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MIT researchers design ‘perfect’ solar absorber

New system aims to harness the full spectrum of available solar radiation
October 1, 2014

This rendering shows a metallic dielectric photonic crystal that stores solar energy as heat (credit: Jeffrey Chou)

MIT researchers say they have developed a material that comes very close to the “ideal” for converting solar energy to heat (for conversion to electricity).

It should absorb virtually all wavelengths of light that reach Earth’s surface from the sun — but not much of the rest the longer-wavelength infrared portion of the solar spectrum, since that would increase the energy that is re-radiated by the material,… read more

Massive electrode array system will do first large-scale network recording of brain activity

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory awarded NIH grant
October 1, 2014

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is developing a neural measurement and manipulation system -- an advanced electronics system to monitor and modulate neurons -- that will be packed with more than 1,000 tiny electrodes embedded in different areas of the brain to record and stimulate neural circuitry (credit: LLNL)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) a grant Tuesday to develop an electrode array system that will “enable researchers to better understand how the brain works through unprecedented resolution and scale.”

The electrode array is part of an advanced electronics system to monitor and modulate neurons, using more than 1,000 tiny electrodes embedded in different areas of the brain to record and stimulate… read more

How cancer cells assure immortality by lengthening the ends of chromosomes

October 1, 2014

Visualization of template telomeres reeled in like fish to repair damaged cancer DNA (credit: Penn Medicine)

On Sept. 23, KurzweilAI noted that scientists at the Salk Institute had discovered an on-and-off “switch” in cells that might allow for increasing telomerase, which rebuilds telomeres at the ends of chromosomes to keep cells dividing and generating.

We also noted that cancer cells hijack this process and that the scientists expect that the “off” switch might help keep telomerase activity below this threshold.

Now in… read more

First Ebola case diagnosed in US confirmed by CDC

September 30, 2014

Ebola virus virion (credit: CDC)

In the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed today through laboratory tests that a person who had traveled to Dallas from Liberia  was hospitalized Sept. 28 for testing for Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.

Local public health officials have begun identifying close contacts of the person for further daily monitoring for 21… read more

Do neurons see what we tell them to see?

Perception of a face's identity predicts whether a specific neuron will fire when presented with an image of blended faces
September 30, 2014

Which president is this?

Neurons programmed to fire at specific faces may have more affect on conscious recognition of faces than the  images themselves, neuroscientists have found.

Subjects presented with a blended face, such as an amalgamation of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, had significantly more firing of such face-specific neurons when they recognized the blended or morphed face as one person or the other.

Results of the study led by… read more

Can you out-think a computer in judging photos?

Deep-learning algorithm can weigh up a neighborhood better than humans.
September 30, 2014

A new algorithm can outperform humans at predicting which of a series of photos is taken in a higher-crime area, or is closer to a McDonald's restaurant.

An online demo puts you in the middle of a Google Street View with four directional options and challenges you to navigate to the nearest McDonald’s in the fewest possible steps.

While humans are generally better at this specific task than the algorithm, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) found that a new algorithm consistently outperformed humans at a variation of the task in which… read more

New molecule found in space suggests life origins

September 30, 2014

Dust and molecules in the central region of our Galaxy: The background image shows the dust emission in a combination of data obtained with the APEX telescope and the Planck space observatory at a wavelength around 860 micrometers. The organic molecule iso-propyl cyanide with a branched carbon backbone (i-C3H7CN, left) as well as its straight-chain isomer normal-propyl cyanide (n-C3H7CN, right) were both detected with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in the star-forming region Sgr B2, about 300 light years away from the Galactic center Sgr A*. (Credit: MPIfR/A. Weiß --- background image, University of Cologne/M. Koerber --- molecular models, amd MPIfR/A. Belloche --- montage)

Astronomers have detected radio waves within a giant gas cloud in interstellar space corresponding to an unusual carbon-based molecule called isopropyl cyanide, needed for life, as described in the journal Science (Sept. 26.)

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, a group of radio telescopes known as the ALMA Observatory, researchers studied the gaseous star-forming region Sagittarius B2, located 27,000 light years away from Earth.

