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Could we create quantum creatures in the lab?

September 16, 2009

Two laser beams could hold a tardigrade (water bear — an animal less than a millimeter in size that can survive in a vacuum) in a “ground state” in an “optical cavity,” where a photon could force it into a superposition of both its ground state and next vibrational energy state, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics suggest.

Could we build a 20-kilometer-high space tower?

September 12, 2012

(NASA MSFC, Artist Pat Rawling)

Science-fiction novelist Neal Stephenson imagines a 20-kilometer-high steel tower that reaches into the stratosphere.

From that height, planes could save fuel by docking at the tower rather than landing, and space missions could do the same by launching from it.

Stephenson is teaming up with a structural engineer, Keith Hjelmstad at Arizona State University (ASU), to work out how to actually build the tower, New Scientist reports.… read more

Could vitamins raise levels of bad cholesterol?

May 4, 2004

A new study suggests that antioxidant vitamins, such as E, C, and beta carotene, could raise the production by the liver of the so-called bad form of cholesterol, which transports cholesterol into artery walls.

The New York University School of Medicine study found that antioxidant vitamins increase the secretion of VLDL in liver cells and VLDL is converted in the bloodstream to low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the bad form of… read more

Could tutoring a computer be the way to develop machines that talk back?

April 18, 2001

HAL, a software program designed by Dutch-based firm Artificial Intelligence to learn language, currently passes for a 18 month old child and has a 50 or 60 word vocabulary.

By the end of 2003, AI expects to have a version of HAL capable of talking like a three-year-old and by 2005 hopes it will have the conversational skills of an adult.

HAL uses simple learning algorithms based on… read more

Could this new electrical brain-zap method help you learn muscle skills faster?

Meanwhile, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has significantly improved tinnitus symptoms
July 17, 2015

Three brain-stimulation methods (credit: adapted from Shapour Jaberzadeh et al./PLoS ONE)

Researchers headed by Shapour Jaberzadeh and his group at Monash University have discovered a new noninvasive technique that could rev up your brain to improve your physical performance — for athletes and musicians, for instance — and might also improve treatments for brain-related conditions such as stroke, depression, and chronic pain.

The two neuroelectrical treatment methods currently in use are transcranial direct current simulation (tDCS)… read more

Could this common painkiller become a future cancer-killer?

January 12, 2016

(credit: iStock)

Diclofenac, a common painkiller, has significant anti-cancer properties, researchers from the Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project have found.

ReDO, an international collaboration between the Belgium-based Anticancer Fund and the U.S.- based GlobalCures, has published their investigation into diclofenac in the open-access journal ecancermedicalscience.

Diclofenac is a well-known non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) widely used to treat pain in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, fever, acute… read more

Could these three brain regions be the seat of consciousness?

We may someday wake up someone from a persistent vegetative state by stimulating this network, the neurologists hope
November 10, 2016

consciousness areas ft

An international team of neurologists led by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has identified three specific regions of the brain that appear to be critical components of consciousness: one in the brainstem, involved in arousal; and two cortical regions involved in awareness.

To pinpoint the exact regions, the neurologists first analyzed 36 patients with brainstem lesions (injuries). They discovered that a specific small area of the brainstem —… read more

Could there be life below Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa?

April 16, 2017

During Cassini’s deepest dive through the plume of Saturnian moon Enceladus, Southwest Research Institute scientists discovered hydrogen gas in the erupting material in the plume. This discovery provides further evidence for hydrothermal activity (illustrated here) and heightens the possibility that the ocean of Enceladus could have conditions suitable for microbial life. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Two NASA missions — Cassini and Hubble — have provided new evidence for life on icy, ocean-bearing moons of Saturn and Jupiter, NASA announced Friday, April 14, 2017.

Scientists from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) have discovered hydrogen gas in the plume of material erupting from Saturn’s moon Enceladus — suggesting conditions suitable for microbial life in an underground ocean. The finding, published April 14, 2017 in the… read more

Could the net become self-aware?

May 1, 2009

“The Internet behaves a fair bit like a mind,” says Ben Goertzel, chair of the Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute. “It might already have a degree of consciousness…. The outlook for humanity is probably better in the case that an emergent, coherent and purposeful Internet mind develops.”

