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Helping a micromachine to work

April 8, 2008
(Sandia National Laboratories, SUMMiTTM Technologies)

A dilute gas may soon become the lubricant of choice for microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, devices.

By saturating devices with argon gas containing a small amount of 1-pentanol vapor, they can make microscopic machines run at least 100,000 times longer without failing.

The pentanol seems to adhere to silicon MEMS surfaces, creating a one-molecule-thick coating.

Robotic ‘pack mule’ displays stunning reflexes

March 6, 2006

BigDog, a nimble, four-legged robot, is so surefooted it can negotiate steep slopes, cross rocky ground, and recover its balance even after being given a hefty kick.

The machine, which moves like a cross between a goat and a pantomime horse, is being developed as a robotic pack mule for the US military.

Metamaterial allows for switching light like electronic circuits

August 2, 2011

This is the metamaterial device (credit: Duke University Photography)

Duke University electrical engineers have developed a metamaterial that allows them to manipulate light in much the same way that electronics manipulates flowing electrons.

They say that the results of their latest proof-of-concept experiments could lead to the replacement of electrical components with those based on optical technologies, which should allow for faster and more efficient transmission of information, much in the same way that… read more

From PlayStation to Supercomputer for $50,000

May 26, 2003

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has assembled a supercomputer from an army of Sony PlayStation 2′s for about $50,000.

The center’s researchers believe the system may be capable of .5 teraflops. It uses the PlayStation’s graphics co-processor, the Emotion Engine, which is capable of producing up to 6.5 gigaflops, rather than its microprocessor.

The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate

October 13, 2009

The hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the Large Hadron Collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, suggest Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics.

He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work)

April 14, 2008

Philip M. Parker, professor of management science at Insead, a business school, has “written” more than 200,000 books, using intelligent computer algorithms to gather and organize information from the Internet and compose it into formulaic structured text–a.k.a. “books.”

Aided by 60 to 70 computers and six or seven programmers, a print-on-demand book costs him about 12 cents of electricity to create, allowing him to break even after the first… read more

Carbon-Based electronics manipulate electrons as waves

March 15, 2006

Using thin layers of graphite known as graphene, researchers have produced proof-of-principle transistors, loop devices and circuitry. The devices have the attractive properties of carbon nanotubes but could be produced using established microelectronics manufacturing techniques.

Ultimately, the researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States, in collaboration with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, hope to use graphene layers less than 10 atoms thick as… read more

NASA selects visionary advanced technology concepts for study

August 9, 2011

NASA announced it has selected 30 proposals for funding under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, chosen based on their potential to transform future space missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter current approaches to launching, building and operating space systems.

Each proposal will receive approximately¬†$100,000¬†for one year to advance the innovative space technology concept and help NASA meet operational and future mission requirements.… read more

Human arteries grown from scratch

June 9, 2003

Human arteries have been grown from scratch in the lab. The technique could produce spare blood vessels for bypass surgery, researchers at Duke University School of Medicine hope.

The researchers first encourage ordinary human muscle cells to multiply. Then they add a gene called hTERT to make them live longer. Next they seed the cells on a hose-shaped scaffold of biodegradable polymer. After two months, the support dissolves leaving… read more

New robotic hand ‘can feel’

October 20, 2009

A team of scientists from Italy and Sweden has developed what is believed to be the first artificial hand that has feeling.

It works by connecting nerve endings in the arm with 40 tiny electronic sensors, and four motors allow for manipulating objects. An implantable version is planned.


DreamWorks to make ‘Ghost’ in 3-D

April 17, 2008

DreamWorks has acquired rights to the Japanese manga “Ghost in the Shell” (a future in which people and machines are starting to merge), with plans to adapt the futuristic police thriller as a 3-D live-action feature.

Artificial Intelligence: Working backwards from HAL

March 28, 2006

The first part of a three-part special report, looking at the past, present and future of AI, examines the origins of machine intelligence and neural networks.

Bending light with better precision

August 16, 2011

Physicists from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have demonstrated a new technique to control the speed and direction of light using memory metamaterials whose properties can be repeatedly changed.

A metamaterial is a structure engineered from a variety of substances that, when put together, yield optical properties that do not exist in nature.

In this experiment, the metamaterial in use is a… read more

Technology Elite Are Focusing Next on Human Body

June 17, 2003

The recent TEDMED conference focused on the premise that technology’s next big wave will arise from its intersection with medicine.

Examples of new products and services:

  • Key chains that store a person’s health records and plug into the USB port of any computer to display the information.
  • A computer-based armband that measures how many calories its wearer burns.
  • Genetic profile tests
  • read more

    Super slow-motion camera can follow firing neurons

    October 29, 2009

    A camera sensor able to film action at 1 million frames per second to detect one-microsecond neuron signals has been developed by Delft University of Technology researchers.

    The device uses an array of single-photon detectors, each connected to a stopwatch with 100-picosecond accuracy.

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