science + technology news

Cheaper, More Efficient Solar Cells

March 22, 2007

Much more efficient solar cells that make solar power about as cheap as electricity from the electric grid may soon be possible as a result of technology that more efficiently captures and uses light.

StarSolar, a startup based in Cambridge, MA, aims to capture and use photons that ordinarily pass through solar cells without generating electricity. The company, which is licensing technology developed at MIT, claims that its designs… read more

Wiki used to plan wind-turbine locations

March 22, 2007

A wiki is being used in the Netherlands to plan wind turbines. The wiki, extended with a Google Maps plugin, presents maps with proposed wind turbine locations. The goal is to decide on locations for 6000 3-MegaWatt turbines, enough to provide for all electricity in the Netherlands.

When a design has gained enough support, it can become a real wind energy project, and move on to official… read more

Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior

March 22, 2007

UPDATED 8/22/2010: Harvard confirms misconduct by morality researcher

The brain has a genetically shaped mechanism for acquiring moral rules, similar to the neural machinery for learning language, according to Harvard evolutionary biologist Marc Hauser.

Some animals are surprisingly sensitive to the plight of others. Chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by pulling a… read more

Futuristic NASA think tank to be shut down

March 21, 2007

NASA will likely shut down its Institute for Advanced Concepts, which funds research into futuristic ideas in spaceflight and aeronautics, such as spacecraft that could surf the solar system on magnetic fields, motion-sensitive spacesuits that could generate power, and tiny, spherical robots that could explore Mars.

The reason appears to be NASA’s tight budget.

Study details catastrophic impact of nuclear attack on US cities

March 21, 2007

A new study by researchers at the Center for Mass Destruction Defense (CMADD) at the University of Georgia details the catastrophic impact a nuclear attack would have on American cities and the inability of the nation’s current medical system to handle casualties.

It also suggests what the authors said are much needed yet relatively simple interventions that could save tens of thousands of lives.

Among the… read more

Watching atoms vibrate in real time

March 21, 2007
This slow-motion simulation of the JILA nanoscale motion detector shows the wiggling of a floppy metal beam, just 100 nanometers thick, as it is struck by an electric current at the dot. Red indicates the greatest change in position from the rest state.

A new nanoscale apparatus–a tiny gold beam whose 40 million vibrations per second are measured by hopping electrons–offers the potential for a 500-fold increase in the speed of scanning tunneling microscopes, perhaps paving the way for scientists to watch atoms vibrate in high definition in real time.

The new device measures the space between a metal beam and an electrically conducting point just a single atom wide,… read more

Map of relationships among scientific paradigms

March 21, 2007

A map of relationships among scientific paradigms has been constructed based on roughly 800,000 published papers sorted into 776 different scientific paradigms, based on how often the papers were cited together by authors of other papers.

Microdevice remotely guided in artery

March 20, 2007

Researchers at Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal have succeeded in guiding a microdevice inside an artery at 10 centimeters a second, in vivo and via computer control.

The device is a 1.5-millimeter-diameter ferromagnetic sphere, guided within the carotid artery of a living animal placed inside an MRI system.

Could lasers zap away dangerous asteroids?

March 20, 2007

Lasers may be able to detect asteroids from 10 times farther away than current radar observatories, and deflect them away from Earth, too.

Mathematicians finally map 248-dimension structure

March 20, 2007

A team of mathematicians has exhaustively explored an esoteric 248-dimension structure called E8. The results take up 60 gigabytes of data.

The unique structure of E8 might help in the quest for a unified theory of gravity and the other forces in nature.

Two dimensions in the E8 root system

CPR: Mouth-to-Mouth Not Much Help

March 19, 2007

For adults who suddenly collapse, CPR is more effective if rescuers focus on chest compression over mouth-to-mouth ventilation.

By interrupting lifesaving chest compressions, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation may do more harm than good.

A quiet death for bold project to map the mind

March 19, 2007

DARPA has killed the BICA (Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures) project to reverse-engineer the human brain.

The brain effort linked experts from neuroscience, cognitive psychology, robotics and artificial intelligence, who wanted to replicate how different parts of the brain interact.

“In some ways, it was like a Manhattan project or the Apollo project. Building a brain is a big task,” said Randall O’Reilly, an associate professor at the University… read more

Robot Code of Ethics to Prevent Android Abuse, Protect Humans

March 19, 2007

The government of South Korea is drawing up a code of ethics to prevent human abuse of robots and vice versa.

The Robot Ethics Charter will cover standards for robotics users and manufacturers, as well as guidelines on ethical standards to be programmed into robots.

The document will also deal with legal issues, such as the protection of data acquired by robots and establishing clear identification and traceability… read more

The sky is falling, really

March 19, 2007

Two potential deflection techniques for asteroids appear to work nicely together.

First we would deflect the asteroid with kinetic impact from a missile (that is, running into it); then we would use the slight pull of a “gravity tractor” — a satellite that would hover near the asteroid — to fine-tune its new trajectory to our liking.

The bad news? NASA doesn’t plan to do it.

A Single-Photon Server with Just One Atom

March 19, 2007

A team of physicists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics has built a single-photon server based on a single trapped neutral atom.

The high quality of the single photons and their ready availability are important for future quantum information processing experiments with single photons.

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