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Big data tackles tiny molecular machines

March 14, 2014 12:11 pm | News | Comments

Biophysicists at Rice Univ. have used a miniscule machine, a protease called an FtsH-AAA hexameric peptidase, as a model to test calculations that combine genetic and structural data. Their goal is to solve one of the most compelling mysteries in biology: how proteins perform the regulatory mechanisms in cells upon which life depends.

Emotion detectors could make driving safer

March 14, 2014 10:46 am | News | Comments

Technology now allows us to read facial expressions and identify which of the seven universal emotions a person is feeling: fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, surprise or suspicion. This is very useful in video game development, medicine, marketing and, perhaps less obviously, in driver safety. Scientists and automakers are now using these tools and embedded cameras to observe drivers and determine when driver irritation takes place.

Nanoscale optical switch breaks miniaturization barrier

March 14, 2014 10:15 am | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt Univ. | News | Comments

An ultra-fast and ultra-small optical switch has been invented that could advance the day when photons replace electrons in the innards of consumer products ranging from cell phones to automobiles. The new optical device can turn on and off trillions of times per second and consists of tiny individual switches made of a metamaterial that uses vanadium dioxide.

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Researchers write languages to design synthetic living systems

March 14, 2014 10:08 am | by Emily Kale, Virginia Tech | News | Comments

A computer-aided design tool has been used by researchers at Virginia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create genetic languages to guide the design of biological systems. Known as GenoCAD, the open-source software was developed to help synthetic biologists capture biological rules to engineer organisms that produce useful products or health-care solutions from inexpensive, renewable materials.

Google cameras take rafting trip at Grand Canyon

March 14, 2014 10:03 am | by Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press | News | Comments

The 360-degree views of the Grand Canyon that went live Thursday in Google's Street View map option once were reserved largely for rafters who were lucky enough to board a private trip through the remote canyon, or those willing to pay big bucks to navigate its whitewater rapids. But a partnership with the advocacy group American Rivers has allowed to Google to take its all-seeing eyes down nearly 300 miles of rich geologic history.

Amsterdam canal house built with 3-D printer

March 14, 2014 9:58 am | by Toby Sterling, Associated Press | News | Comments

Hundreds of years after wealthy merchants began building the tall, narrow brick houses that have come to define Amsterdam's skyline, Dutch architects are updating the process for the 21st century: fabricating pieces of a canal house out of plastic with a giant 3-D printer and slotting them together like oversized Lego blocks.

Making sense of big data

March 13, 2014 12:56 pm | by Wallace Ravven, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Ben Recht, a statistician and electrical engineer at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, looks for problems. He develops mathematical strategies to help researchers, from urban planners to online retailers, cut through blizzards of data to find what they’re after. He resists the “needle in the haystack” metaphor for big data because, he says, people usually don’t know enough about their data to understand the goal.

Soft robotic fish moves like the real thing

March 13, 2014 8:05 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Soft robots have become a sufficiently popular research topic that they now have their own journal, Soft Robotics. In the first issue of that journal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers report the first self-contained autonomous soft robot capable of rapid body motion: a “fish” that can execute an escape maneuver, convulsing its body to change direction in just a fraction of a second, or almost as quickly as a real fish can.

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California pushes to finish driverless car rules

March 12, 2014 1:44 pm | by Justin Pritchard, Associated Press | News | Comments

Once the stuff of science fiction, driverless cars could be commercially available by decade's end. Under a California law passed in 2012, the DMV must decide by the end of this year how to integrate the autonomous vehicles onto public roads. That means the regulation's writers will post draft language regulations around June, then alter the rules in response to public comment by fall in order to get them finalized by the end of 2014.

Inventor of Web calls for digital bill of rights

March 12, 2014 8:50 am | Videos | Comments

The World Wide Web marks its 25th anniversary this year. On Wednesday, its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, commented about the state of the Internet and about the need to defend principles that have made the Web successful. Named an R&D Scientist of the Year in 1996, Berners-Lee has been a long-time proponent of openness and neutrality on the Web.

Lignin breakthroughs serve as GPS for plant research

March 12, 2014 7:57 am | by D'Lyn Ford, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at North Carolina State Univ. have developed the equivalent of GPS directions for future plant scientists to understand how plants adapt to the environment and to improve plants’ productivity and biofuel potential. Two articles published in The Plant Cell offer a step-by-step approach for studying plant traits, drawing on comprehensive, quantitative research on lignin formation in black cottonwood.

South By Southwest: Secrets, spying, chef Watson

March 11, 2014 11:49 am | by Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

FOMO—or the fear of missing out—is a common complaint at the South By Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas each year. It's here, after all, that "Girls" creator Lena Dunham spoke on Monday at the same time that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden gave a teleconferenced talk. All the while, IBM showed off the capabilities of cognitive computing in a language anyone could understand: food.