Organic molecules usually… read more

How to build a low-cost ‘cloaking’ device using ordinary lenses

"Rochester Cloak" can hide objects across range of angles and wavelengths
September 30, 2014

A multidirectional `perfect paraxial’ cloak using four lenses. From a continuous range of viewing angles, the hand remains cloaked, and the grids seen through the device match the background on the wall (about 2 m away), in color, spacing, shifts, and magnification. /(Credit: J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester)

University of Rochester scientists have developed a cloaking (as in Harry Potter) method that uses four standard lenses that keeps the object hidden as the viewer moves up to several degrees away from the optimal viewing position.

Previous cloaking devices have used “high-tech or exotic materials,” said John Howell, a professor of physics at the University of Rochester.

“This is the first device that we know of that… read more

‘Greener,’ low-cost transistor heralds advance in flexible electronics

September 29, 2014

This transparent transistor, which functions even when wrapped around a thin pen, could help make flexible electronics widely accessible (credit: American Chemical Society)

As LG demonstrated this summer with its new 18-inch partially flexible curved screen, the next generation of roll-up displays may be tantalizingly close.

Now UCLA and Yonsei University researchers have taken the next step, with an inexpensive, simple new way to make transparent, flexible transistors that could help bring roll-up smartphones with see-through displays and other bendable gadgets to consumers in just a few years, as they reported… read more

Turning the Moon into a giant cosmic ray detector

September 29, 2014

Square Kilometer Array

Scientists from the University of Southampton plan to turn the Moon into a giant particle detector to help understand the origin of ultra-high-energy (UHE) cosmic rays — the most energetic particles in the Universe.

The origin of UHE cosmic rays is one of the great mysteries in astrophysics. Nobody knows where these extremely rare cosmic rays come from or how they get their enormous energies. Physicists detect them on… read more

Ultra-low-energy-consuming transistors and circuits

September 29, 2014

Energy-efficient tunnel FET switches and circuits (credit: E2 SWITCH)

European project E2SWITCH is developing new electronic systems with ultra-low energy consumption, based on tunnel FET (TFET) heterostructures for switches (transistors) and circuits.

The idea is to design that will be built on silicon substrates but designed to operate at voltages that are up to five times lower than those used in mobile phones, while reducing thermal dissipation.

Transistors and circuits based on lower voltages result… read more

‘Tumor Paint’ brain-tumor-detecting dye gets go-ahead for clinical study

Identifies tumor cells so surgeons don’t remove too little, leaving disease behind --- or too much, removing healthy tissue
September 28, 2014

Tumor paint ft.

The FDA has approved an investigational new drug application for Tumor Paint BLZ-100, a protein-linked dye that highlights cancer cells in images so surgeons can precisely target brain tumors.

The FDA move means Blaze Bioscience can proceed with a clinical trial in Los Angeles, Queensland, Australia and other sites.

Twenty-one adult patients who need surgery for often-deadly glioma brain tumors are expected to enroll in the study, which… read more

Climate-Earth system computer model to be the most advanced ever created, says DOE

Armed with high-performance computing systems, DOE national labs and partners tackle climate and Earth-system modeling
September 26, 2014

Computer modeling provides policymakers with essential information on such data as global sea surface temperatures related to specific currents.

The U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories are teaming up with academia and the private sector to develop what they call the most advanced climate and Earth system computer model yet, and investigate key fundamental science questions, such as the interaction of clouds and climate and the role of secondary organic aerosols.

The project could help address concerns by some that the 55 existing global climate models… read more

Bots on the ground

Robot generators on wheels could power emergency and military operations
September 26, 2014

bots

Michigan Technological University engineers have developed a tabletop model of a robot team that can bring power to emergency workers, starting with cell towers to restore communications.

“If we can regain power in communication towers, then we can find the people we need to rescue,” says Nina Mahmoudian, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering–engineering mechanics. “And the human rescuers can communicate with each other.”

The team has programmed… read more

‘Active clothing’ for soft robots

Now anything can be a soft robot with sensory skin
September 26, 2014

Sensor threads composed of eGaIn-filled hyperelastic silicone tubing, attached to fabric via couching and wrapped around a foam block (Michelle Yuen et al.)

Purdue University researchers are developing a robotic fabric that moves and contracts and is embedded with sensors, an approach that could bring “active clothing” and a new class of soft robots.

Such an elastic technology could make possible robots that have sensory skin, stretchable robotic garments that people might wear for added strength and endurance, “g-suits” for pilots or astronauts to counteract the effects of acceleration, and… read more

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