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NIST gives astronomers better ruler in search for extrasolar planets

March 26, 2014 2:14 pm | News | Comments

As a planet orbits, its gravity makes its parent star wobble a tiny bit, resulting in slight color changes in the star's light due to the Doppler effect. A high-quality reference spectrum allows scientists to make a comparison to find planets. Now, NIST has made extensive new measurements of thorium, a heavy element often used in emission lamps that help provide that fixed ruler. The work has more than doubled the number of spectral lines.

Desktop human “body” could reduce need for animal drug tests

March 26, 2014 1:13 pm | News | Comments

Call it “homo minutus”. A team at Los Alamos National Laboratory is developing four human organ constructs (liver, heart, lung and kidney) that will work together to serve as a drug and toxicity analysis system that can mimic the actual response of human organs. Called ATHENA, for Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer, the system will fit neatly on a desk.

Researchers see Kelvin wave on quantum “tornado” for first time

March 26, 2014 9:44 am | News | Comments

In extremely cold helium, downward flow into a “drain” forms a vortex that obeys the law of quantum mechanics, not classical mechanics (as with, say, water). Sometimes two vortexes interact and violently separate. Computer simulations suggest that after the vortexes pull apart, they develop ripples called “Kelvin waves” to quickly get rid of the energy. Now, for the first time, researchers have visual evidence that this actually happens.

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Micro systems with big commercial potential featured in SPIE journal

March 26, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Commercial demand is driving high-tech research and development in micro-optoelectromechanical systems (MOEMS) for diverse applications such as space exploration, wireless systems, and healthcare. A new special section on Emerging MOEMS Technology and Applications in the current issue of the Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS discusses these recent breakthrough achievements.

Students virtually dissect hologram-like 3-D cadaver

March 26, 2014 7:49 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

The 3-D virtual reality cadaver floats in space like a hologram on an invisible gurney. Univ. of Michigan 3-D Lab employee Sean Petty stands a few inches away. Petty wears special glasses and pilots a joystick to arbitrarily slice away sections of the cadaver. He enlarges and turns the body for a better view of the detailed anatomy inside.

Source-gated transistor could pave the way for flexible gadgets

March 25, 2014 1:06 pm | News | Comments

Existing transistors act as electronic switches, altering current flow through a semiconductor by controlling the bias voltage across the channel region. A new electronic component, called a source-gated transistor, has been developed in the U.K. and exploits physical effects such as the Schottky barriers at metal-semiconductor contacts. This innovation could improve the reliability of future digital circuits used within flexible gadgets.

New method automatically tracks biological particles in live cell microscopy images

March 25, 2014 12:58 pm | News | Comments

In order to track the movements of biological particles in a cell, scientists at Heidelberg Univ. and the German Cancer Research Center have developed a powerful analysis method for live cell microscopy images. This so-called probabilistic particle tracking method is automatic, computer-based and can be used for time-resolved 2-D and 3-D microscopy image data.

Researchers reconstruct facial images locked in a viewer’s mind

March 25, 2014 9:04 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Using only data from an fMRI scan, researchers led by a Yale Univ. undergraduate have accurately reconstructed images of human faces as viewed by other people. The increased level of sophistication of fMRI scans has already enabled scientists to use data from brain scans taken as individuals view scenes and predict whether a subject was, for instance, viewing a beach or city scene, an animal or a building.

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Scientists develop 3-D SEM metrology for 10-nm structures

March 24, 2014 9:55 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST have devised an idea for determining the 3-D shape of features as small as 10-nm wide. The model-based method compares data from scanning electron microscope images with stored entries in a library of 3-D shapes to find a match and to determine the shape of the sample. The work provides a powerful new way to characterize nanostructures.

Camera used on moon landing sold for $758,489

March 24, 2014 9:19 am | News | Comments

A Hasselblad 500 sold over the weekend at an auction in Austria was described as being the only camera that made it to the moon and back. It was part of the equipment carried by the 1971 Apollo 15 mission. Cameras from other missions were left behind to make room for mineral samples.

Study: Deep ocean current may slow due to climate change

March 21, 2014 2:12 pm | News | Comments

Far beneath the surface of the ocean, deep currents act as conveyer belts, channeling heat, carbon, oxygen and nutrients around the globe. A new study by the Univ. of Pennsylvania’s Irina Marinov and Raffaele Bernardello and colleagues from McGill Univ. has found that recent climate change may be acting to slow down one of these conveyer belts, with potentially serious consequences for the future of the planet’s climate.

