science + technology news

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High-quality carbon nanotubes made from carbon dioxide in the air break the manufacturing cost barrier

“The most valuable material ever sold”
May 24, 2018

CO2 to CNT conversion ft

Vanderbilt University researchers have discovered a technique to cost-effectively convert carbon dioxide from the air into a type of carbon nanotubes that they say is “more valuable than any other material ever made.”

Carbon nanotubes are super-materials that can be stronger than steel and more conductive than copper. So despite much research, why aren’t they used in applications ranging from batteries to tires?

Answer: The high… read more

Self-healing material mimics the resilience of soft biological tissue

Imagine first-responder robots that instantly heal themselves when damaged, or wires that continue to conduct electricity when cut
May 21, 2018

A self-healing material that spontaneously repairs itself in real time from extreme mechanical damage, such as holes cut in it multiple times. New pathways are formed instantly and autonomously to keep this circuit functioning and the device moving. (credit: Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering)

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers have created a self-healing material that spontaneously repairs itself under extreme mechanical damage, similar to many natural organisms. Applications include bio-inspired first-responder robots that instantly heal themselves when damaged and wearable computing devices that recover from being dropped.

The new material is composed of liquid metal droplets suspended in a soft elastomer (a material with elastic properties, such as rubber). When damaged, the droplets… read more

Revolutionary 3D nanohybrid lithium-ion battery could allow for charging in just seconds [UPDATED]

Design also prevents fires in mobile devices
May 21, 2018

conventional vs. nanohyrid battery design ft

Cornell University engineers have designed a revolutionary 3D lithium-ion battery that could be charged in just seconds.

In a conventional battery, the battery’s anode and cathode* (the two sides of a battery connection) are stacked in separate columns (the black and red columns in the left illustration above). For the new design, the engineers instead used thousands of nanoscale (ultra-tiny) anodes and cathodes (shown in the illustration on the… read more

MIT’s modular plug-and-play blocks allow for building medical diagnostic devices

Small labs around the world will be able to cheaply and easily detect diabetes, cancer, and infectious diseases such as Zika virus
May 16, 2018

Tiny 1/2-inch low-cost “Ampli blocks” can be assembled to create diagnostic devices. The blocks, which simply consist of a tiny sheet of paper or glass fiber sandwiched between a plastic or metal block and a glass cover, snap together to form a diagnostic procedure. Some of the blocks contain channels for samples to flow straight through, some have turns, and some can receive a sample from a pipette, or mix multiple reagents (chemicals) together. The blocks are color-coded by function, making it easier to assemble pre-designed devices using instructions that the researchers plan to put online. (credit: MIT Little Devices Lab)

Researchers at MIT’s Little Devices Lab have developed a set of modular “plug-and-play” blocks that can be put together in different ways to produce medical diagnostic devices for detecting cancer and infectious diseases such as Zika virus.

The “Ampli blocks” require little expertise to assemble, and can test blood glucose levels in diabetic patients or detect viral infection, for example. They are inexpensive (about 6 U.S. cents for… read more

Brain-computer-interface training helps tetraplegics win avatar race

When humans actively participate with AI in improving performance
May 14, 2018

Pilot and avatar at Cybathlon (credit: Cybathlon)

Noninvasive brain–computer interface (BCI) systems can restore functions lost to disability — allowing for spontaneous, direct brain control of external devices without the risks associated with surgical implantation of neural interfaces. But as machine-learning algorithms have become faster and more powerful, researchers have mostly focused on increasing performance by optimizing pattern-recognition algorithms.

But what about letting patients actively participate with AI in improving performance?

To test that idea,… read more

Two major advances in autonomous technologies that rival human abilities

Google Duplex voice technology and Boston Dynamics' robot advances push the boundaries
May 12, 2018

Atlas jump

Google Duplex

Google’s new artificial-intelligence Google Duplex voice technology for natural conversations, introduced at the Google I/O event this past week, cleverly blurs the line between human and machine intelligence.

Here are two impressive examples of Duplex’s natural conversations on phone calls (using different voices):

Duplex scheduling a hair salon appointment:

Duplex calling a restaurant:

Google Duplex is designed* to make its… read more

FAA to team with local, state, and tribal governments and companies to develop safe drone operations

But could this ambitious program have unintended consequences when criminals and terrorists get involved?
May 9, 2018

Future autonomous drones as portrayed in “Call of Duty Black Ops 2” (credit: Activision Publishing)

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced today (May 9, 2018) that 10 state, local, and tribal governments have been selected* as participants in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program.

