-Quantum is one of those words that implies a certain significance to whatever it describes. So it seems a little odd when the recent news that Los Alamos National Labs has been using what equates to a quantum internet for 2 years, the announcement was almost an aside. Now the important aspect of a quantum internet is its security. Much as the nature of a particle is altered when one attempts to ascertain both its position and momentum, if a quantum internet connection is interrupted by someone trying to gain access to the information, it will collapse. Now the labs were using a work around by running connections to a central hub which then redistributed signals to their destinations. That’s important because typically the idea behind a quantum internet implies that it can only run between two points because, as mentioned above, any alteration in the nature of the signal causes its state to collapse into noise. So merely telling it to go from one location to another breaches the security. So instead signals are sent to a central router which then redirects them. That does mean that the router is a weak point, but the whole concept of the protecting the signal in transit is sound.
-Antimatter may be the opposite of matter but there are some very good questions about how it reacts with the forces that are present in the universe. CERN is presently beginning to set up experiments that will measure the effects of gravity on antimatter. While there are no expectations that antimatter will react in a directly opposite manner than ordinary matter, it does make scientists wonder if the established laws of gravity will be born out in their experiments. CERN’s experiment will start by generating anti-hydrogen which will be contained in a magnetic bottle. The scientists will then observe which of the walls of the bottle the anti-hydrogen will collide with in order to establish a pattern. Since antimatter reacts violently with matter and releases a tremendous amount of energy upon contact it could be used for energy production or possibly even propulsion. However, in order to use this effectively we need to understand the nature and properties of antimatter which is where CERN’s research comes into play.
-Crossing the US by air happens daily but the journey of the Solar Impulse will be something different. The solar powered plane will leave from Mountville, CA and travel to New York, NY starting on May 1st. The plane has space for a single pilot and is capable of flying overnight. This is not a straight through flight and will feature stops in Phoenix, Dallas and then D.C. before the final lap to New York. The idea is to show case the technology along the way. While the wingspan is larger than a 747 the plane itself weighs less than a car.
-Hydrogen Peroxide could be the key to life beneath the surface of Europa. While it’s not something one usually considers a key, the mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water causes the compound to decay with an oxygen byproduct. The Galileo mission found initial proof of hydrogen peroxide during its study of the moon. Recent observation by the Keck telescope has revealed that the face of Europa in the direction of its orbit has the highest concentration. Also on March 26th President Obama signed a bill that will add 75 million dollars to fund to explore Europa as well as increasing the money for planetary exploration.
-The most recent Space-X Dragon capsule sent to the International Space Station almost didn’t make the trip. Due to small error in the production of the oxidizer tank check valves, three out of four of the valves failed under high pressure right after separation in the critical time where the capsule orients itself to receive communication from the ground. The solution was rather ingenious and involved rapidly writing new code to cause a build up pressure above the valves and make it release rapidly forcing them open. The tricky part was that the capsule was not in a position to receive the programming upload so the Air Force was contacted to provide higher intensity communication arrays that were able to reach the Dragon Capsule. The last minute solution was a success and the capsule docked with the station in what was described as a picture perfect catch.
-Unless you’ve been living under a rock about the size of the one that came down, you’ve heard about the meteor that struck the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia. This 55 meters in diameter 10k ton rock broke up in the skies over the Ural mountains and its fragments left contrails in the sky, blew out the glass in windows and injured as many as a thousand people. Scientists in Russia are just beginning to gather up some of the pieces from this unexpected visitor. So far they have collected 53 black stones found around Lake Cherbakul. The lake made the news earlier when a 20’ in diameter hole was discovered that is believed to be the result of a meteor fragment. Divers in the lake have not located any larger pieces and the ones on hand currently are smaller than an inch. That hasn’t deterred what is becoming a meteor gold rush as collectors begin to comb the area looking for genuine pieces. Within a brief time of the strike there were already meteor pieces available for sale on eBay. The scientists have established that their specimens are actual meteorite fragments and are of the common stony or chondrite variety.
