable electronics, they report in an open-access March 10 paper in Science Advances.

Developed by Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering, and his team, the material is still a laboratory prototype, but the team hopes to develop it… read more

Brain has more than 100 times higher computational capacity than previously thought, say UCLA scientists

Dendrites found to generate nearly 10 times more electrochemical spikes than neuron cell bodies
March 10, 2017

Neuron (blue) with dendrites (credit: Shelley Halpain/UC San Diego)

The brain has more than 100 times higher computational capacity than was previously thought, a UCLA team has discovered.

Obsoleting neuroscience textbooks, this finding suggests that our brains are both analog and digital computers and could lead to new approaches for treating neurological disorders and developing brain-like computers, according to the researchers.

Dendrites have been considered simple passive conduits of signals. But by working… read more

IBM-led international research team stores one bit of data on a single atom

Could lead to 1,000 times higher storage density in the future
March 9, 2017

Scanning tunneling microscope image of a single atom of holmium, an element that researchers used as a magnet to store one bit of data. (credit: IBM Research -- Almaden)

An international team led by IBM has created the world’s smallest magnet, using a single atom of rare-earth element holmium, and stored one bit of data on it over several hours.

The achievement represents the ultimate limit of the classical approach to high-density magnetic storage media, according to a paper published March 8 in the journal Nature.

Currently, hard disk drives use about 100,000 atoms to store a single… read more

How to control robots with your mind

Making robots useful collaborators at home and at work
March 7, 2017

The robot is informed that its initial motion was incorrect based upon real-time decoding of the observer’s EEG signals, and it corrects its selection accordingly to properly sort an object. (credit: Andres F. Salazar-Gomez et al./MIT, Boston University)

Two research teams are developing new ways to communicate with robots and shape them one day into the kind of productive workers featured in the current AMC TV show HUMANS (now in second season).

Programming robots to function in a real-world environment is normally a complex process. But now a team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Boston University is creating a system… read more

Should we use CRISPR to domesticate wild plants, creating ‘biologically inspired organisms’?

"We don't want to improve nature, we want to benefit from what nature has already created."
March 3, 2017

Future logo? (credit: KurzweilAI)

Here’s a radical new idea for creating new GMO (genetically modified organism) plants that may appeal to staunch organic-food consumers/farmers and even #NonGMOProjectVerified advocates: don’t insert a foreign gene in today’s domestic plants — delete already existing genes in semi-domesticated or even wild plants to make those plants more domestic, and reducing pesticide use in the process.

“All of the plants we eat today are… read more

Programmable shape-shifting molecular robots respond to DNA signals

Could function like living organisms in the near future, programmed by DNA computers
March 3, 2017

molecular robot ft

Japanese researchers have developed an amoeba-like shape-changing molecular robot — assembled from biomolecules such as DNA, proteins, and lipids — that could act as a programmable and controllable robot for treating live culturing cells or monitoring environmental pollution, for example.

This the first time a molecular robotic system can recognize signals and control its shape-changing function, and their molecular robots could in the near future function in a way similar… read more

Groundbreaking technology rewarms large-scale animal tissues preserved at low temperatures

A major step toward long-term preservation of organs and tissues for transplantation; could lead to saving millions of human lives
March 2, 2017

Inductive heating of magnetic nanoparticles warms tissue preserved at very low temperatures without damage (credit: Navid Manuchehrabadi et al./Science Translational Medicine)

A research team led by the University of Minnesota has discovered a way to rewarm large-scale animal heart valves and blood vessels preserved at very low (cryogenic) temperatures without damaging the tissue. The discovery could one day lead to saving millions of human lives by creating cryogenic tissue and organ banks of organs and tissues for transplantation.

The research was published March 1… read more

Tiny fibers open new windows into the brain

March 2, 2017

A multifunctional flexible fiber for brain research (credit: Seongjun Park et al./Nature Neuroscience)

Imagine a single flexible polymer fiber 200 micrometers across — about the width of a human hair — that can deliver a combination of optical, electrical, and chemical signals between different brain regions, with the softness and flexibility of brain tissue — allowing neuroscientists to leave implants in place and have them retain their functions over much longer periods than is currently possible with typical stiff, metallic fibers.

That’s what… read more

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