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New theory could streamline operations management, cloud computing

May 1, 2013 11:22 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

It’s often said that we live in an age of increased specialization. But in a series of recent papers, researchers have shown that, in a number of different contexts, a little versatility can go a long way. Their theoretical analyses could have implications for operations management, cloud computing—and possibly even health care delivery and manufacturing.

Study: People may welcome talking tissue boxes

May 1, 2013 9:55 am | News | Comments

According to researchers from Penn State University, who presented their findings at the 2013 Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris today, people who have embraced computers and smart phones are likely to give their blessing other smart objects, like talking tissue boxes or tweeting refrigerators. Their tests involved the use of actual talking, interacting objects.

Material loss protects teeth against fatigue failure

May 1, 2013 9:07 am | News | Comments

Computer simulations conducted in Germany have shown that the reduction of natural dental wear might be the main cause for widely spread non-carius cervical lesions—the loss of enamel and dentine at the base of the crown—in our teeth. The discovery was made by examining the biomechanical behavior of teeth using finite element analysis methods typically applied to engineering problems.


Mysterious catalyst explained

May 1, 2013 9:01 am | by Julia Weiler, Ruhr University Bochum | News | Comments

Methanol to formaldehyde: This reaction is the starting point for the synthesis of many everyday plastics. Using catalysts made of gold particles, however, formaldehyde could be produced without the environmentally hazardous waste generated in conventional methods. But just how a gold catalyst could work has only recently been discovered by researchers. 

Room-temperature nuclear spins advance quantum computing efforts

April 30, 2013 11:42 am | News | Comments

An international team of researchers has recently succeeded in both initializing and reading nuclear spins—which are relevant to qubits for quantum computers—at room temperature. With the help of a spin filter developed in 2009, the team has produced a flow of free electrons with a given spin in a material. 

Older is wiser: Study shows software developer's skills improve over time

April 30, 2013 10:08 am | News | Comments

There is a perception in some tech circles that older programmers aren’t able to keep pace with rapidly changing technology, and that they are discriminated against in the software field. But a new study from North Carolina State University indicates that the knowledge and skills of programmers actually improve over time—and that older programmers know as much (or more) than their younger peers.

Robots able to reach through clutter with whole-arm tactile sensing

April 30, 2013 9:57 am | News | Comments

Whether reaching for a book out of a cluttered cabinet or pruning a bush in the backyard, a person’s arm frequently makes contact with objects during everyday tasks. Animals do it too, when foraging for food, for example. Much in the same way, robots are now able to intelligently maneuver within clutter, gently making contact with objects while accomplishing a task. This new control method has wide applications.

New type of super-resolution microscope doesn’t need fluorescent dyes

April 29, 2013 10:11 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue University | News | Comments

Researchers at Purdue University have found a way to see synthetic nanostructures and molecules using a new type of super-resolution optical microscopy that does not require fluorescent dyes. The imaging system, called saturated transient absorption microscopy, or STAM, uses a trio of laser beams, including a doughnut-shaped laser beam that selectively illuminates some molecules but not others.


Computer scientists suggest new spin on origins of evolvability

April 29, 2013 8:53 am | News | Comments

Scientists have long observed that species seem to have become increasingly capable of evolving in response to changes in the environment. But computer science researchers now say that the popular explanation of competition to survive in nature may not actually be necessary for evolvability to increase.

Researchers create shape-shifting mobile devices

April 29, 2013 8:19 am | News | Comments

At a conference this week in Europe on human-machine interfaces, a research team from the U.K. will introduce the concept of “shape resolution”, which it has used to compare the resolution of six prototypes built using new technologies in shape-changing material, such as shape memory alloy and electro active polymer. One example is the Morphees, a self-actuated flexible mobile device that can change shape on-demand.

NASA mission will study what disrupts radio waves

April 26, 2013 8:46 am | by Karen C. Fox, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

A NASA-funded sounding rocket mission will launch from an atoll in the Pacific in the next few weeks to help scientists better understand and predict the electrical storms in Earth's upper atmosphere These storms can interfere with satellite communication and global positioning signals.

Tracking gunfire with a smartphone

April 26, 2013 8:41 am | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt University | News | Comments

You are walking down the street with a friend. A shot is fired. The two of you duck behind the nearest cover and you pull out your smartphone. A map of the neighborhood pops up on its screen with a large red arrow pointing in the direction the shot came from. A team has made such a scenario possible by developing a system that transforms a smartphone into a shooter location system.

What did Alexander Graham Bell's voice sound like?