-So if you’ve already been parahawking and are looking for the next adrenaline rush, you might want to try flyboarding. The sport has taken off in Hawaii and lets you launch yourself into the air as well as jet along underwater. The jet here is the key part. The flyboard looks a little like a wake board with two boots attached to its surface. The jet is the result of the two nozzles on either side of the board and the trailing tube which remains in the water. The flyboard works a great deal like a jet ski sucking in water through the tube and venting it through the nozzles to provide lift and impetus. Like most things a little skill is
Required to become truly acrobatic but experts are able to stand upright and launch themselves several times their own height up into the air, do flips and even jet along like a dolphin when underwater.
-China is determined to be wired. New policies just put into place require that if a home is built within a mile of a fiber optic cable that it will be hooked up. This all begins in April and China hopes to have 40 million of its residents wired by 2015. But that isn’t all, if you’re hooked up, you also have the right to choose amongst all of the possible local providers via the fiber. This is a very proactive stance and it’s way ahead of the US’s own since Google seems to be the only one who’s trying to promote fiber wiring. Right now our nation doesn’t even have consistent broadband coverage, so it sounds like we could be left behind. -Graphene—the list of what it can’t do is getting smaller. A few months ago WTS let you know the many uses of this series of carbon molecules. Now you can add one more thing to the list—graphene can be used to help clean up spills of nuclear waste. The waste adheres to the graphene and allows workers to clean up the spill. Later, since graphene burns, it can be burnt away from the waste which can then be contained.
-Tactus is an interesting new way to expand the touch screen into actual buttons. The buttons are pockets that are filled with a liquid that is in a layer and pulled up into gaps on request. The buttons are not tall they are only a few millimeters above the surface but they can be used to create a better representation of a keyboard than keys that are merely graphics. The company will produce the screens which can then be attached to tablet or reader surfaces. The buttons can represent anything from a standard keyboard to game controllers.
-That yellow light that’s glowing constantly on your car’s dashboard could have been prevented by a new product called carvoyant. There is a standardized plug on all cars built after 1996 that is located near the car’s steering column. By taking a carvoyant device and plugging it in here, the user is then able to warned about potential issues that could lead to costly repairs via cell phone. By looking at readings taken over time, the carvoyant device looks at the same information that your garage does, but shares it with you. Making replacements and repairs ahead of time will allow the driver to increase the lifespan of their car.
(Getting what we need from the environment without harming it)
-Wetlands could generate electricity using the Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell. Netherlands researchers have developed the device which is designed to be placed near the roots of plants where the electrode of the cell would capture electrons released by bacteria as they feed off the organic effluvia. So not only would this work in marshes the scientists believe that it would also be effective with grasses. So you could potentially charge your laptop from cells that were amongst the roots of the grass planted on the roof of your home.
-The PENG or pyroelectric nano generator takes a different approach to things and uses heat to harvest potential. Excess heat produced by any number of things represents thermal potential and a team of scientists have created a device to take advantage of the pyroelectric effect. This effect derives electric potential from minute changes in temperature. So imagine placing a PENG next to your computer’s exhaust port to charge your telephone battery.
Instead of wasting the potential of the heat caused by the processor, we reuse it. Right now almost half the energy generated in the US is lost in waste heat, so the PENG could turn the tables on that problem. Prior generators were limited in their output, but using lead zirconate titante as a building material has allowed scientists to greatly increase their efficiency. The key here is these are small, so it is the end result of a bank of generators instead of a single one that is important. Right now the current issue rather than the voltage since current PENG’s cannot deliver the electricity faster than a device could discharge, but the technology continues to have great potential.
