science + technology news

Activating neurons with quantum dots

February 9, 2012


By harnessing quantum dots (tiny light-emitting semiconductor particles a few nanometers across), researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have developed a new, more targeted way to stimulate neurons in the brain.

Being able to switch neurons on and off and monitor how they communicate with one another is crucial for understanding and, ultimately, treating a host of brain disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and… read more

‘Active clothing’ for soft robots

Now anything can be a soft robot with sensory skin
September 26, 2014

Sensor threads composed of eGaIn-filled hyperelastic silicone tubing, attached to fabric via couching and wrapped around a foam block (Michelle Yuen et al.)

Purdue University researchers are developing a robotic fabric that moves and contracts and is embedded with sensors, an approach that could bring “active clothing” and a new class of soft robots.

Such an elastic technology could make possible robots that have sensory skin, stretchable robotic garments that people might wear for added strength and endurance, “g-suits” for pilots or astronauts to counteract the effects of acceleration, and… read more

Active invisibility cloaks could work at many wavelengths

August 19, 2009

Active cloaking devices can use destructive interference, similar to noise-cancelling headphones, to render invisible areas up to 10 times larger than the wavelength of light being disguised and over large regions of space, University of Utah researchers have found.

The researchers predict that engineers will be able to use their method to create active invisibility cloaks that could shield submarines from sonar, planes from radar, and buildings from earthquakes.

‘Active’ surfaces that control fluids or particles

Self-cleaning solar cells in the desert is one application
August 5, 2014

Photo shows a water droplet sitting on a ferrofluid-impregnated surface, which has cloaked the droplet with a very thin layer.

Imagine a treated surface that that can actively control how fluids or particles move across it.

That’s what researchers at MIT and in Saudi Arabia have developed, using a simple microtextured surface, with bumps or ridges just a few micrometers across.

They impregnated the surface with a fluid that can be manipulated — for example, an oil infused with tiny magnetic particles, or ferrofluid, which can… read more

Activity discovered at Yellowstone supervolcano

March 16, 2007

One of the largest supervolcanoes in the world lies beneath Yellowstone National Park, and activity has been increasing lately.

Acute stress leaves epigenetic marks on the hippocampus

November 25, 2009

A single 30-minute episode of acute stress causes histone methylation (modification of certain amino acids), in the rat hippocampus, causing changes in expression of genes (turning them on or off) that are packaged by the histones, Rockefeller University researchers have found.

The discovery of such epigenetic regulation of genes in the brain is helping change the way scientists think about psychiatric disorders and could open new avenues to treatment.

Adafruit to teach electronics through puppets in new kids’ show

December 28, 2012



Adafruit, the kit-based electronics retailer and promoter of hobbyist engineering, is aiming to teach electronics to a younger demographic, using puppets, says Wired.

Their new online show, titled Circuit Playground, will teach the essentials of electronics and circuitry to children through kid-friendly dolls.

As a learning companion, Adafruit has also recently produced the coloring book E is for Electronics, and will carry … read more

Adaptable Polymer Inspired by Sea Cucumbers

March 7, 2008

Case Western University used a nanocomposite material inspired by sea cucumbers to make a biopolymer that switches rapidly between rigid and flexible states.

The new material could be used to design implantable electrodes that don’t cause the scarring that stiff and brittle metal electrodes cause, decreasing the electrode’s recording ability.

Adapting telescope mirror technology to capture solar energy

July 6, 2012


University of Arizona (UA) researchers are continuing to improve groundbreaking technology to produce solar electricity at a price competitive with non-renewable energy sources.

A prototype of the “tracker” at the university has a house-sized frame of crisscrossing steel tubes, mounted onto a swiveling post in the concrete bottom of an empty swimming pool.

The tracker  supports two curved, highly reflective glass mirrors, each measuring 10 feet… read more

Adapting Websites to Users

June 9, 2008

Researchers at MIT’s Sloan School of Management hope to make websites better at selling products by making them adapt automatically to each visitor, presenting information in a way that complements the user’s cognitive style, as indicated by click patterns.

‘Adaptive Brain Interface Technology’ Turns Thoughts Into Actions on Screen

March 15, 2001

Scientists from the Joint Research Center of the European Commission in Ispra, Italy have developed “adaptive brain interface technology” that allows people to control devices with their thoughts without requiring implanted electrodes.

The system uses a conductive gel cap, electroencephalograph, and Windows software to convert thoughts into a vector with 72 components. It maps brain patterns onto tasks such as choosing letters or controlling a wheelchair or computer game,… read more

Added drug allows rapamycin to slow aging without risking diabetes

May 23, 2014

This graphic outlines how rapamycin can mimic the effects of dietary restriction (credit: Oregon State University)

New research at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University suggests a fix for serious side effects of rapamycin*, a drug that appears to mimic the ability of dietary restriction to slow the aging process.

Laboratory mice that have received rapamycin have reduced the age-dependent decline in spontaneous activity, demonstrated more fitness, improved cognition and cardiovascular health, had less cancer, and lived substantially longer than… read more

Adding defects to superconducting wire creates unprecedented performance

August 19, 2013

BZO-doped films

The ability to control nanoscale imperfections in superconducting wires results in materials with unparalleled and customized performance, according to a new study from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Applications for superconducting wires, which carry electricity without resistance when cooled to a critical temperature, include underground transmission cables, transformers and large-scale motors and generators. But these applications require wires to operate under different temperature and… read more

Adding Human Intelligence to Software

October 18, 2010

Computer scientists at MIT have developed a toolkit that allows new software applications to combine and coordinate the efforts of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk workers. Called TurKit, the tool lets software engineers write algorithms to coordinate online workers using the Javascript programming language, and create powerful applications that have human intelligence built in.

Adding Speed to Silicon

July 24, 2007

AmberWave Systems has developed a new method for growing germanium and other semiconductors on silicon so they don’t crack.

It could lead to faster, smaller electronics. Additionally, combining the different types of semiconductors could lead to cheaper lasers and other photonic devices.

The dimensions of transistors are shrinking, and silicon, as it’s used today to make these transistors, will not be able to scale down and maintain the… read more

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