The completion of the 30-day Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) mission has helped confirm laser communication capabilities from a distance of almost 250,000 miles. In addition to demonstrating record-breaking data download and upload speeds to the moon at 622 and 20 Mbps, respectively, LLCD also showed that it could operate as well as any NASA radio system.
Even scientists are fond of thinking of the human brain as a computer, following sets of rules. But if the brain is like a computer, why do brains make mistakes that computers don't? Recent research shows that our brains stumble on even the simplest rule-based calculations, because humans get caught up in contextual information, even when the rules are as clear-cut as separating even numbers from odd.
Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard put his mental and physiological limits to the test during a 72-hour simulated flight across the Atlantic Ocean which ended Friday. Scientists from the Swiss Federal Polytechnic Institute in Lausanne monitored his mental states and cardiac rhythm throughout the flight to test his mental and physiological boundaries during strenuous flight conditions.
Researchers at the Univ. of Utah have discovered a new aquifer in the Greenland Ice Sheet that holds liquid water all year long in the otherwise perpetually frozen winter landscape. The aquifer is extensive, covering 27,000 square miles and could figure significantly in understanding the contribution of snowmelt and ice melt to rising sea levels.
Astronomers are still largely working with a “flat” map of the galaxy, and the European Space Agency hopes to change that with Gaia, its star-surveying satellite which launched into space Thursday. The spacecraft will produce the most accurate 3-D map of the Milky Way yet. Gaia is now heading for a stable orbit on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, and will always keep its back to the sun.
After successfully text messaging “O Canada” using evaporated vodka, two researchers in Canada and their UK-based counterpart say their simple system can be used where conventional wireless technology fails. The chemical signal, using the alcohol found in vodka, was sent 4 m across the lab with the aid of a tabletop fan.
A group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon Univ. is banking on the efficiency of an environmentally friendly alternative to large hydroelectric operations. Known as hydrokinetic or run-of-the-river power extraction, the new method harvests a small portion of kinetic energy in the river at multiple locations. They are building multi-scale hierarchical models for analyzing large-scale river networks, hydropower project placement, and control.
The CEO of FedEx doesn't see drones taking over the package delivery business anytime soon. Fred Smith says FedEx has several drone studies underway. But the idea of delivering items by drone is "almost amusing," Smith said on a conference call on Wednesday after the company reported financial results.
Researchers at The Univ. of Texas at Austin have proposed the first design of a cloaking device that uses an external source of energy to significantly broaden its bandwidth of operation. The team has proposed a design for an active cloak that draws energy from a battery, allowing objects to become undetectable to radio sensors over a greater range of frequencies.
The sound vibrations that make up music can make solar panels work harder, according to new research, and pop music performs better than classical. Scientists showed that high pitched sounds like those common in pop and rock music caused the greatest improvement in the solar cells' power output, increasing it by up to 40%.
A new device transforms almost any bicycle into an electric-hybrid vehicle using an app on a smartphone. The device, called the Copenhagen Wheel, is is equipped with wireless connectivity to track travel and installed as part of a rear hub of a bike wheel. Packed with a proprietary computer, batteries, and sensors that monitor how hard a rider is pedaling, it activates an onboard motor whenever support is needed.
Researchers are developing computers capable of "approximate computing" to perform calculations good enough for certain tasks that don't require perfect accuracy, potentially doubling efficiency and reducing energy consumption. Purdue researchers have developed a range of hardware techniques to demonstrate approximate computing, showing a potential for improvements in energy efficiency.
Until recently, the microscopic study of complex membrane proteins has been restricted due to limitations of “force microscopes” that are available to researchers and the one-dimensional results these microscopes reveal. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Missouri have built a 3-D microscope that will yield unparalleled information on membrane proteins and how they interact in cells. The innovation could speed up drug development.
Researchers based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Univ. of Tennessee have discovered a molecular “switch” in a receptor that controls cell behavior. Researchers identified the molecular switch using detailed molecular dynamics simulations on a computer called Anton, built by D. E. Shaw Research in New York City.
Google may be gearing up to build robots that resemble props in science-fiction movies as the ambitious Internet company expands into yet another technological frontier. To gather the expertise and research it needs, Google has purchased eight companies that specialize in robotics this year. The acquisitions are being assembled into a new robotics division headed by Andy Rubin, who oversaw Google's development of Android.
Medical diagnostics seeks to learn early on whether a serious disease is developing or what its course will be. In many cases, treacherous molecules are present only in trace amounts, however. Researchers in Germany have come up with a new method of detection which has allowed them to notice the presence of only 17 dye molecules. The highly sensitive method might one day be used to scan a tiny drop of blood for potential diseases.
Researchers in Spain, working with the firm Luz WaveLabs, are developing an innovative terahertz generator that improves signal quality by one million times as compared to the best device of this kind currently on the market. They have achieved this level of quality through the use, in part, of a specialized optical frequency comb and modifications to the laser source.
The real world has not caught up yet with "Star Wars" and its talking, thinking robots, but some of the most sophisticated units that exist are heading to Florida this week for a Defense Department-sponsored competition. Seventeen humanoid robots will be evaluated Friday and Saturday for how well they can complete tasks including driving an all-terrain vehicle and opening doors.
Physicists in Germany have developed a “planet-satellite model” to precisely connect and arrange nanoparticles in 3-D structures. Inspired by the photosystems of plants and algae, these artificial nanoassemblies of DNA strands might in the future serve to collect and convert energy.
Scientists working to advance imaging useful to medicine and security are capitalizing on the same phenomenon behind the lingering "ghost" image that appeared on old television screens. A team of researchers has created a way to control the length of time light from a luminescent nanocrystal lingers, adding a new dimension of time to color and brightness in optical detection technology.
To support research efforts in Antarctica, a Penn State Univ. geoscience professor has developed a new type of seismometer, which measures the way seismic waves move through the ice. The “geoPebbles” act as laptops without screens. Equipped with WiFi, they don’t have to be plugged in and charge wirelessly, letting scientists collect data without exposure to the cold.
Although high-definition displays on smartphones have gotten bigger and their cameras have gotten better, the pace of gee-whiz innovation has dawdled. Smartphone and software makers are working on ways to snap out of this technological lull, although it probably will be at least another year or two before breakthroughs revolutionize the design and function of mobile computing devices.
Computational work conducted at Northwestern Univ. has led to a new mathematical theory for understanding the global spread of epidemics. The resulting insights could not only help identify an outbreak’s origin but could also significantly improve the ability to forecast the global pathways through which a disease might spread.
Researchers have proved the feasibility of a new type of transistor that could enable fast and low-power computing devices for energy-constrained applications such as smart sensor networks and implantable medical electronics. Called a near broken-gap tunnel field effect transistor, the new device uses the quantum mechanical tunneling of electrons through an ultra-thin energy barrier to provide high current at low voltage.
Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and Harvard Univ. have have recently shown that an important class of artificial intelligence algorithms could be implemented using chemical reactions. These algorithms use a technique called “message passing inference on factor graphs” and are a mathematical coupling of ideas from graph theory and probability.