science + technology news

Could black phosphorus be the next silicon?

New material could lead to greater transistor density
July 8, 2015

Schematic of the "puckered honeycomb" crystal structure of black phosphorus (credit: Vahid Tayari/McGill University)

An unusual material called “black phosphorus” could emerge as a strong candidate for future energy-efficient transistors, new research from McGill University and Université de Montréal suggests. The material is a form of phosphorus that is similar to graphite (also known as pencil lead and the source of graphene), so it can be exfoliated (separated) easily into single atomic layers known as phosphorene.… read more

Could black holes be portals to other universes?

April 30, 2007

The objects scientists think are black holes could instead be wormholes leading to exotic cosmic locales, a new study argues.

Could astronauts sleep their way to the stars?

August 4, 2004

The European Space Agency (ESA) is planning research into the possibility of inducing a hibernation-like state in humans.

It would help astronauts cope with the psychological demands of decades-long journeys and less space and food would be needed on such missions, so spacecraft would be lighter and easier to launch.

One route of inquiry centers on DADLE, a substance with opium-like properties. An injection of DADLE is known… read more

Could analog computing accelerate complex computer simulations?

March 19, 2015

DARPA’s ACCESS RFI seeks new processing paradigms that have the potential to overcome current barriers in computing performance. “Old fashioned” analog approaches may be part of the solution. (credit: DARPA)

DARPA announced today, March 19, a Request for Information (RFI) on methods for using analog approaches to speed up computation of the complex mathematics that characterize scientific computing.

“The standard [digital] computer cluster equipped with multiple central processing units (CPUs), each programmed to tackle a particular piece of a problem, is just not designed to solve the kinds of equations at the core of large-scale simulations, such as those… read more

Could AGI prevent future nuclear disasters?

March 24, 2011

“To prevent being taken unawares by ‘freak situations’ like what we’re seeing in Japan, we need a radically lower-cost way of evaluating the likely behaviors of our technological constructs in various situations, including those judged plausible but unlikely (like a magnitude 9 earthquake),” suggests artificial general intelligence (AGI) researcher Ben Goertzel.

“AGI has significant potential to improve the situation,” he writes. “An AI-powered ‘artificial nuclear scientist’ would… read more

Could a virtual wall build an invisible barrier for oil spills and stop the spread?

December 12, 2013


University of Missouri researchers have developed a technique to form a virtual wall for oily liquids that will help confine them to a certain area, aiding researchers who are studying these complex molecules. This development will have future implications in the guided delivery of oil and effective blockage of oil spreading.

“Our work is based on micro/nanoelectromechanical systems, or M/NEMS, which can be thought of as miniaturized… read more

Could a robot beat humans at table football?

August 27, 2013

table football

Masters students from the EPFL Automatic Control Laboratory (LA) are developing a robot that can play foosball (table football) for their semester project.

One of the levers has a mechanical arm capable of propelling the ball into the opposing goal at a speed of 6 meters per second.

“This is already enough to beat the average player,” said researcher Christophe Salzmann, who heads… read more

Could a hole in space save man from extinction?

January 11, 2005

In the next decade, powerful satellites will help us to understand life, the fate of our universe and the “theory of everything,” says Michio Kaku.

  • In 2014, the Terrestrial Planet Finder satellite will begin to hunt for small, Earth-like planets in 500 star systems with a telescope designed to screen out the mother stars, whose light otherwise overwhelms the faint radiation from any nearby planets.
  • Consisting
  • read more

    Could a Blu-ray disc improve solar-cell performance?

    December 12, 2014

    It was rated of one of the 25 worst movie conversions to Blu-ray. But never mind that. A Teen Wolf Blu-ray disc will work just as fine in improving your future solar collector. (Credit: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

    Here’s an idea: recycle that old grade-B movie Blu-ray disc to improve your future solar collector. Well, sort of. It turns out the Blu-ray data storage pattern when used with a solar collector increases light absorption by 21.8 percent, according to new research from Northwestern University, thanks to Blu-ray discs’ quasi-random pattern and high data density.

    The researchers tested a wide range of movies and television shows stored on… read more

    Couch potato lifestyle may speed up ageing

    January 29, 2008

    Researchers at St. Thomas’ hospital in London have found that people who did not exercise in their spare time had shorter telomeres than very active people.

    Telomeres shorten each time a cell divides, and when they become too short a cell can no longer divide, so telomeres act as a kind of timer counting down our biological age.

    Exercise can help, but it only seems to help with… read more

    Cosy social networks ‘are stifling innovation’

    August 5, 2009

    Today’s software developers work in social networks in which everyone is closely linked to everyone else, says social scientist Viktor Mayer-Schonberger of the National University of Singapore.

    “The over-abundance of connections through which information travels reduces diversity and keeps radical ideas from taking hold,” he suggests.

    Cost of gene sequencing falls, raising hopes for medical advances

    March 8, 2012

    Human genome sequence

    In Silicon Valley, the line between computing and biology has begun to blur in a way that could have enormous consequences for human longevity.

    Bill Banyai, an optical physicist at Complete Genomics, has helped make that happen. His digital expertise was essential in designing a factory that automated and greatly lowered the cost of mapping the three billion base pairs that form the human genome.

    The… read more

    Cost of evolution runs into billions

    September 14, 2001

    Humans are causing evolution on a grand scale – and it is costing us hundreds of billions of dollars each year, says a Harvard biologist.Every time a strain of bacteria becomes resistant to an antibiotic, or a weed mutates so it can thrive after being sprayed with a herbicide, there is a financial cost to humankind, Stephen Palumbi points out. He estimates that cost to be at least $100 billion… read more

    Cost of Decoding a Genome Is Lowered

    August 11, 2009

    Stanford engineer Stephen R. Quake has invented a new technology for decoding DNA and used it to decode his own genome for less than $50,000.

    Cosmos At Least 250x Bigger Than Visible Universe, Say Cosmologists

    February 1, 2011

    Applying Bayesian model averaging to various cosmological models of the universe, astrophysicists at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London have found that the most likely model is that the Universe is flat.

    A flat Universe would also be infinite and their calculations are consistent with this too. These show that the Universe is at least 250 times bigger than the Hubble volume (similar to the size of… read more

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