-In dry and arid places a self filling water bottle could be the holy grail sought by a new startup called NBDnano. To be truly self filling, the bottle will not require any additional energy to be input to start the process. Nature has already taken a stab at the idea with Namib Desert beetle. This little bug has alternating areas that are attractive and repellant to water. When exposed to water vapor, droplets form and a shepherded together in such a way that they will not be lost and can be ingested by the beetle. There still has to be a moisture laden breeze and NBDnano is generating the breeze with solar panels and rechargeable batteries. If there is no moisture then the system doesn’t work. So it looks like the company has a long road ahead of them to true success.
-Carbon has a number of desirable states. The one we are most familiar with is the diamond. Interestingly enough there is a good chance that one of the first exo-planets identified, 55 Canceri, is composed of quite a bit of diamond. The planet which is twice the size of earth is also eight times as dense and given the close proximity of its orbit, astronomers believed it would have a burned and blasted surface. But 55 Canceri has a very strange chemical makeup, one so odd that it seems there were several misconceptions about what actually could occur on its surface. There were guesses at supercritical fluids that welled up onto the land which scientists have now passed over in favor of graphite and diamond. Astronomers now believe that original estimate of the density of the planet (which was initially close to that of lead) is due to the presence of large quantities of diamond. 55 Canceri is not the first diamond planet discovered, but it is the first one orbiting a planet similar to our own sun.
-Another aspect of carbon are carbon nanotubes. Using the unique bonding properties of the carbon atom, the tubes provide high tensile strength and are used in building materials which need to be both light and durable. New research has shown that if the tubes are aligned and then stretched that the end result can be a 90% increase in the tensile strength of the material. The tubes are grown upright and tend to lean against each other. Pulling on one side of the substrate causes them to fall over in the same direction. The tubes are then encased in resin and wound into a ribbon. This breakthrough may lead to materials for the construction of a space elevator.
-Graphene is yet another carbon form that is most useful in sheets only a molecule thick. These sheets are formed of hexagons with a carbon molecule on each tip forming a plane. Since the sheets are only one atom thick, electrical impulses and energy such as heat pass easily through them. In fact taking the sheets and creating a layering can produce an electric transformer where the electrons in one layer pull others up due to the interaction of their charges. Graphene can also be used as a lubricant if broken down into tiny plates. Scientists also believe that a foam of graphene can be used to create supercapicitors.
THE ROBOTS ARE COMING TO TAKE YOU AWAY
-NASA’s Robonaut 2 (a teleoperated man-shaped unit) maybe inspiring a unique offshoot of invention. The very armatures that move the robot can also be used to create an exoskeleton called the X1 which could enable those with severe mobility issues to walk once again.
-Vigilus will be walking the beat when everyone else is asleep. This bot is primarily a vehicle for numerous cameras designed to replace security guards in such places as museums and warehouses. Vigilus is designed to supplement rather than replace security guards allowing more eyes in more places. It can easily be updated and sends a wifi signal if there is an issue. Vigilant Robots recently received a Security’s Best Award from the American Society for Industrial Security.
-To put a friendlier face on the mechanoids look to FURO a Korean robot which will soon be working in airports and event spaces. The robot sports a head module with a screen projected face that interacts and reacts with its visitors. A large touch screen is carried in front of the unit as if it were in its arms and is easily accessible to clients. The FURO is designed to notice human’s movements and actively seek out those who act as though they might need help. The projected face responds with human mannerisms and the unit can understand up to 30 different languages. A Brazilian buyer purchased more than 100 FUROs and other countries are also making plans to include the service bots.
-”Dance monkey, dance!” might be going through the circuits of certain Coke machines in South Korea where customers who can gyrate in a pleasing way and convince the dispenser of their sincerity receive free Coke. The advertising gimmick attaches a Kinnect to the soda machine which measures the movements of the participant against preset values.
-Finally, not one but two bots have passed a Turing test set up by BotPrize utilizing the first person shooter game UT2004. After a round of play the humans must guess which of the contestants are actually “human”. The UT^2 team from Texas University at Austin and Mihai Polceanu were both recognized for creating bots chosen as “human”.
