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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.

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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.

Microsoft makes design central to its future

July 21, 2014 3:24 pm | by Ryan Nakashima - AP Business Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Before Ralf Groene helped devise the look and feel of Microsoft's Surface tablet, he designed food — or "food concepts," he says, for people on the go. Among them: dried noodles that come wrapped around a pair of chopsticks; a tubular meal that can be pulled with two fingers from a car cup holder base; and a fork that squeezes out sauce.

Reconstructing an animal’s development cell by cell

July 21, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Janelia Research Campus experts have built a new computational method that can essentially automate much of the time-consuming process of reconstructing an animal's developmental building plan cell by cell. Using image data obtaining using a sophisticated form of light sheet microscopy, the tool can track the movement of cells in an animal’s body in 3-D.

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DNA used as a lightswitch

July 21, 2014 9:12 am | News | Comments

Using two thin, tiny gold nanorods 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, researchers from the U.S. and Germany have succeeded in creating an adjustable filter for so-called circularly polarized light. This switch for nano-optics is made from two tiny gold rods that reversibly change their optical properties when specific DNA molecules are added.

Research shows oceans vital for alien life

July 21, 2014 9:01 am | News | Comments

Until now, computer simulations of habitable climates on Earth-like planets have focused on their atmospheres. Mathematicians and earth sciences experts in the U.K. have recently taken the next step, creating a computer-simulated pattern of ocean circulation on a hypothetical ocean-covered Earth-like planet. They hope to learn how different planetary rotation rates would impact heat transport with the presence of oceans taken into account.

Scientists enlist big data to guide conservation efforts

July 18, 2014 12:37 pm | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

“Big data” has yet to make a mark on conservation efforts to preserve the planet’s biodiversity. But that may soon change with a new model developed by Univ. of California, Berkeley, biologist Brent Mishler and his colleagues in Australia. This effort  leverages the growing mass of data to take into account not only the number of species throughout an area, but also the variation among species and their geographic rarity, or endemism.

Future electronics may depend on lasers, not quartz

July 18, 2014 8:09 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Nearly all electronics require devices called oscillators that create precise frequencies. For nearly 100 years, these oscillators have relied upon quartz crystals to provide a frequency reference, much like a tuning fork is used as a reference to tune a piano. However, future high-end navigation systems, radar systems and even possibly tomorrow's consumer electronics will require references beyond the performance of quartz.

Nanocamera takes pictures at distances smaller than light’s wavelength

July 18, 2014 7:55 am | by Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated that an array of novel gold, pillar-bowtie nanoantennas (pBNAs) can be used like traditional photographic film to record light for distances that are much smaller than the wavelength of light (for example, distances less than ~600 nm for red light). A standard optical microscope acts as a “nanocamera” whereas the pBNAs are the analogous film.

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Getting a grip on robotic grasp

July 18, 2014 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Twisting a screwdriver, removing a bottle cap and peeling a banana are just a few simple tasks that are tricky to pull off single handedly. Now a new wrist-mounted robot can provide a helping hand—or rather, fingers. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand.

Why airlines didn't avoid risky Ukraine airspace

July 18, 2014 3:22 am | by David Koenig - AP Airlines Writers - Associated Press | News | Comments

The possibility that the civilian jetliner downed over war-torn eastern Ukraine with nearly 300 people onboard was hit by a missile could have profound consequences for the world's airlines. Airlines might have to be more vigilant about avoiding trouble spots, making flights longer and causing them to burn more costly fuel. They may even be forced to reconsider many international routes.

Microsoft cutting 18,000 jobs, signals new path

July 17, 2014 12:23 pm | by Ryan Nakashima - AP Business Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Microsoft announced the biggest layoffs in its history Thursday, saying it will cut 18,000 jobs or 14 percent of its workforce as it streamlines its Nokia mobile device business to focus on using the Windows Phone operating system. Although the job cuts had been expected, the extent of them was a surprise.

Cell membrane proteins give up their secrets

July 17, 2014 8:03 am | Videos | Comments

Biological physicists at Rice Univ. have succeeded in analyzing transmembrane protein folding in the same way they study the proteins’ free-floating, globular cousins. They have applied energy landscape theory to proteins that are hard to view because they are inside cell membranes. The method should increase the technique’s value to researchers who study proteins implicated in diseases and possibly in the creation of drugs to treat them.

No-wait data centers

July 17, 2014 7:56 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Big Websites usually maintain their own “data centers,” banks of tens or even hundreds of thousands of servers, all passing data back and forth to field users’ requests. Like any big, decentralized network, data centers are prone to congestion: Packets of data arriving at the same router at the same time are put in a queue, and if the queues get too long, packets can be delayed.

Project yields sharpest map of Mars' surface properties

July 17, 2014 7:20 am | by Robert Burnham, ASU | News | Comments

A heat-sensing camera designed at Arizona State University has provided data to create the most detailed global map yet made of Martian surface properties. THEMIS, the nine-band visual and infrared camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, was used to create this map, which is now available online. And citizen scientists are invited to help make it even better.

Study: Squid skin protein could improve biomedical technologies

July 16, 2014 2:24 pm | News | Comments

The common pencil squid may hold the key to a new generation of medical technologies that could communicate more directly with the human body. Materials science researchers in California have discovered that reflectin, a protein in the tentacled creature’s skin, can conduct positive electrical charges, or protons, making it a promising material for building biologically inspired devices.  

Breakthrough in the development of stretchable optical waveguides

July 16, 2014 10:33 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Belgium have recently fabricated the world’s first randomly deformable optical waveguide. This innovative optical link remains functional for bending radii down to 7 mm, and can be stretched to more than a third of its length. A link like this can be used to interconnect optical components within a stretchable system, just like stretchable electrical interconnections.

Powerful molecular sensor boosts optical signal by 100 billion times

July 15, 2014 4:45 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Rice Univ. have created a unique sensor that amplifies the optical signature of molecules by about 100 billion times. The new imaging method uses a form of Raman spectroscopy in combination with an intricate but mass reproducible optical amplifier. Newly published tests found the device could accurately identify the composition and structure of individual molecules containing fewer than 20 atoms.

Fundamental chemistry findings could help extend Moore’s Law

July 15, 2014 3:49 pm | by Kate Greene, Berkeley Lab | News | Comments

The doubling of transistors on a microprocessor occurs roughly every two years, and is the outcome of what is called Moore’s Law. In a bid to continue this trend of decreasing transistor size and increasing computation and energy efficiency, chip-maker Intel has partnered with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to design an entirely new kind of photoresist, one that combines the best features of two existing types of resist.

Drones: Next big thing in aviation is small

July 15, 2014 2:21 pm | by Danica Kirka - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The next big thing in aviation may be really small. With some no bigger than a hummingbird, the hottest things at this week's Farnborough International Airshow are tiny compared with the titans of the sky, such as the Airbus 380 or the Boeing Dreamliner.

3-D nanostructure could benefit nanoelectronics, gas storage

July 15, 2014 10:57 am | by B.J. Almond, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A 3-D porous nanostructure would have a balance of strength, toughness and ability to transfer heat that could benefit, nanoelectronics, gas storage and composite materials that perform multiple functions, according to engineers at Rice Univ. The researchers made this prediction by using computer simulations to create a series of 3-D prototypes with boron nitride, a chemical compound made of boron and nitrogen atoms.

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