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White dwarf star throws light on constant of Nature

July 5, 2013


University of New South Wales (UNSW) physicists are studying a distant star where gravity is more than 30,000 times greater than on Earth to test their controversial theory that α (alpha) — also known as the fine-structure constant — is not a constant.

“If alpha [the fine-structure constant] were bigger than it really is, we should not be able to distinguish matter… read more

A nanotech fix for nicotine dependence

July 5, 2013


Yung Chang and her colleagues at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute have launched an ambitious new project designed to attack nicotine dependence in a radically new way.

The research effort, pursued under a new $3.3 million grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, will attempt to design a vaccine conferring immunity to nicotine, using nanoscale structures assembled from DNA.… read more

Antifreeze, cheap materials may lead to low-cost solar energy

July 5, 2013


Engineers at Oregon State University have determined that ethylene glycol, commonly used in antifreeze products, may be the key to making solar cells that cost less and avoid toxic compounds.

Ethylene glycol functions well in a “continuous flow” reactor — an approach to making thin-film solar cells that is easily scaled up for mass production at industrial levels, they note.

The research, published in Materialread more

Exercise reorganizes the brain to reduce stress and anxiety

July 5, 2013


Physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function, according to a Princeton University research team.

The researchers report in the Journal of Neuroscience that when mice allowed to exercise regularly experienced a stressor — exposure to cold water — their brains exhibited a spike in the activity of neurons… read more

Graphene can reduce chip temperature by 25 percent

July 5, 2013


An international group of researchers, headed by Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, has shown that a graphene layer can reduce the working temperature in hotspots inside a processor by up to 25 percent — which can significantly extend the working life of computers and other electronics.

“This discovery opens the door to increased functionality and continues to push the boundaries when it comes to… read more

New catalyst could cut cost of making hydrogen fuel

July 4, 2013


A discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison may represent a significant advance in the quest to create a “hydrogen economy” that would use this abundant element to store and transfer energy.

Theoretically, hydrogen is the ultimate non-carbon, non-polluting fuel for storing intermittent energy from the wind or sun. When burned for energy, hydrogen produces water but no carbon dioxide. But practically speaking, producing hydrogen from… read more

Growing a rudimentary liver from stem cells

A mixture of three cell types self-assembles into a liver bud that can be seen with the naked eye
July 4, 2013


In work that will raise hope that organs could be repaired or even grown from scratch using a patient’s own tissue as the raw material, Japanese researchers have created functioning liver tissue from stem cells and successfully transplanted them into mice, MIT Technology Review reports.

The researchers found that a mixture of human liver precursor cells and two other cell types can spontaneously form three-dimensional structures dubbed… read more

The new word in electronics is ‘plastics’

July 4, 2013


Imperial College London scientists say improving “crystallization,” an industrial process for making plastics, could revolutionize the way we produce electronic products,  reducing the cost and improving the design of solar cells and other electronic devices.

The process of making many well-known products from plastics involves controlling the way that microscopic crystals are formed within the material.

That allows engineers to determine the exact properties they want,… read more

Douglas C. Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse, dies at 88

July 3, 2013

Douglas C. Engelbart with an early prototype of the computer mouse in 1968 (credit: SRI International)

Douglas C. Engelbart, a visionary scientist whose singular epiphany in 1950 about technology’s potential to expand human intelligence led to a host of inventions — among them the computer mouse — that became the basis for both the Internet and the modern personal computer, died on Tuesday at his home in Atherton, Calif., The New York Times reports. He was 88….

In a single stroke he had what… read more

Wi-Fi signal used to track moving humans — even behind walls

July 3, 2013

(credit: Christine Daniloff/MIT

‘Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.are developing a system called “Wi-Vi” that transmits a low-power Wi-Fi signal and uses its reflections to track moving humans — even if they are in closed rooms or hiding behind a wall.

How it works

The researchers borrowed a technique called inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR), which has been… read more

Revolutionary adaptive optics delivers sharper universe to astronomers

July 3, 2013

NGC 4038

A unique new instrument at Gemini South in Chile takes the removal of atmospheric distortions (using new adaptive-optics technology) to a new level. The release of seven ultrasharp, large-field images from the instrument’s first science observations demonstrate its remarkable discovery potential.

Astronomers recently got their hands on Gemini Observatory’s revolutionary new adaptive optics system, called GeMS (Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive optics System), “and the data are… read more

Intel’s Justin Rattner on a new laser chip

July 3, 2013


Intel Labs’ “silicon photonics” venture is developing a 100-gigabit-per-second transceiver [a device that sends data between computers along an optical fiber], says former Intel CTO Justin Rattner in an interview with MIT Technology Review.

It is targeted to the data center — [meaning] more bandwidth at much lower cost, and what looks like a big win on the energy-efficiency side.

Regarding Moore’s law, “we… read more

High-speed customization of novel nanoparticles for drug delivery and electronics

July 3, 2013


A new coating technology developed at MIT, combined with a novel nanoparticle-manufacturing technology developed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, may offer scientists a way to quickly mass-produce tailored nanoparticles that are specially coated for specific applications, including medicines and electronics.

Using this new combination of the two existing technologies, scientists can produce very small, uniform particles with customized layers of material… read more

Seven software teams ace DARPA’s Virtual Robotics Challenge

July 2, 2013


The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) was created to spur development of advanced robots that can assist humans in mitigating and recovering from future natural and man-made disasters.

Twenty-six teams from eight countries qualified to compete June 17–21 in the first DRC event, the Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC).

This was a software competition carried out in a virtual environment that looked like… read more

Robot ape to colonize the Moon?

July 2, 2013


The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the University of Bremen are working on an ape-like robot called the iStruct Demonstrator that they classify as a “Space Robot.”

Lately the mechanical monkey has been practicing how to walk and balance in the center’s mock lunar landscape, Gizmag reports.

An ape-like body has certain benefits over a wheeled robot: its four-legged stance is… read more

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