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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.

The sleeping brain behaves as if it’s remembering something

Working-memory-like persistent activity occurred in the entorhinal cortex during sleep and even under anesthesia
October 8, 2012

In the background is an entorhinal cortex neuron that was studied. The blue-green trace shows neocortical slow oscillation while the yellow trace shows the persistent activity of entorhinal cortical neuron, even when the inputs from neocortex were silent. (Credit: Thomas T. G. Hahn, et al/UCLA)

UCLA researchers have discovered that the activity of a brain region known to be involved in learning, memory and Alzheimer’s disease behaves as if it’s remembering something during sleep, even under anesthesia — a finding that counters conventional theories about memory consolidation during sleep.

The research team simultaneously measured the activity of single neurons from multiple parts of the brain involved in memory formation. The technique allowed them to… read more

The Slow Rise of the Robot Surgeon

March 24, 2010

Surgeons are looking for smaller and cheaper alternates to the da Vinci robotic surgical system for simpler surgeries.

The slower you grow, the longer you live

Fish study may also apply to humans
January 3, 2013


New research from the University of Glasgow suggests that lifespan is affected by the rate at which bodies grow early in life: manipulating growth rates in stickleback fish can extend their lifespan by nearly a third or reduce it by 15 percent.

A team from the University’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine altered the growth rate of 240 fish by exposing… read more

The Smallest Electric Motor

April 8, 2005

The smallest electric motor in the world, devised by physicists at UC Berkeley, is based on the shuttling of atoms between two metal droplets—one large and one small—residing on the back of a carbon nanotube.

Courtesy Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley

The smallest nanoswitch

December 13, 2011

Nano Switch

Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) researchers have developed a novel molecular switch that uses the position of a single proton in a porphyrin ring to set four distinct states on demand at 500 times per second.

They removed one of the two protons from the inside of the porphyrin ring. The remaining proton could now take on any one of four positions. A tiny current that… read more

The smartest (or the nuttiest) futurist on Earth

May 3, 2007

Ray Kurzweil is a legendary inventor with a history of mind-blowing ideas. Now he’s onto something even bigger. If he’s right, the future will be a lot weirder and brighter than you think.

He is “an inventor whose work in artificial intelligence has dazzled technological sophisticates for four decades…. The magic that has enabled all his innovations has been the science of pattern recognition….

“By 2027, he predicts,… read more

The Smell of Cancer

August 22, 2008

Skin-cancer tumors give off a characteristic odor profile that could be used for fast, early detection, Monell Chemical Senses Center scientists have found.

Sensor technology like the electronic noses under development could be programmed with the levels of chemicals indicative of a tumor.

The snails of war

March 26, 2012


Researchers are experimenting with creating tiny, self-powered remote-controlled animal/machine hybrids as an alternative to tiny robots, starting with snails and cockroaches.

They poke two electrodes coated with enzymes through the shell of the snail into a space between the shell and the body, where glucose is present, produced by the snail for its own biological purposes.

The enzymes promote chemical reactions that produce electricity drawn from glucose molecules.… read more

The sound of silence: an end to noisy communications

March 3, 2010

“Silent sounds,” a new technology developed by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, monitors electromyographic signals (from lip muscle movements) and transforms them into a computer-generated voice for the listener at the other end of the phone.

Applications also include helping people who have lost their voice due to illness or accident, and saying a PIN number or password silently to evade eavesdropping.

The Sound of Words

March 7, 2002

Speech-recognition technology is taking off, especially in industrial and medical fields, where there’s a need for hands-free computer use.
Current key applications include systems to ask a car for directions, operate cell phones, automate call centers and directory assistance operations, get connected to a telephone number simply by saying the name of a business or person they are dialing into a handset, and entering patient information by voice.

The Sound War

May 10, 2004

Two inventors have staked competing claims to a potential audio revolution in which focused beams of sound could direct music or speech to a single person in a crowd.

Known as directional sound, it uses an ultrasound emitter to shoot a laserlike beam of audible sound so focused that only people inside a narrow path can hear it.

Both inventors say the ultimate goal is to replace a… read more

The space simulator — modeling the universe on a budget

June 23, 2004

UCLA astrophysicists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory have been using the Space Simulator, a cluster of roughly 300 computer processors to model some of the most intriguing aspects of the Universe.

The Space Simulator is a 294-node Beowulf cluster supercomputer with theoretical peak performance just below 1.5 teraflops.

In addition to simulating the structure and evolution of the Universe, the Space Simulator has been used to study… read more

The speed of light in a vacuum may not be a constant after all

Ephemeral vacuum particles induce speed-of-light fluctuations
April 25, 2013


Two European Physical Journal D papers challenge established wisdom about the nature of vacuum.

In one paper, Marcel Urban from the University of Paris-Sud and colleagues identified a quantum-level mechanism for interpreting vacuum as being filled with pairs of virtual particles with fluctuating energy values.

As a result, the inherent characteristics of vacuum, such as the speed of light, may not be a constant… read more

The split brain: a tale of two halves

March 15, 2012


A drastic procedure called a corpus callosotomy, first used as a treatment for severe epilepsy in the 1940s, disconnects the two sides of the neocortex, the home of language, conscious thought and movement control.

There are fewer than a dozen “split-brain” surviving patients, and now their numbers are dwindling.

Michael Gazzaniga, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the godfather of modern split-brain science, says… read more

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