science + technology news

World’s lightest material is 100 times lighter than Styrofoam

November 18, 2011

Ultra light metal

The world’s lightest material — with a density of 0.9 mg/cc — about 100 times lighter than Styrofoam — has been developed by a team of researchers from UC Irvine, HRL Laboratories, and the California Institute of Technology.

The new material, using nickel-phosphorous thin films, redefines the limits of lightweight materials because of its unique “micro-lattice” cellular architecture. The researchers were able to make a material that… read more

Capturing black hole spin could further understanding of galaxy growth

August 1, 2013

black hole spin courtesy of nasa-jpl-caltech

Durham University Astronomers have found a new way of measuring the spin in supermassive black holes, which could lead to better understanding about how they drive the growth of galaxies.

The astronomers observed a black hole — with a mass 10 million times that of our Sun — at the center of a spiral galaxy 500 million light years from Earth while it was feeding on the… read more

Scientists use stem cells to grow new human hair in the lab

Next step: transplant stem-cell-derived human dermal papilla cells back into human subjects (any volunteers?)
January 28, 2015

Sanford-Burnham scientists grew human dermal papillae cells from stem cells. (credit: Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute)

A method for initiating human hair growth — using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells — has been developed by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) researchers.

Their idea is to coax human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells — a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle. (Human dermal papilla cells on their own are… read more

Spintronics advance brings wafer-scale quantum devices closer to reality

June 25, 2015

Light polarizes silicon nuclear spins within a silicon carbide chip. This image portrays the nuclear spin of one of the atoms shown in the full crystal lattice below. (credit: Courtesy of Peter Allen)

Researchers at the University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering have taken a crucial step toward nuclear spintronic technologies that use the “spin” — or magnetization — of atomic nuclei to store and process information. The new technologies could be used for ultra-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging, advanced gyroscopes, and quantum computers.

The researchers used infrared light to make nuclear spins line themselves up in a consistent,… read more

How exercise improves memory

The hippocampus in the brain switches to fat as an energy source after glucose is depleted from exercise), leading to release of BDNF, associated with cognitive improvement. Researchers have found out how.
June 24, 2016

Exercise induces synthesis of a chemical called DBHB in the liver. In the hippocampus, DBHB induces Bdnf expression, which in turn has positive effects on memory, cognition and synaptic transmission. (credit: Sama F. Sleiman et al./eLife)

Physical exercise after learning improves memory and memory traces if the exercise is done four hours later, and not immediately after learning, according to findings recently reported (open-access) in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

It’s not yet clear exactly how or why delayed exercise has this effect on memory. However, earlier studies of laboratory animals suggest that naturally occurring chemical compounds in the body known as catecholamines, including… read more

Virtual reality coming to Second Life

April 25, 2013

(Credit: Oculus)

Linden Lab intends to integrate the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset with Second Life, Wagner James Au reports on New World Notes.

“The Oculus could become Second Life’s killer app, but only if Linden Lab is willing to go all in,” said Au. “Sounds like they are doing just that, in an official capacity.

We’ll get to experience Second… read more

A laser that could find and zap tumors

Also penetrates the skull for brain tumors, researchers say
August 2, 2012

Femtosecond laser (credit: University of Tennessee Space Institute)

Researchers at the Center for Laser Applications at the University of Tennessee Space Institute have invented a system that uses lasers to find, map, and non-invasively destruct cancerous tumors.

The technology uses a femtosecond laser (creating pulses lasting one-quadrillionth of a second). The high speed enables the laser to quickly focus in on a specific region without overheating.

“Using ultra-short light pulses gives us the ability… read more

Tough super-stretchable gel is tougher than cartilage and heals itself

Biocompatible material created at Harvard stretches to 21 times its length, recoils, and heals itself
September 6, 2012


A team of experts in mechanics, materials science, and tissue engineering at Harvard have created an extremely stretchy and tough gel that may pave the way to replacing damaged cartilage in human joints or spinal disks.

Called a hydrogel, because its main ingredient is water, the new material is a hybrid of two weak gels that combine to create something much stronger.

This new gel can stretch… read more

LEGO Mindstorms EV3: the better, faster, stronger generation of robotic programming

January 7, 2013


Lego is back with another generation of MindStorms, the company’s consumer robotics line aimed at introducing application programming to a younger generation, TechCrunch reports.

The new kit includes directions for up to 17 different robots, most of which look like scary-style animals, such as snakes and scorpions.

Mindstorms EV3 marks the first time that users can program directly onto the… read more

Ostrich-inspired robot learns some fancy footwork

March 23, 2013

FastRunner (credit: IHMC)

Meet FastRunner, a bioinspired robot that thinks it’s an ostrich, being built at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. It’s expected to be the world’s fastest robotic biped, at 22 mph.

Impressive, but no Boston Dynamics Cheetah, at 28.3 mph (on a treadmill) — beating out Usain Bolt’s 27.79 mph.

But FastRunner may soon negotiate more complex environments — ones that Cheetah may fear to tread, thanks to… read more

Mass. General team develops implantable, bioengineered rat kidney

April 16, 2013


Bioengineered rat kidneys developed by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators successfully produced urine both in a laboratory apparatus and after being transplanted into living animals.

This is important, cutting-edge research by Mass General, which conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the U.S. On Monday, the hospital received 29 patients, eight in critical condition, victims of Monday’s twin explosions near the finish lineread more

Robot swarms aim to bring buildings to life

July 19, 2012


Compared to the living buildings proposed by Akira Mita, today’s smart buildings are the architectural equivalent of single-celled organisms, BBC Future reports.

Using swarms of robotic sensors that “chase” a structure’s human occupants, he wants buildings to understand everything about us, down to our emotional state.

These robot sensors will learn from their mistakes, self-regulate using digital “hormones”, and record information over the course of years, building up… read more

How to watch everything in 3D

August 3, 2012


Gene Dolgoff has developed a converter called 3-D Vision that he claims will instantly transform any 2-D video content — from TV to video games — into 3-D, using algorithms that present stereoscopic image pairs and give the illusion of depth, PandoDaily reports.

His crowdsourced Fundable 3-D Vision project (for design of the box) has reached more than half of its $10,000 goal in only four… read more

Meta’s AR headset lets you play with virtual objects in 3D space

February 4, 2013


A new augmented reality headset from Meta puts a full twin-display digital environment — controlled by two-hand 3D tracking — in front of the user, Slashgear reports.

The prototype headset uses Epson Moverio BT-100 see-through glasses with a low-latency 3D camera mounted on top.

Both components reportedly feed into custom electronics in a separate wearable computer, which can track individual fingertips and… read more

Human stem cells created by cloning

May 16, 2013


It was hailed some 15 years ago as the great hope for a biomedical revolution: production of patient-specific embryonic stem cells (ESCs) from cloning to create perfectly matched tissues that would someday cure ailments ranging from diabetes to Parkinson’s disease.

Since then, the approach has been enveloped in ethical debate. A paper published by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a reproductive biology specialist at the Oregon Health and Science University in Beaverton,… read more

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