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Universe’s first life might have been born on diamond planets

June 7, 2016

In this artist's conception, a carbon planet orbits a sunlike star in the early universe. Young planetary systems lacking heavy chemical elements but relatively rich in carbon could form worlds made of graphite, carbides and diamond rather than Earth-like silicate rocks. Blue patches show where water has pooled on the planet's surface, forming potential habitats for alien life. (credit: Christine Pulliam (CfA). Sun image: NASA/SDO)

New findings by scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) suggest that planet formation in the early universe might have created carbon planets consisting of graphite, carbides, and diamond and that astronomers might find these diamond worlds by searching a rare class of stars.

“This work shows that even stars with a tiny fraction of the carbon in our solar system can host planets,” says lead… read more

Fast time and the aging mind

July 21, 2013

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The apparent velocity of time is a big fat cognitive illusion and ,,, there may be a way to slow the velocity of our later lives, Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psycho-pharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, writes in The New York Times. …

If you want time to slow down, become a student again.… read more

How telecom convergence may widen the digital divide

May 18, 2012

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Technology is helping communication companies merge telephone, television and Internet services, but a push to deregulate may leave some customers on the wrong side of the digital divide during this convergence, according to a Penn State telecommunications researcher.

“Moving away from copper lines is an example of abandoning obsolete technology and embracing technology that is faster, better, cheaper and more convenient,” said Rob Frieden, Pioneers Chair in… read more

Can anyone catch Khan Academy? The fate of the U in the YouTube era

July 23, 2012

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Traditional American universities are suddenly running scared of YouTube, Xconomy reports, along with Vimeo, 5min, iTunes U, TED and the Internet Archive.

Without YouTube, Sal Khan and Khan Academy could never have reached his 4 million unique viewers a month with their 3,200 videos, viewed 170 million times.

Internet video sharing technology means that talented people from outside the education establishment can make and publish free educational videos that are… read more

Do you trust robots?

What's missing is human-factors studies, say MIT Professor Emeritus Thomas B. Sheridan
April 26, 2016

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Trust in robots is a critical component in safety that requires study, says MIT Professor Emeritus Thomas B. Sheridan in an open-access study published in Human Factors journal.

For decades, he has studied humans and automation and in each case, he noted significant human factors challenges — particularly concerning safety. He looked at self-driving cars and highly automated transit systems; routine tasks such as the delivery of packages… read more

Transistors without semiconductors

Breakthrough transistor design uses quantum tunneling at room temperature, solving the heat problem with existing FET transistor designs
June 29, 2013

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Michigan Technological University scientists led by professor of physics Yoke Khin Yap have created a quantum tunneling device that acts like like an FET transistor and works at room temperature — without using semiconducting materials.

The trick was to use boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) with quantum dots made from gold.

When sufficient voltage is applied to the device, it switches from insulator to a conducting… read more

Mystery material stuns scientists

It's a UV light, semiconductor, sensor, superconductor, ferromagnet, optoelectronic device. Just add water.
December 18, 2015

How does water on the surface of this material control UV light emission and conductivity? (credit: Mohammad A. Islam et al./Nano Letters)

In a remarkable chance landmark discovery, a team of researchers at four universities has discovered a mysterious material that emits ultraviolet light and has insulating, electrical conducting, semiconducting, superconducting, and ferromagnetic properties — all controlled by surface water.

It happened while the researchers were studying a sample of lanthanum aluminate film on a strontinum titanate crystal. The sample mysteriously began to glow, emitting intense levels of ultraviolet light from… read more

How to print 3D microstructures in seconds

September 14, 2012

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Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a novel technology that can fabricate, in mere seconds, microscale three dimensional (3D) structures out of soft, biocompatible hydrogels.

Near term, the technology could lead to better systems for growing and studying cells, including stem cells, in the laboratory. Long-term, the goal is to be able to print biological tissues for regenerative medicine.

For… read more

Can cloud computing boost GDP?

November 15, 2012

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Gross domestic product (GDP) can be boosted by cloud computing, the system in which remote computers on the Internet are used to store, manage and process data rather than the users’ local machines, according to a report to be published in the International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management. 

The report suggests that governments should collaborate to boost the adoptionread more

Woman with quadriplegia feeds herself chocolate using mind-controlled robot arm

December 21, 2012

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Reaching out to “high five” someone, grasping and moving objects of different shapes and sizes, feeding herself dark chocolate.

For Jan Scheuermann and a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC, accomplishing these seemingly ordinary tasks demonstrated for the first time that a person with longstanding quadriplegia can maneuver a mind-controlled, human-like robot arm in seven dimensions (7D) to consistently… read more

A hydrogel that destroys superbugs and drug-resistant biofilms

Novel antimicrobial hydrogel prevents antibiotic-resistant microbes from forming on wounds, medical devices and implants
January 28, 2013

Biofilm after treatment (credit: IBN)

The first-ever antimicrobial hydrogel that can break apart biofilms and destroy multidrug-resistant superbugs upon contact has been developed by researchers from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) and IBM Research.

Tests have demonstrated the effectiveness of this novel synthetic material in eliminating various types of bacteria and fungi that are leading causes of microbial infections, and preventing them from developing antibiotic resistance.

This… read more

A genetically engineered weight-loss implant

Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner --- they're working on it
November 28, 2013

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ETH-Zurich biotechnologists have constructed an implantable genetic regulatory circuit that monitors blood-fat levels. In response to excessive levels, it produces a messenger substance that signals satiety (fullness) to the body. Tests on obese mice revealed that this helps them lose weight.

According to the WHO, over half the population in many industrialized nations is overweight, one in three people extremely so, with high-calorie and fatty food a lifetime on… read more

An ingredient in olive oil that appears to kill cancer cells

February 20, 2015

(credit: iStock)

A Rutgers nutritional scientist and two cancer biologists at New York City’s Hunter College have found that an ingredient in extra-virgin olive oil kills a variety of human cancer cells without harming healthy cells.

The ingredient is oleocanthal, a compound that ruptures a part of the cancerous cell, releasing enzymes that cause cell death.

Paul Breslin, professor of nutritional sciences in the … read more

We may all be Martians, says geochemist

It's likely that life came to Earth on a Martian meteorite; conditions suitable for the origin of life may still exist on Mars
August 30, 2013

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New evidence has emerged that supports the long-debated theory that life on Earth may have started on Mars.

Speaking at the at the annual Goldschmidt conference on Thursday, Professor Steven Benner from The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology told geochemists that an oxidized mineral form of the element molybdenum, which may have been crucial to the origin of life, could only have been available… read more

Beyond LEDs: brighter, new energy-saving flat-panel lights based on carbon nanotubes

October 20, 2014

This image shows a planar light source device from the front. (Credit: N.Shimoi/Tohoku University)

Scientists from Tohoku University in Japan have developed a new type of energy-efficient flat light source, based on carbon nanotubes, with very low power consumption of around 0.1 Watt-hours of operation — about a hundred times lower than that of an LED.

In the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, the researchers detail the fabrication and optimization of the device, which is based on a phosphor screen and single-walled carbon nanotubes… read more

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