-What if your shoes knew the way home? Dominic Wilcox has created the “No Place Like Home” shoes with a GPS device in the left heel. The left toe of the shoe is a circle of lights which will indicate the direction one should travel. The right toe had a line of lights which gradually goes out the closer one gets to the destination. Program in your goal and get walking!
-Here’s another good reason to wear a helmet when you’re on your bike, the new ICEdot will send out a call for help if you take a serious spill. The In Case of Emergency contact programmed into your phone can be activated via blue tooth when the helmet detects an impact. The user has the option to override the message in case things aren’t threatening, but the option is there if needed. The ICEdot technology could have many other uses like monitoring motorcyclists or construction workers.
-Enabletalk have created a pair of gloves which will allow sign language users to literally speak with their hands. The gloves interpret the signing and then via a smart phone “speak” for the user. Enabletalk’s next ambition is to allow two users to have a cell phone conversation with each other.
-Your driveway could be a cool glowing path leading the way home at night. Round pebbles coated with photoluminescent paints can be scattered across your drive. Each day the rocks receive a charge from the sunlight and each night they give off a luminous glow. COREglow pebbles come in three colors and after 10-20 minutes worth of exposure to sunlight, shine for 10-12 hours. COREglow is on sale currently in the UK.
-Harvard bioengineers have created a new kind of data storage using one of the oldest methods known. With one gram of DNA, the scientists were able to store almost 700 terabytes of information. In a digital sense, the data is stored where Thiamine and Guanine represent a “1” and Cytosine and Adenine represent a “0”. DNA strands which hold 96 bits are synthesized and there are 19 bit tags added to the beginning of each strand to allow one to order the strands. Sequencing the strands and placing the resultant information in the correct placement allows one to read out the storage. Imagine the amount of data one could carry easily and nearly undetectably. The other thing that is very important is the amount of data that can be stored. The scientists were able to replicate 70 billion copies of George Church, one the researcher’s, latest books in one gram of DNA. There are a number of things that we don’t do simply due to amount of data storage necessary. This breakthrough could knock down all of those barriers and allow us a tremendous amount of flexibility in the future. Finally, the DNA storage unlike other current storage methods is durable and doesn’t require special circumstances.
-Tired of waiting for things to charge? Korean scientists at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have a new lithium-ion battery whose charging speed is more than a hundred times faster than our current technology. Our current batteries charge from the outside towards the center. One method of working around this is to use groups of cells which allows a decrease in size. But even this only works so well. The Koreans use lithium manganese oxide which is dosed with a graphite solution. Once the graphite it carbonized it forms a series on conduits similar to capillaries that reach all of the portions of the battery and allow the charge to disperse through out rather than waiting for it to trickle through. There are two downsides to the process. One, the batteries become bigger, so this may not be the solution that increases the life of your cellphone– rather it could become the one that powers your electric car. Secondly, the process and the materials are expensive, so this isn’t an immediate easy solution. However the end result could be the ability to charge your car in less time than it takes to fill up a standard vehicle at the pump.
-In other battery news, Georgia Tech is looking not at how you charge your battery but rather what charges your battery. In fact they’re taking their concept for a walk—literally. By taking a polyvinylidene difluoride film and placing it between the electrodes of a typical lithium-ion battery and relying on the piezoelectric nature of the film which produces a charging action which occurs under pressure, they’ve developed a battery that charges with repeated applications of a small amount of pressure. Then they decided to stick it on the bottom of an experimenter’s shoe and take it for a walk. So potentially in the future, a brisk walk to work could charge your cell phone.
