science + technology news

Robotic-leg prosthetic allows amputees to walk normally

Simplified gait model eliminates need for complex designs and team of physical-rehabilitation specialists
December 5, 2014

Amputee with robot-inspired artificial leg can walk at normal speed on a treadmill (credit:  University of Texas at Dallas)

Wearers of a new robotic leg can walk on a moving treadmill almost as fast as an able-bodied person, said inventor Robert Gregg, PhD, a University of Texas at Dallas professor, who applied robot control theory to enable powered prosthetics to dynamically respond to the wearer’s environment and help amputees walk.

“We borrowed from robot control theory to create a simple, effective new way to analyze the human… read more

The Pentagon wants your advice on tech for the year 2030 time frame

December 4, 2014

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is asking for ideas from the private sector on breakthrough technologies to guide military investment for the next decade and beyond, according to an article by futurist Patrick Tucker Wednesday in Defense One newsletter.

“On Wednesday, Defense Department officials issued a request for information calling on interested parties ‘to identify current and emerging technologies … that could provide significant military advantage to the United… read more

Rewritable paper

December 4, 2014

Yadong Yin’s lab at the University of California, Riverside has fabricated novel rewritable paper, one that is based on the color switching property of commercial chemicals called redox dyes. (Credit: Yin Lab, UC Riverside)

Chemists at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have fabricated a novel rewritable “paper” process in the lab, based on the color-switching property of commercially available chemicals called redox dyes.

Printing is achieved by using ultraviolet light to photobleach the dye, except the masked portions for the text on the paper. The prototype rewritable paper can be erased and written on more than 20 times with no significant loss… read more

Buckyballs enhance capture of carbon-dioxide emissions

December 4, 2014

Carbon-60 molecules, also known as buckyballs, were combined with amines in a compound that absorbs a fifth of its weight in carbon dioxide. It shows potential as an environmentally friendly material for capturing carbon from natural gas wells and industrial plants. (Credit: the Barron Research Group/Rice University)

Rice University scientists have discovered an environmentally friendly carbon-capture method that could draw carbon dioxide emissions from industrial flue gases and natural gas wells, using a combination of amine-rich compounds and carbon-60 molecules.

The research is the subject of an open-access paper published Wednesday (Nov. 4) in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports.

“We had two goals,” Rice chemist Andrew Barro said. “One was to make the compound 100… read more

Stephen Coles 1941 — 2014

Eminent gerontologist tracked supercentenarians on Gerontology Research Group
December 4, 2014

Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D

Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D, passed away on December 3 of complications of pancreatic cancer. He was 73.

L. [Leslie] Stephen Coles was a Lecturer in Gerontology at the University California, Los Angeles, in the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Since he started teaching at UCLA in 1986, he taught for the Computer Science Department, the Surgical Department, and the Fiat Lux Program for Freshman.

He tracked the oldest… read more

Mediterranean diet linked to longer life

December 3, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

The Mediterranean diet appears to be associated with longer telomere length — a marker of slower aging and thus long life, a  study published in the BMJ this week suggests.

The Mediterranean diet has been consistently linked with health benefits, including reduced mortality and reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

The diet is based on a high intake of vegetables, fruits,… read more

Feeling virtual objects in mid-air using ultrasound

December 3, 2014

Focused ultrasound creates haptic shape of a virtual sphere (credit: Bristol Interaction and Graphics group, University of Bristol)

University of Bristol researchers have developed a method for using ultrasound to generate an 3D haptic shape that can be added to 3D displays so that invisible images can be felt in mid-air.

The new technology could enable surgeons to explore a CT scan by enabling them to feel a disease, such as a tumor, using haptic feedback.

By focusing ultrasound from a phased array of transducers,… read more

A magnetic levitating gear system for zero friction and wear

December 2, 2014

Credit: UC3M

Researchers from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) are developing a new gear transmission mechanism with no touching parts, based on magnetic forces that prevent friction and wear and make lubrication unnecessary.

The device has potential applications in railroad and aircraft industries, as well as in space travel and exploration.

The design uses a magnetic gear reducer, that is, a mechanism that transforms speed from an input axle… read more

Replacing wires with light, future computers may operate faster with less energy

Stanford optical device splits a beam of light into different colors and bends the light at opposite right angles, based on wavelength
December 2, 2014

This tiny slice of silicon, etched with a grating pattern that resembles a bar code, is a key step toward linking computer components with light instead of wires (credit: Vuckovic Lab)

Stanford engineers have designed and built a prism-like silicon device that can split a beam of light into different colors and bend the light at right angles — a development that could eventually lead to computers that use nanophotonics to transmit data faster and more efficiently than electricity.

They describe this “optical link” —a tiny slice of silicon etched with a pattern that resembles a bar code — in… read more

Software equal to or better than humans at cataloging published science data

December 2, 2014

Computer-generated genus-level diversity curves (credit: Shanan E. Peters et al./PLOS ONE)

A computer system called PaleoDeepDive has equaled (or bested in some categories) scientists at the complex task of extracting data from scientific publications and placing it in a database that catalogs the results of tens of thousands of individual studies.

The development, described in the current issue of PLoS, marks a milestone in the quest to rapidly and precisely summarize, collate, and index the vast output of scientists… read more

Star Trek-like invisible shield discovered 7200 miles above Earth that blocks ‘killer electrons’

December 1, 2014

Scientists have discovered an invisible shield about 7,200 miles above Earth (credit: Andy Kale/University of Alberta)

A team led by the University of Colorado Boulder has discovered an invisible shield some 7,200 miles above Earth that blocks “killer electrons,” which whip around the planet at near-light speed and have been known to threaten astronauts, fry satellites, and degrade space systems during intense solar storms.

The barrier to the particle motion was discovered in the Van Allen radiation belts, two doughnut-shaped rings above Earth — an inner… read more

Protons found to pass through graphene, raising hopes for efficient fuel cells

Graphene membranes could also extract hydrogen gas out of the atmosphere
December 1, 2014

Graphene is an atomic-scale honeycomb lattice made of carbon atoms (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Graphene, which is impermeable to all gases and liquids, can actually allow protons to pass through it, University of Manchester researchers have found, to their surprise.

Published in the journal Nature, the discovery could revolutionize fuel cells and other hydrogen-based technologies, the researchers say, because that’s exactly what fuel cells require: a barrier that only allows protons (hydrogen atoms with their electrons stripped off) to pass through, while blocking hydrogen.… read more

The Imitation Game

November 30, 2014


Released in theaters in the U.S. on Friday (Nov. 28) and in the UK on Nov. 14, The Imitation Game portrays the race by Alan Turing and his team of code-breakers to crack the German Enigma machine code at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park during World War II.

The title of the film

read more

Decoding nervous-system signals to the brain could speed up diagnosis of infections or inflammation

The nervous system may play a bigger role in infections and autoimmune diseases than previously known
November 28, 2014

Peripheral nervous system (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In a commentary published Thursday (Nov. 27) in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reviewed new pre-clinical trials that show that the nervous system may play a bigger role in infections and inflammation than previously known.

The researchers, at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, noted that neurons of the peripheral nervous system are known to send information about… read more

DNA survives rocket return from space

November 28, 2014

Launch of the TEXUS-49 rocket from the Esrange Space Center in Sweden (credit: Adrian Mettauer)

DNA can survive a flight through space and re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere and still pass on genetic information, scientists from the University of Zurich (UZH) found during a March 2011 experiment on the TEXUS-49 research rocket, the researchers reported in the journal PLOS ONE (open access) Thursday (Nov. 26, 2014).

The researchers applied plasmid DNA molecules to the outer shell of the payload section… read more

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