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Charging electric cars efficiently…and inductively

July 31, 2014 10:25 am | News | Comments

We already charge our toothbrushes and cellphones using contactless technology. Researchers in Germany have developed a particularly efficient and cost-effective inductive method that could allow electric cars to soon follow suit. The new design places the charging coils close to the car’s undercarriage without actually touching it. The charging station is also robust enough to be driven over.

Scientists develop new way to separate birdsong sources

July 31, 2014 10:08 am | News | Comments

A team of U.S. and Chinese scientists have published a new study that could greatly improve current methods of localizing birdsong data. Their findings, which ascertain the validity of using statistical algorithms to detect multiple-source signals in real time and in three-dimensional space, are of especial significance to modern warfare.

A smart wristband for nocturnal cyclists

July 30, 2014 12:08 pm | News | Comments

A team of engineers in Switzerland have invented a wristband that flashes when the rider reaches out to indicate a turn. Designed to add safety for cyclists in urban areas, the relatively simple device consists of an accelerometer and a magnetometer that can detect the position of the user's arm. When the rider reaches out laterally, the accelerometer and magnetometer provide data to a microcontroller, which directs the LED to engage.

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Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

July 30, 2014 11:50 am | News | Comments

For decades, strategic seed collections that help preserve biodiversity have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather. A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. A new approach called simulation-based planning was used to recommend how seeds are saved and reintroduced.

Climate change research goes to the extremes

July 30, 2014 11:50 am | by Angela Herring, Northeastern Univ. | News | Comments

By now, most sci­en­tists agree that the tem­per­a­ture of the planet is rising and that the increase is due to human activ­i­ties. But the jury still out regarding the vari­ability of that increase. Researchers using “big data” computational tools have recently taken a systematic approach to answering this question and their results point to both higher global temperatures and increasing variability among those temperature extremes.

NASA-funded x-ray instrument settles interstellar debate

July 30, 2014 9:42 am | News | Comments

New findings from a NASA-funded instrument have resolved a decades-old puzzle about a fog of low-energy x-rays observed over the entire sky. Thanks to refurbished detectors first flown on a NASA sounding rocket in the 1970s, astronomers have now confirmed the long-held suspicion that much of this glow stems from a region of million-degree interstellar plasma known as the local hot bubble, or LHB.

Vision-correcting display makes reading glasses so yesterday

July 30, 2014 9:00 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

What if computer screens had glasses instead of the people staring at the monitors? That concept is not too far afield from technology being developed by UC Berkeley computer and vision scientists. They are developing computer algorithms to compensate for an individual’s visual impairment, and creating vision-correcting displays that enable users to see text and images clearly without wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses.

New gadget helps the vision impaired to read graphs

July 29, 2014 10:47 am | News | Comments

An affordable digital reading system invented by researchers in Australia now allows people who are blind to read more than just words. The device works by using pattern recognition technology and other methods on any document to identify images, graphs, maths or text. From here it is then converted to audio format with navigation markup.

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DARPA collaboration launches breakthrough elastic cloud-to-cloud networking

July 29, 2014 9:06 am | News | Comments

In 2006, DARPA launched a long-term project called CORONET, which sought to develop a cloud-based technology that could enable affordable, fast bandwidth and ensure the survival of cloud networks in the event of system-wide failures. After years of work, scientists from AT&T, IBM and Applied Communication Sciences have announced a proof-of-concept technology that reduces setup times for cloud-to-cloud connectivity from days to seconds.

New tools help neuroscientists analyze big data

July 28, 2014 4:45 pm | News | Comments

Big data can mean big headaches for scientists. A new library of software tools from Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus speeds analysis of data sets so large and complex they would take days or weeks to analyze on a single workstation, even if a single workstation could do it at all. The new tool, Thunder, should help interpret data that holds new insights into how the brain works.

Gadget Watch: PadFone novel as phone-tablet hybrid

July 28, 2014 1:26 pm | by Anick Jesdanun - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Companies often blend old products to give you something new. This summer, AsusTek Computer Inc. claims you don't need both a phone and a tablet—as long as you get its new PadFone X. The PadFone works like any other phone and has a screen that measures 5 in diagonally.

A transistor-like amplifier for single photons

July 28, 2014 11:19 am | by Olivia Meyer-Streng, Max Planck Institute | News | Comments

With the help of ultracold quantum gas, physicists have achieved a 20-fold amplification of single-photon signals, a step that could aid all-optical data processing efforts. The breakthrough was made with the invention of a new type of optical transistor build from a cloud of rubidium atoms, held just above absolute zero, that is transparent to certain wavelengths of light.