After slamming Google, Microsoft admits spying

March 21, 2014 12:41 pm | by Associated Press, Ryan Nakashima | News | Comments

Microsoft Corp., which has skewered rival Google Inc. for going through customer emails to deliver ads, has acknowledged that it searched emails in a blogger's Hotmail account to track down who was leaking company secrets. John Frank, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, which owns Hotmail, says in a statement that the software company "took extraordinary actions in this case."

3-D model links facial features and DNA

March 21, 2014 8:10 am | News | Comments

DNA can already tell us the sex and ancestry of unknown individuals, but now an international team of researchers is beginning to connect genetics with facial features, degrees of femininity and racial admixture. In essence, by including sex and racial admixture, researchers can learn about how certain genes and their variations influence the shape of the face and its features.

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Physicists use geometry to understand “jamming” process

March 21, 2014 8:01 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Oregon physicists using a supercomputer and mathematically rich formulas have captured fundamental insights about what happens when objects moving freely jam to a standstill. Their approach captures jamming—the point at which objects come together too tightly to move—by identifying geometric signatures.

Rapid materials testing in 3-D

March 20, 2014 12:31 pm | News | Comments

Ultrasound is a proven technology in components testing, but until now evaluating the data has always been quite a time-consuming process. Researchers in Germany have recently optimized an ultrasonic testing solution that can test materials quickly and reliably with the help of 3-D images produced directly from test signals. The solution is analogous to medical computed tomography.

Getting rid of bad vibrations

March 20, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

Scanning electron microscopes are extremely sensitive and even subtle movements going on around them can affect their accuracy. Vibration control tables already exist to dampen these sometimes barely perceptible disturbances. But now a new kind of isolation platform for the first time integrates sensors and actuators into the mount, resulting in a platform that is more cost-effective and compact than its predecessors.

Assembling a colossus

March 20, 2014 9:19 am | News | Comments

Geneticists at the Univ. of California, Davis have decoded the genome sequence for the loblolly pine. The accomplishment is a milestone for genetics because this pine’s genome is massive. Bloated with repetitive sequences, it is seven times larger than the human genome and easily big enough to overwhelm standard genome assembly methods.

Tiny transistors for extreme environs

March 20, 2014 7:47 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah electrical engineers fabricated the smallest plasma transistors that can withstand high temperatures and ionizing radiation found in a nuclear reactor. Such transistors someday might enable smartphones that take and collect medical x-rays on a battlefield, and devices to measure air quality in real time.

IBM's Watson to help in brain cancer research

March 19, 2014 3:20 pm | by Bree Fowler - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

IBM is teaming up with the New York Genome Center to help fight brain cancer. The company said Wednesday that its Watson cloud computing system will be used in partnership with a New York-based genetic research center to help develop treatments for glioblastoma, the most common type of brain cancer in U.S. adults.

New app delivers pocket diagnosis

March 19, 2014 1:40 pm | News | Comments

A new app developed by researchers the U.K. accurately measures color-based, or colorimetric, tests for use in home, clinical or remote settings, and enables the transmission of medical data from patients directly to health professionals. Called Colorimetrix, the app helps transform any smartphone into a portable medical diagnostic device.

New airborne GPS technology for weather conditions takes flight

March 19, 2014 9:19 am | News | Comments

In 2010, researchers demonstrated for the first time that atmospheric information could be captured by an airborne GPS device. Now, a new technique led by a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography stands to improve weather models and hurricane forecasting by detecting precise conditions in the atmosphere through a new GPS system. A first-time demonstration using this system has captured key meteorological data from aircraft.

NIST chips help South Pole telescope find direct evidence of universe origin

March 19, 2014 9:16 am | News | Comments

Earlier this week, a team of U.S. cosmologists using the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole said they have discovered the first direct evidence of the rapid inflation of the universe at the dawn of time. The finding was made possible, in part, by superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) designed at NIST.

Obama unleashing power of data on climate change

March 19, 2014 8:47 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The White House on Wednesday announced an initiative to provide private companies and local governments better access to already public climate data. The idea is that with this localized data they can help the public understand the risks they face, especially in coastal areas. The government also is working with Google, Microsoft and Intel, to come up with tools to make communities more resilient in dealing with weather extremes.

Smartphone to become smarter with “deep learning” innovation

March 19, 2014 8:01 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are working to enable smartphones and other mobile devices to understand and immediately identify objects in a camera's field of view, overlaying lines of text that describe items in the environment. The innovation could find applications in "augmented reality" technologies like Google Glass, facial recognition systems and robotic cars that drive themselves.

New lens design improves kidney stone treatment

March 18, 2014 10:53 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. engineers have devised a way to improve the efficiency of lithotripsy—the demolition of kidney stones using focused shock waves. After decades of research, all it took was cutting a groove near the perimeter of the shock wave-focusing lens and changing its curvature.

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