Diagnosing diseases with smartphones

March 11, 2014 9:59 am | by Toby Weber, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

Smartphones are capable of giving us directions when we’re lost, sending photos and videos to our friends in mere seconds and, perhaps very soon, diagnose our diseases in real time. Researchers in Texas are developing a disease diagnostic system made of a glass slide and a porous film of gold that offers results that could be read using only a smartphone and a $20 lens attachment.

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Bending the light with a tiny chip

March 11, 2014 7:56 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Imagine that you are in a meeting with coworkers or at a gathering of friends. You pull out your cell phone to show a presentation or a video on YouTube. But you don't use the tiny screen; your phone projects a bright, clear image onto a wall or a big screen. Such a technology may be on its way, thanks to a new light-bending silicon chip developed by researchers at the California Institute of Technology.

Scientists build thinnest-possible LEDs to be stronger, more energy efficient

March 10, 2014 1:11 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Most modern electronics, from flatscreen TVs and smartphones to wearable technologies and computer monitors, use tiny light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. These LEDs are based off of semiconductors that emit light with the movement of electrons. As devices get smaller and faster, there is more demand for such semiconductors that are tinier, stronger and more energy efficient.

U.S. network to scan workers with secret clearances

March 10, 2014 9:49 am | by Stephen Braun, Associated Press | News | Comments

Intelligence officials are planning a sweeping system of electronic monitoring that would tap into government, financial and other databases to scan the behavior of many of the 5 million federal employees with secret clearances. The system is intended to identify rogue agents, corrupt officials and leakers, in part to prevent cases similar to former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden.

Revamping R&D: The New Laboratory In Your Pocket?

March 10, 2014 9:06 am | by Paul Denny-Gouldson, Vice President, Solution Strategy, IDBS | Articles | Comments

The nature of science shares striking similarities across many industry verticals. Whether it’s biologics, chemicals or new product formulations, they are all performed with a high degree of similarity from company to company. This is exemplified by the fact that R&D informatics platforms such as LIMS, ELNs and SDMS are used, and provide real benefits in all science-related sectors.

Interactive simulator takes driver behavior into account

March 10, 2014 7:43 am | News | Comments

Driving behavior is a key factor that is often insufficiently accounted for in computational models that gauge the dynamic characteristics of vehicles. Researchers in Germany have developed a new driving simulator designed to make the “human factor“ more calculable for vehicle engineers.

Survey finds thousands of new stars, but no “Planet X”

March 7, 2014 2:02 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have theorized about the existence of this large, but unseen celestial body, suspected to lie somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto. After searching hundreds of millions of objects across our sky, NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has turned up no evidence of the commonly dubbed "Planet X."

Smartphones become “eye-phones” with new low-cost opthalmologic devices

March 7, 2014 1:22 pm | by Rosanne Spector, Stanford Univ. School of Medicine | News | Comments

Researchers at the Stanford Univ. School of Medicine have developed two inexpensive adapters that enable a smartphone to capture high-quality images of the front and back of the eye. The adapters make it easy for anyone with minimal training to take a picture of the eye and share it securely with other health practitioners or store it in the patient’s electronic record.

Scientists create optical nanocavity to improve light absorption in semiconductors

March 7, 2014 1:14 pm | News | Comments

Experts from the Univ. of Buffalo (UB), helped by colleagues from two Chinese universities, have developed an optical "nanocavity" that could help increase the amount of light absorbed by ultrathin semiconductors. The advancement could lead to the creation of more powerful photovoltaic cells and improvements in video cameras and even hydrogen fuel, as the technology could aid the splitting of water using energy from light.

Scientists establish a new principle for future spin devices

March 7, 2014 1:04 pm | News | Comments

A new mechanism of controlling magnetic states by electric currents has been discovered by an international team of researchers who have exploited a quantum phenomenon to control magnetic states with electrical currents. The research hinges on a quantum geometrical phase, called the Berry phase, that exists in the momentum space of electronic band structures in specific materials.

LED lamps: Less energy, more light with gallium nitride

March 7, 2014 12:55 pm | News | Comments

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are durable and save energy. Now, researchers have found a way to make LED lamps even more compact while supplying more light than commercially available models. The key to this advance are a new type of transistors made of the semiconductor material gallium nitride.

X-ray laser shed new light on quest for faster data storage

March 7, 2014 8:27 am | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

An experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s x-ray laser has revealed the first atomic-scale details of a new technique that could point the way to faster data storage in smartphones, laptops and other devices. Researchers used pulses of specially tuned light to change the magnetic properties of a material with potential for data storage.

Squeezing light into metals

March 7, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

Using an inexpensive inkjet printer, Univ. of Utah electrical engineers produced microscopic structures that use light in metals to carry information. This new technique, which controls electrical conductivity within such microstructures, could be used to rapidly fabricate superfast components in electronic devices, make wireless technology faster or print magnetic materials.

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