science + technology news

Acoustically driven controls go beyond a smartphone’s touch screen

April 21, 2015

Acoustruments doll-ft

Overcoming the limits of touch screens, Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research researchers have developed an inexpensive alternative: a hardware toolbox of physical knobs, sliders, and other mechanisms that can be readily added to any device.

The researchers drew inspiration from wind instruments in devising these mechanisms, which they call “Acoustruments.” The idea is to use simple 3-D-printable plug-in plastic tubes and other structures to connect the… read more

How to communicate human emotions to a hand through air

Another "computers can't...." myth bites the dust
April 21, 2015

University of Sussex researchers used a system called UltraHaptics to stimulate areas of the hand to evoke different emotions. A soft structure was used to keep the hand position steady. (credit: SCHI Lab, University of Sussex)

A University of Sussex-led study has shown that human emotions can be transferred to another person by stimulating different parts of the hand with short blasts of air to convey feelings such as happiness, sadness, excitement, or fear.

The “UltraHaptics” system sends air pulses to the area around the thumb, index finger and middle part of the palm to generate excitement; slow, moderate stimulation of the outer palm and… read more

Disney Research 3-D printer can combine fabrics, wiring

April 20, 2015

layered fabric 3D printed objects-ft

A team from Disney Research, Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University have devised a 3-D printer that layers together laser-cut sheets of fabric to form soft, squeezable objects such as phone cases and toys. These objects can have complex geometries and incorporate circuitry that makes them interactive.

“Today’s 3-D printers can easily create custom metal, plastic, and rubber objects,” said Jim McCann, associate… read more

Nano ‘sandwich’ improves rechargeable lithium batteries

April 20, 2015

Molybdenum disulfide sheets-ft

The key to better cellphones and other rechargeable electronics may be tiny “sandwiches” made of nanosheets of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), according to Kansas State University assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering Gurpreet Singh and his research team.

The research is focused on improving rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The team has focused on lithium cycling of sheets, which Singh describes as a “sandwich” of… read more

Ultra-high-res nondestructive 3-D imaging of biological cells with picosecond ultrasound

April 20, 2015

conventional vs picosecnd-ultrasonic

A team of researchers in Japan and Thailand reports the first known nondestructive 3-D scan of a single biological cell using a revised form of “picosecond* ultrasound.”

This new technique can achieve micrometer (millionth of a meter) resolution of live single cells, imaging their interiors in slices separated by 150 nanometers (.15 micrometer), in contrast to the typical 0.5-millimeter (500 micrometers) spatial resolution of a standard medical MRI scan.… read more

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

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