If the effort that has gone into developing social networking sites goes into developing Internet consciousness, it could happen within a decade,… read more

Could synthetic fuels eliminate entire US need for crude oil, create ‘new economy’?

December 7, 2012

Graphical representation of the locations of selected facilities for 50% replacement of petroleum fuels. The facilities are represented by dark brown circles with corresponding sizes. The amounts of coal, biomass, and natural gas feedstock in the United States are represented by the proposed color scheme in the map legend. (Credit: Josephine A. Elia, Richard C. Baliban, and Christodoulos A. Floudas/Princeton University)

The U.S. could eliminate the need for crude oil by using a combination of coal, natural gas, and non-food crops to make synthetic fuel, a team of Princeton researchers has found.

Besides economic and national security benefits, the plan has potential environmental advantages. Because plants absorb carbon dioxide to grow, the United States could cut vehicle greenhouse emissions by as much as 50 percent in… read more

Could stretching a thin crystal create a better solar cell?

Stretched molybdenum disulfide crystal could absorb more solar energy than conventional solar-cell materials
June 26, 2015

This colorized image shows an ultra thin layer of semiconductor material stretched over the peaks and valleys of part of a device the size of a pinkie nail. Just three atoms thick, this semiconductor layer is stretched in ways enhance its electronic potential to catch solar energy. The image is enlarged 100,000 times. (credit: Hong Li, Stanford Engineering)

Stanford University researchers have stretched an atomically thin Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) semiconductor crystal to achieve a variable bandgap (defined as the amount of energy it takes to move an electron in a material).

That could lead to solar cells that absorb more energy from the sun by being sensitive to a broader spectrum of light, and could also find applications in next-generation optoelectronics.

Crystalline semiconductors like silicon… read more

Could stem cells repair damaged cones in retinas, allowing for daylight color vision?

Yet another awesome zebrafish story.
February 4, 2013

Zebrafish cone photoreceptor mosaic (credit: Brittany Fraser et al./PLOS ONE

University of Alberta (UA) researchers have discovered that a zebrafish’s stem cells can selectively regenerate its damaged photoreceptor cells.

UA lead researcher Ted Allison says that for some time geneticists have known that stem cells in zebrafish can replace damaged vision cells.

Rods and cones are the most important photoreceptors. In humans, rods provide us with night vision while cones give us… read more

Could ‘solid’ light compute previously unsolvable problems?

An "artificial atom" makes photons behave like exotic matter
September 12, 2014

Oscillations of photons create an image of frozen light. At first, photons in the experiment flow easily between two superconducting sites, producing the large waves shown at left. After a time, the scientists cause the light to 'freeze,' trapping the photons in place. Fast oscillations on the right of the image are evidence of the new trapped behavior. (Credit: Princeton University)

Researchers at Princeton University have “crystallized” light. They are not shining light through crystal — they are actually transforming light into crystal, as part of an effort to develop exotic materials such as room-temperature superconductors.

The researchers locked together photons so that they became fixed in place. “It’s something that we have never seen before,” said Andrew Houck, an associate professor of electrical engineering and… read more

Could smart traffic lights stop motorists fuming?

February 13, 2008

Romanian and US researchers have shown that future “smart” traffic lights that wirelessly keep track of vehicles might reduce the time drivers spend waiting at intersections by more than 28% during rush hours.

Could ‘smart skin’ made of recyclable materials transform medicine and robotics?

How to create sophisticated sensors in your kitchen with aluminum foil, scotch tape, sticky-notes, napkins, and sponges and a $25 computer
February 19, 2016

smart skin disposable pH sensor-ft

Here’s a challenge: using only low-cost materials available in your house (such as aluminum foil, pencil, scotch tape, sticky-notes, napkins, and sponges), build sensitive sensors (“smart skin”) for detecting temperature, humidity, pH, pressure, touch, flow, motion, and proximity (at a distance of 13 cm). Your sensors must show reliable and consistent results and be capable of connecting to low-cost, tiny computers such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi devices.

The… read more

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