-ArduSat, a miniature satellite, is evidence of the success of crowdfunded science. NanoSatisfi started the Kickstarter project for the satellite and also created a contest for the best experiment to be run from orbit. Discover Magazine partnered with Nanosatisfi on the contest and asked Bad Astronmy’s Phil Plait to judge. Phil picked a very interesting experiment as the winner. Enrique Gomez suggested using the satellite to detect Terrestrial Gamma Ray flashes caused by terrestrial lightning. TGFs have been observed but little is known about the process that creates photons with millions of times more energy than visible light. Ardusat, whose interior looks somewhat like a boxkite, will also be used for other experiments, in some cases decided by the level of contribution to Kickstarter.
-Cubes in orbit need tiny thrusters to get them about. When your satellite is about the size of a Rubik’s cube, you need something a little special to get it about. Enter MIT’s micro thrusters. These newly developed miniature engines could be used in clusters to provide greater mobility to small satellites.
-Believe it or not most drugs are best served cold – or at least the ones specifically designed to be effective against third world infectious diseases. The problem here of course is that most of the places that need these drugs don't have refrigeration and are difficult to reach much less hauling around a cooler. There is a way around the issue though and it's a bit surprising where the answer comes from – out of a caterpillar's butt. Silk, or specifically silk fibroin film, which is refined from silk, can be used to insulate the doses of required drugs. In liquid form, the film is mixed with the vaccines and can form nanoscale pockets which protect the drugs from temperatures up to 113 degrees for as long as six months. This is a fantastic breakthrough, which will allow health workers to transport vital doses to faraway places.
-Do you know where your salad is and if it's still edible? Thinfilm and Bemis, two companies involved in developing tagging products may be able to tell you both. What's interesting is that Thinfilm is taking the concept of printing, as in 3d printing, to a new level allowing them to embed nonvolatile memories, which can be read and rewritten. An example of this might be, as mentioned above, a shipment of perishable pharmaceutical drugs. The bags would be labeled with the Thinfilm tags that could then monitor their temperature and indicate any harmful rises. What is interesting is that Thinfilm is developing a repeatable process to print rolls of their tags for standardized use. Wisconsin based Bemis; a packaging company is working in cooperation to bring this technology into widespread use by 2014. The printed electronics industry is expected to grow into a 50 billion dollar business by 2019. In reference to knowing where your salad is – Thinfilm technologies can also be used to create RFID tags to allow tracking of shipments and objects.
-In an experiment that sounds like the beginning of every Outbreak film mashed headlong in Jurassic Park – NASA astrobiologist Betul Kacar combined a gene from a 500 million year old sample with modern E. Coli with surprising results. Initially, the chimera organism was less healthy than its modern version, but continued to divide. After 500 iterations, the virus was already mutating and some of the mutations were actually more adaptable than the current version. What Kacar is really trying to do is see if there is really only one path that evolution takes always yielding the same result or if there are many possible answers to the question of what survives the best.
-Without carving a giant sign on the moon, how do we let visitors to our world know that an intelligent species lived here 10 million years in the future? Perhaps with something shiny, like per se a sapphire disc? Using two circular slices of 8-inch sapphire glued together with a platinum plate in between, a team of scientists believes they have found a method of preserving up to 40k of pages or images inscribed on the plate. The interesting fact is the initial purpose of this disc is to warn off potential excavators of radioactive waste dumps since the areas would continue to be dangerous for millions of years.
While we have made great strides in allowing people who have lost mobility or limbs to live not only ordinary but productive lives, we still haven't always seen that this can be looked at as something that can be positive. We always want to measure against our norm that we are comfortable with. Bespoke Innovations is a company that is taking the prosthetic, that society tends to urge the wearer to hide or camouflage, and turning it into art. Right now what Bespoke does is produce fairings that can be attached to the outside of artificial legs. At the most basic, the fairings are designed to more closely replicate the physical shape of the wearer's leg. The innovative part is using the fairing as one would a piece of clothing to complement what the wearer chooses. So these fairings are the exact opposite of skin tone replicas instead coming in many colors, designs and even metal. Created via a 3D printing process onto a light polymer material, the fairings can be covered with a variety of materials as well.