The goal of the program: set up partnerships between the FAA and local, state and tribal governments. These will then partner with private sector participants to safely explore the further… read more

Three dramatic new ways to visualize brain tissue and neuron circuits

May lead to breakthroughs in tracking brain disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's
May 7, 2018

The "dentate gyrus" section of a transgenic mouse,  imaged and colored-coded to reveal the distribution of the nerve cells. (credit: The University of Hong Kong)

Visualizing human brain tissue in vibrant transparent colors

Neuroscientists from The University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Imperial College London have developed a new method called “OPTIClear” for 3D transparent color visualization (at the microscopic level) of complex human brain circuits.

To understand how the brain works, neuroscientists map how neurons (nerve cells) are wired to form circuits in both healthy and disease states. To do that,… read more

round-up | Hawking’s radical instant-universe-as-hologram theory and the scary future of information warfare

Plus molecular movies of RNA for drug discovery, an atomically thin memory breakthrough, and a Magna Carta for the AI age
May 4, 2018

Timeline of the Universe, based on cosmic inflation theory (credit: WMAP science team/NASA)

Stephen Hawking’s final cosmology theory says the universe was created instantly (no inflation, no singularity) and it’s a hologram

There was no singularity just after the big bang (and thus, no eternal inflation) — the universe was created instantly. And there were only three dimensions. So there’s only one finite universe, not a fractal or a multiverse — and we’re living in a projected hologram. That’s what Hawking and… read more

round-up | New high-resolution virtual-reality and augmented-reality headsets

Promise amazing new consumer experiences, including VR/AR displays in 2020 with four times higher resolution than today’s 4K TVs
May 2, 2018

Oculus Go (credit: Oculus)

Oculus  announced Monday (April 30) that its much-anticipated Oculus Go virtual-reality headset is now available, priced at $199 (32GB storage version).

Oculus Go is a standalone headset (no need for a tethered PC, as with Oculus Rift, or for inserting a phone, as with Gear VR and other consumer VR devices). It features a high-resolution 2560 x 1440 pixels (538 ppi) display, hand controller, and… read more

New sensors monitor brain activity and blood flow deeper in the brain with high sensitivity and high speed

April 30, 2018

Magnetic calcium-responsive nanoparticles (dark centers are magnetic cores) respond within seconds to calcium ion changes by clustering (Ca+ ions, right) or expanding (Ca- ions, left), creating a magnetic contrast change that can be detected with MRI, indicating brain activation. (High levels of calcium outside the neurons correlate with low neuron activity; when calcium concentrations drop, it means neurons in that area are firing electrical impulses.) Blue: C2AB “molecular glue” (credit: The researchers)

Calcium-based MRI sensor enables deep brain imaging

MIT neuroscientists have developed a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sensor that allows them to monitor neural activity deep within the brain by tracking calcium ions.

Calcium ions are directly linked to neuronal firing at high resolution — unlike the changes in blood flow detected by functional MRI (fMRI), which provide only an indirect indication of neural activity. The new… read more

round-up | Three radical new user interfaces

Holographic videoconferencing, a smart wall, and a smart-watch projector offer new ways to interact with data and each other
April 27, 2018

life-size hologram ft

Holodeck-style holograms could revolutionize videoconferencing

A “truly holographic” videoconferencing system has been developed by researchers at Queen’s University in Kingston Montreal. With TeleHuman 2, objects appear as stereoscopic images, as if inside a pod (not a two-dimensional video projected on a flat piece of glass). Multiple users can walk around and view the objects from all sides simultaneously — as in Star Trek’s… read more

New immunotherapy treatment for lung cancer dramatically improves survival, researchers report

Treatment cut in half the risk of dying or having the cancer worsen, compared to chemo alone, after nearly one year
April 25, 2018

(credit: Merck)

An immunotherapy treatment — one that boosts the immune system — has improved survival in people newly diagnosed with the most common form of lung cancer (advanced non–small-cell lung cancer), according to an open-access study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study results were presented last Monday, April 16, at the annual American Association for Cancer Research conference in Chicago.… read more

Augmented-reality system lets doctors see medical images projected on patients’ skin

April 23, 2018

Projected medical image (credit: University of Alberta)

New technology is bringing the power of augmented reality into clinical practice. The system, called ProjectDR, shows clinicians 3D medical images such as CT scans and MRI data, projected directly on a patient’s skin.

The technology uses motion capture, similar to how it’s done in movies. Infrared cameras track invisible (to human vision) markers on the patient’s body. That allows the system to track the orientation of… read more

New microscope captures awesome animated 3D movies of cells at high resolution and speed

Nobel laureate Eric Betzig's radical invention merges high-speed, non-invasive bioscanning and astronomy's adaptive optics
April 20, 2018

Zebrafish inner ear

HHMI Howard Hughes Medical Institute | An immune cell explores a zebrafish’s inner ear

By combining two state-of-the-art imaging technologies, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Campus scientists, led by 2014 chemistry Nobel laureate physicist Eric Betzig, have imaged living cells at unprecedented 3D detail and speed, the scientists report on April 19, 2018 in an open-access paper in the journal Science.

In stunning videos… read more

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