April 26, 2013 8:34 am | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s sound-restoration experts have done it again. They’ve helped to digitally recover a 128-year-old recording of Alexander Graham Bell’s voice, enabling people to hear the famed inventor speak for the first time. The recording ends with Bell saying “in witness whereof, hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell.”


Piezoelectric taxels convert motion to electronic signals for tactile imaging

April 26, 2013 8:20 am | News | Comments

Using bundles of vertical zinc oxide nanowires, researchers have fabricated arrays of piezotronic transistors capable of converting mechanical motion directly into electronic controlling signals. The arrays could help give robots a more adaptive sense of touch, provide better security in handwritten signatures, and offer new ways for humans to interact with electronic devices.

Bold move forward in molecular analyses

April 25, 2013 2:42 pm | News | Comments

A dramatic leap forward in the ability of scientists to study the structural states of macromolecules such as proteins and nanoparticles in solution has been achieved by a pair of researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The researchers have developed a new set of metrics for analyzing data acquired through small angle scattering experiments with X-rays or neutrons.

Imaging technology could reveal cellular secrets

April 25, 2013 2:30 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have married two biological imaging technologies, creating a new way to learn how good cells go bad. Being able to study a cell's internal workings in fine detail would likely yield insights into the physical and biochemical responses to its environment. The technology, which combines an atomic force microscope and nuclear magnetic resonance system, could help researchers study individual cancer cells.

Semiconductor spray paint could create organic electronics

April 25, 2013 9:46 am | News | Comments

Wake Forest University's Organic Electronics group has developed an organic semiconductor “spray paint” that can be applied to large surface areas without losing electric conductivity. The new spray-deposition method has the advantages of drop casting, spin coating, and prior spray-on techniques: It can applied to large surfaces of any medium, retaining electrical performance.

Scientists image nanoparticles in action

April 25, 2013 8:49 am | News | Comments

The macroscopic effects of certain nanoparticles on human health have long been clear to the naked eye. What scientists have lacked is the ability to see the detailed movements of individual particles that give rise to those effects. Scientists at Virginia Tech have invented a technique for imaging nanoparticle dynamics with atomic resolution as these dynamics occur in a liquid environment.

Engineers generate world-record millimeter-wave output power from nanoscale CMOS

April 25, 2013 7:44 am | News | Comments

A team of  electrical engineers from Columbia University has generated a record amount of power output—by a power of five—using silicon-based nanoscale CMOS technology for millimeter-wave power amplifiers. Power amplifiers are used in communications and sensor systems to boost power levels for reliable transmission of signals over long distances as required by the given application.

Team Effort

April 24, 2013 2:16 pm | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

Advances in microscopy and fundamental science are closely intertwined. Without prior understanding of the basis for research, the tools of microscopy are useless. Without microscopy, an understanding of how materials, chemistry, or life behave(s) at the molecular and atomic level cannot be discovered.

The Right Touch for Control

April 24, 2013 12:19 pm | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

When not properly controlled or monitored, a scientific instrument is of little practical use.  Developers of scientific instrumentation are aware of this, and invest considerable time and money ensuring that users can properly achieve the results promised by the instrument’s design parameters.

Remote Sensing to the Next Level

April 24, 2013 12:12 pm | by Dick Merk and Thomas J Tague Jr., PhD, Bruker Optics, Billerica, Mass. | Articles | Comments

Bruker Corporation has coupled highly efficient interferometer technology and proprietary chemometric methods for automatic identification and imaging of chemical species present. The HI 90 hyperspectral imager rapidly detects molecules over a large field of regard (FOR) in seconds and provides both spatial and spectral analysis of the FOR.

Study unlocks secrets of device that is both battery and memory

April 24, 2013 10:18 am | News | Comments

Unlike the building blocks of conventional hard disk drives and memories, resistive memory cells (ReRAM) are active electrochemical components. In these cells, ions generate voltage on electrodes in a similar manner to a battery. Researchers in Europe have conducted an extensive study of ReRAMs, also described as memristors, and have found previously undiscovered sources of voltage in these devices.

Measurement technique offers way of improving optical lens making

April 24, 2013 9:20 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of Rochester have applied a sophisticated imaging technique to obtain the first 3D, high-resolution pictures of a recently developed type of optical lenses. They say that using optical coherence tomography during the manufacturing process allows them to significantly improve the quality of these new and promising lenses.

Scientists find way to monitor elusive collisions in space

April 24, 2013 9:10 am | News | Comments

Many collisions occur between asteroids and other objects in our solar system, but scientists are not always able to detect or track these impacts from Earth. Space scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles have now devised a way to monitor these types of collisions in interplanetary space by using a new method to determine the mass of magnetic clouds that result from the impacts.

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