Graphene surfaces on photonic racetracks

July 28, 2014 11:12 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. recently published work that describes how graphene can be wrapped around a silicon wire, or waveguide, and modify the transmission of light through it.  These waveguide loops, called “racetrack resonators” because of their shape, could help form a device architecture that would make graphene biochemical sensors a reality.

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Measuring the smallest magnets

July 28, 2014 11:05 am | News | Comments

A wildly bouncing tennis ball that travels a millions times the distance of its own size would be difficult to measure. But attaching the same ball to a measuring device would eliminate the “noise”. Researchers in Israel recently used a similar trick to measure the interaction between the smallest possible magnets (two electrons) after neutralizing magnetic noise that was a million times stronger than the signal they needed to detect.

UConn makes 3-D copies of antique instrument parts

July 28, 2014 10:57 am | by Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press | News | Comments

The medical practice of Dr. Robert Howe, a reproductive endocrinologist in Massachusetts, introduced him to how computerized tomography could make precise 3-D images of body parts. As a student of music history, he realized the same technology could help him study delicate musical instruments from the past. With the help of engineers, these rare instruments are now being both imaged and printed printed in 3-D.

Building invisible materials with light

July 28, 2014 7:51 am | News | Comments

A new method of building materials using light, developed by researchers at the Univ. of Cambridge, could one day enable technologies that are often considered the realm of science fiction. Although cloaked starships won’t be a reality for quite some time, the technique which researchers have developed for constructing materials with building blocks a few nanometers across can be used to control the way that light flies through them.

Collecting just the right data

July 25, 2014 7:56 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Much artificial intelligence research addresses the problem of making predictions based on large data sets. An obvious example is the recommendation engines at retail sites like Amazon and Netflix. But some types of data are harder to collect than online click histories. And in other applications there may just not be enough time to crunch all the available data.

The birth of topological spintronics

July 24, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Research led by Penn State Univ. and Cornell Univ. physicists is studying "spintorque" in devices that combine a standard magnetic material with a new material known as a topological insulator. The new insulator, which is made of bismuth selenide and operates at room temperature, overcomes one of the key challenges to developing a spintronics technology based on spin-orbit coupling.

Highest-precision measurement made of water on an exoplanet

July 24, 2014 10:02 am | News | Comments

The discovery of water vapor in the atmospheres of three exoplanets includes the most precise measurement of any chemical in a planet outside the solar system, and has major implications for planet formation and the search for water on Earth-like habitable exoplanets in future. These results show just how challenging it could be to detect water on Earth-like exoplanets in our search for potential life elsewhere.

Researchers pioneer a Google street view of galaxies

July 23, 2014 9:55 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

A new home-grown instrument based on bundles of optical fibers is giving Australian astronomers the first “Google street view” of the cosmos—incredibly detailed views of huge numbers of galaxies. Developed by researchers at the Univ. of Sydney and the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the optical-fiber bundles can sample the light from up to 60 parts of a galaxy, for a dozen galaxies at a time.

First direct-diode laser bright enough to cut, weld metal

July 23, 2014 9:43 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

MIT Lincoln Laboratory spinout TeraDiode is commercializing a multi-kilowatt diode laser system that’s bright enough to cut and weld through a half-inch of steel, and at greater efficiencies than today’s industrial lasers. The new system is based on a wavelength beam-combining laser diode design that won an R&D 100 Award in 2012. It combines multiple beams into a single output ray, allowing for a power boost without efficiency loss.

NASA’s Fermi space telescope finds a “transformer” pulsar

July 23, 2014 9:19 am | Videos | Comments

In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed. The pulsar's radio beacon vanished, while at the same time the system brightened fivefold in gamma rays, the most powerful form of light, according to measurements by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. It was as if someone flipped a switch on the pulsar.

The geography of the global electronic waste burden

July 23, 2014 8:42 am | News | Comments

As local and national governments struggle to deal with ever-growing piles of electronic waste (e-waste), scientists are now refining the picture of just how much there is and where it really ends up. Published in Environmental Science & Technology, their study found that nearly a quarter of e-waste that developed countries discard floods into just seven developing countries.

RFID tags on honey bees reveal hive dynamics

July 23, 2014 7:56 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists attached radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to hundreds of individual honey bees and tracked them for several weeks. The effort yielded two discoveries: Some foraging bees are much busier than others; and if those busy bees disappear, others will take their place.

Joint Singapore-U.S. program to increase IC circuit designers globally

July 22, 2014 1:37 pm | News | Comments

North Carolina-based Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) and Singapore’s Silicon Cloud International (SCI) are launching a new program aimed at globally advancing integrated circuit (IC) design education and research. The program will focus on increasing the quantity of IC designers in university systems worldwide, and enhancing expertise in secure cloud computing architecture.

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