science + technology news

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

Double-walled carbon nanotubes can be tuned for specific electronic properties

Could lead to nanotube transistors
April 17, 2015

nanotube with two zigzag components-ft

Using atomic-level models of double-walled carbon nanotubes, Rice University scientists have found that it may someday be possible to tune double-walled tubes for specific electronic properties by controlling their configuration, chiral angles, and distance between walls.

The open-access research reported in Nanotechnology was chosen as the journal’s “publisher’s pick” this month. The journal also published an interview with the study’s lead author, Rice graduate student Matías Soto.… read more

Alpha-rhythm brain stimulation shown to boost creativity

Sets stage to potentially treat depression
April 17, 2015


By applying weak 10-Hz transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) to the scalp to alter the brain’s alpha-wave oscillations, University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine researchers have increased creativity in healthy adults by an average of 7.4 percent.

Now they’re testing the same experimental protocol to alleviate symptoms in people with depression.

This research, published in the journal Cortex, showed that sending a current through electrodes attached to the… read more

NASA’s Mars Rover-like autonomous vehicle for Earth

April 17, 2015


NASA has released a video of their electric “extreme dexterity” Modular Robotic Vehicle (MRV) in operation at the Johnson Space Center, emulating NASA’s self-driving Rover.

The vehicle is designed to be driven autonomously, by a human, or teleoperated, according to a NASA document.

NASA | Modular Robotic Vehicle (MRV) created by NASA at the Johnson Space Center

Nissan teams up with NASA forread more

Are populations aging more slowly than we think?

60 is the new middle age
April 16, 2015

(credit: iStock)

Increases in life expectancy do not necessarily produce faster overall population aging, according to new open-access research published in the journal PLOS ONE.

This counterintuitive finding was the result of applying new measures of aging, developed at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) to future population projections for Europe up to the year 2050.

IIASA World Population Program Deputy Director Sergei Scherbov led… read more

Steering the epigenome to turn specific genes on

Could provide a new avenue for gene therapies and guiding stem cell differentiation
April 16, 2015

(credit: Human Epigenome Project)

Duke University researchers have developed a new method to precisely control when genes are turned on and active: by manipulating the epigenome — the web of proteins that supports and controls gene activity and a current hot topic in cancer research.

The researchers say having the ability to steer the epigenome will help them explore the roles that particular promoters and enhancers play in cell fate or the… read more

How to get the entire immune system to attack cancer

Stimulating both major branches of the immune system halts tumor growth more effectively
April 16, 2015

Two T lymphocyte cells (orange) attack a cancer cell (blue), using special receptors to zero in on the cancer. (credit: Science Source)

The human immune system is poised to spring into action at the first sign of a foreign invader, but it often fails to eliminate tumors that arise from the body’s own cells.

Orchestrating a successful immune attack against tumors has proven difficult so far, but a new study from MIT suggests that immune attack against tumors could be improved with cancer immunotherapy — simultaneously activating… read more

Electrically controlling quantum bits in silicon may lead to large quantum computers

April 15, 2015

This is an electron wave in a phosphorus atom, distorted by a local electric field. (credit: Dr. Arne Laucht)

A UNSW-led research team has encoded quantum information in silicon using simple electrical pulses for the first time, bringing the construction of affordable large-scale quantum computers one step closer to reality.

The idea is to exploit the advanced fabrication methods developed in semiconductor nanoelectronics and create quantum bits (qubits) that are both highly coherent and easy to control and couple to each other — a challenging task.… read more

Graphene photodetector speeds up light-to-electricity conversion

May result in faster data transmission and broadband photodetectors
April 15, 2015


Researchers at MIT, UC Riverside, and ICFO have demonstrated a graphene-based photodetector that converts absorbed light into an electrical voltage in an extremely short time*.

The finding opens up a new path to ultra-fast optoelectronic (light to electricity and vice versa) conversion, which is essential for faster data transmission, and to photodetectors that operate over a broad range of frequencies.

To demonstrate… read more

How to use patent-award data to forecast technological change

Fastest-developing technologies include optical and wireless communications, 3-D printing, and MRI technology
April 15, 2015

(credit:  Christopher L. Benson, Christopher L. Magee/PLoS ONE)

MIT engineers have devised a formula for estimating how fast a technology is advancing, based on information gleaned from relevant patents.

The researchers determined the improvement rates of 28 different technologies, including solar photovoltaics, 3D printing, fuel-cell technology, and genome sequencing.

They searched through the U.S. Patent Office database for patents associated with each domain — more than 500,000 total — by developing a novel method to quickly… read more

A video camera that powers itself

Could lead to a future self-powered digital watch with camera?
April 15, 2015

The complete self-powered camera system with sensor array powered by supercapacitor recharged using just energy harvested from pixels (credit: Columbia University)

A prototype self-powered video camera that can produce an image every second of a well-lit indoor scene has been invented by a research team led by Shree K. Nayar, T.C. Chang Professor of Computer Science at Columbia Engineering.

“We are in the middle of a digital imaging revolution,” says Nayar, who directs the Computer Vision Laboratory at Columbia Engineering. “A camera that can function as… read more

‘Spin-orbitronics’ could ‘revolutionize the electronics industry’ by manipulating magnetic domains

April 14, 2015

magnetic-domain switching ft.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have found a new way of manipulating the walls that define magnetic domains (uniform areas in magnetic materials) and the results could one day revolutionize the electronics industry, they say.

Gong Chen and Andreas Schmid, experts in electron microscopy with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, led the… read more

How to make objects invisible without metamaterial cloaking

April 14, 2015

This is the radio-frequency anechoic chamber used for the experiment (credit: ITMO University)

Physicists from ITMO University, Ioffe Institute and Australian National University have managed to make homogenous cylindrical objects completely invisible in the microwave range — without adding coating layers.

KurzweilAI has covered a wide variety of discoveries in metamaterals (“cloaking”); this method is based on a new understanding of electromagnetic wave scattering. The results of the open-access study were published… read more

Metamaterials that harvest energy almost perfectly from electromagnetic waves

Could help ease the world’s energy shortage in the future
April 14, 2015

The metasurface used for collecting electromagnetic energy. (credit: O.Ramahi/U.Waterloo)

Researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada have developed a novel design for electromagnetic energy harvesting, using metamaterials.

The metamaterials that can be designed so that they don’t reflect or re-transmit power  — enabling almost full absorption of incident waves at a specific range of frequencies and polarizations.

Metasurface-based antennas

KurzweilAI has reported a variety of schemes for harvesting electromagnetic… read more

Smartphone-based device could provide rapid, low-cost molecular tumor diagnosis

April 14, 2015


A smartphone-based device developed by Harvard Medical School investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital could bring rapid, accurate molecular diagnosis of cancer and other diseases to locations lacking the latest medical technology.

The device uses technology for making holograms to collect detailed microscopic images for digital analysis of the molecular composition of cells and tissues.

“The global burden of cancer, limited access to prompt pathology… read more

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