The science of zombies to a step forward recently when stem cells were discovered in a viable but dormant state in a 17 day old corpse. Myoblasts are cells which a responsible for the skeleton and are known to be able to survive in adverse conditions but they were previously only known to be able to survive for about two days. The fact that these cells could enter a dormant state was the first significant discovery, that they continued to be viable was even more surprising. This may prove important in consideration of harvesting stem cells, since bodies donated may then become sources. The real interesting point also is that the team conducting the test had not corpses older than 17 days, so the cells may last even longer. Being dead doesn't necessarily mean that all of you is dead any more....
Getting the gear in your skull just became a little more possible as scientists consider using your cerebral spinal fluid to power implants. WTS reported before about powering such things as artificial hearts using glucose batteries and the concept here is similar. The thing is once you put something inside the skull; you don't want to have to go in often. Also the body does not often use the glucose that is in the CSF, so it's free for utilization. Now glucose batteries are not a new idea, they've been around since the 70s, but the trick is that in some form or another they tend to contain enzymes which could cause the body to reject the implant. An MIT team has created a glucose battery using silicon that strips electrons from the glucose for power using a platinum catalyst. Because there are no organic aspects to the battery the chance of rejection is greatly reduced. Researchers believe they can use the unit to power implants, which could help people with spinal injuries and motor control issues.
We could be looking at a cure for one of the most infectious diseases known – ebola. Researchers have successfully cured monkeys from the disease with an antibody treatment called ZMAb with injections after up to 48 hours from infection. ZMAb attacks ebola by disabling a glycoprotein on its surface that allows the virus to enter cells. This inhibits the replication rate of the virus to the point that the body's immune system can mount an effective response. One unique aspect of this treatment is that it contains multiple antibodies to attack the structure of ebola in order to stave off the possibility of the virus developing immunity. Once contracted, ebola is currently 90 percent fatal, which is what makes this breakthrough very exciting. The treatment will need human testing and will be hopefully ready for widespread use in 2014.
-We all read about little hacks that people do to make their lives easier, but most of those involve some access to sophisticated hardware when you get into the really neat stuff—so the folks at Ninja Blocks have come up with an interesting solution. The Ninja Block is a small computer in something about the size of a bar of soap that has all sorts of interesting sensors such as temperature, accelerometers built in, USB port access to add other things like motion detectors and more and an Ethernet port to hook things up to the web. So you can use this block as center point to attach a number of different gadgets and then access them remotely. Want to make sure nobody enters your hotel room when you’re out on the town? Hook up a motion sensor and the Ninja Block will send a signal to your smart phone when someone opens the door. The trick here is that the block is put together to encourage the user to come up with multiple different uses: so you don’t just have a screwdriver, you have a multitool.
-There’s something in the water in California and they come in swarms. The Sacramento River now has new inhabitants courtesy of the University of California, Berkley—100 GPS controlled robots that act as a group to survey currents, flow and quality of the water. While in the past passive metering was possible, this new
system allows the observers to send some of the devices to areas of greater interest as well as spread out and cover more of the river. The robots are outfitted with a cell phone GPS unit and some are also android units, which tweet as @fsnandroid61. Two things make this kind of experiment possible now: the lowering of cost to produce the units and the widespread use of GPS. In the future the robots will look into salinity changes, waste spills and even potential dam breaks.
-It used to be how you made your beer bottle shine, but now this process is being used to make paper touch screens. The touch screens we are familiar with are constructed from plastic and glass which can be heavy and easily broken whereas the new paper ones are flexible, lighter and cheaper. The process involves paper being coated with aluminum in a thin layer and then covered in a plastic polymer. Sandwiching two sheets together creates a capacitor which will react to the electrical charge of human touch. These sheets cost about $.25 for a square meter of material and are etched with a laser to create sensitive areas that can be used as a keyboard.
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