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Google to show off smart home gadgets, wearables

June 25, 2014 8:14 am | by Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

An Android update, wearable gadgets, and so-called smart home devices are just some of the innovations Google is likely to show off at its two-day developer conference, which begins today in San Francisco. In recent years, the conference has focused on smartphones and tablets, but this year Google's Android operating system is expected to stretch into cars, homes, and smartwatches.

Metal particles in solids aren’t as fixed as they seem

June 25, 2014 8:04 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In work that unmasks some of the magic behind memristors and "resistive random access memory," or RRAM, researchers have shown that the metal particles in memristors don't stay put as previously thought. The findings have broad implications for the semiconductor industry and beyond. They show, for the first time, exactly how some memristors remember.

Using femtosecond lasers to administer drugs

June 25, 2014 7:59 am | by Kathleen Estes, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

A team of scientists in Japan and New Zealand have combined lasers, nanotechnology, and neuroscience to develop a new, versatile drug delivery system. The precise timing of a femtosecond laser is used to release dopamine, a neurochemical, that is dysfunctional in Parkinson’s Disease in a controlled and repeatable manner that mimics the natural dynamic release mechanism.

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Collaborative learning for robots

June 25, 2014 7:54 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Machine learning, in which computers learn new skills by looking for patterns in training data, is the basis of most recent advances in artificial intelligence, from voice-recognition systems to self-parking cars. It’s also the technique that autonomous robots typically use to build models of their environments. That type of model-building gets complicated, however, in cases in which clusters of robots work as teams.

Terahertz tech gets a major push

June 25, 2014 7:45 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have received a grant to develop terahertz-based technology that could enable a dramatic advance in wireless communications and other disciplines. The $1 million grant by the W.M. Keck Foundation will let them tackle some of the knotty problems barring them from using the largely untapped terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Rice will supplement the grant with a $1.5 million commitment.

Researchers use FEI Titan to link plasmonics with molecular electronics

June 24, 2014 11:44 am | News | Comments

Plasmon tunneling is a quantum-mechanical effect where electrons rapidly oscillate across very closely-spaced metal structures. Using a Titan scanning/transmission electron microscope developed and made by FEI Company, the scientists were able to not only observe this new phenomenon directly, but also control the frequency of the tunneling currents by placing single layers of different molecules between the closely-spaced metal particles.

Study shows puzzle games can improve mental flexibility

June 24, 2014 10:26 am | News | Comments

Executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment. A recent study by scientists in Singapore showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions. This marks the first time video games have been shown to deliver such broad improvements.

Oak Ridge National Lab launches imaging institute

June 24, 2014 10:06 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has launched the Institute for Functional Imaging of Materials to accelerate discovery, design and deployment of new materials. The institute will meld world-class capabilities in imaging, high-performance computing, materials science and other scientific disciplines to probe materials.

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Wearable computing gloves can teach Braille

June 24, 2014 8:12 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Several years ago, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers created a technology-enhanced glove that can teach beginners how to play piano melodies in 45 min. Now they’ve advanced the same wearable computing technology to help people learn how to read and write Braille. The twist is that people wearing the glove don’t have to pay attention. They learn while doing something else.

Measuring the mass of “massless” electrons

June 23, 2014 2:57 pm | News | Comments

The electrons in graphene behave as “massless” particles, yet these electrons also seem to have dual personalities. Phenomena observed in the field of graphene plasmonics suggest that when the electrons move collectively, they must exhibit mass. After two years of effort, researchers at Harvard Univ. have successfully measured the collective mass of “massless” electrons in motion in graphene.

Study shows greater potential for solar power

June 23, 2014 9:43 am | News | Comments

Concentrating solar power (CSP) could supply a large fraction of the power supply in a decarbonized energy system, according to a new study of the technology and its potential practical application. For this research, scientists simulated the construction and operation of CSP systems in four regions around the world, taking into account weather variations, plant locations, electricity demand, and costs.

Researchers unveil experimental 36-core chip

June 23, 2014 7:38 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The more cores a computer chip has, the bigger the problem of communication between cores becomes. For years, Li-Shiuan Peh, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has argued that the massively multicore chips of the future will need to resemble little Internets, where each core has an associated router, and data travels between cores in packets of fixed size.

Supreme Court tosses out software patent

June 19, 2014 11:22 am | by Sam Hananel - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The Supreme Court on Thursday tossed out an Australian company's patent for business software in a closely watched case that clarifies standards for awarding patents. The justices ruled unanimously that the government should not have issued a patent to Alice Corp. in the 1990s because the company simply took an abstract idea that has been around for years and programmed it to run through a computer.

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Making smartphones smarter

June 19, 2014 10:29 am | by Lyndsay Meyer, The Optical Society | News | Comments

Your smartphone’s display glass could soon be more than just a pretty face, thanks to new technology developed by researchers from Corning Inc. The team has created the first laser-written light-guiding systems that are efficient enough to be developed for commercial use.

Synthetic aperture sonar to help Navy hunt sea mines

June 19, 2014 8:37 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Since World War II, sea mines have damaged or sunk four times more U.S. Navy ships than all other means of attack combined. New sonar research being performed could improve the Navy’s ability to find sea mines deep under water. The underlying technology, known as synthetic aperture sonar, uses advanced computing and signal processing power to create fine-resolution images of the seafloor based on reflected sound waves.

Energy-level alignment at metal/organic interfaces: Tying up the loose ends

June 19, 2014 8:33 am | News | Comments

Organic semiconductors have tremendous potential for complementing conventional, inorganic semiconductors, but energy losses or barriers at the connection interfaces have blocked development efforts. Physicists have now implemented a detailed electrostatic model which is capable of covering the full phenomenological range of interfacial energy-level alignment regimes within a single, consistent framework.

A new way to detect leaks in pipes

June 19, 2014 8:09 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Explosions caused by leaking gas pipes have frequently made headlines in recent years. But while the problem of old and failing pipes has garnered much attention, methods for addressing such failing infrastructure have lagged far behind. Typically, leaks are found using aboveground acoustic sensors. But these systems are very slow, and can miss small leaks altogether. Now researchers have devised a robotic system that can detect leaks.

Sharper imaging using x-rays

June 18, 2014 4:51 pm | News | Comments

Physicists in Germany have developed a process to generate improved lenses for x-ray microscopy that provide both better resolution and higher throughput. To accomplish this, they have 3-D x-ray optics for volume diffraction that consist of on-chip stacked Fresnel zone plates. These nanostructures focus the incident x-rays much more efficiently and enable improved spatial resolution below 10 nm.

Familiar yet strange: Water’s “split personality” revealed by computer model

June 18, 2014 2:01 pm | by Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research | News | Comments

Seemingly ordinary, water has quite puzzling behavior. Why, for example, does ice float when most liquids crystallize into dense solids that sink? Using a computer model to explore water as it freezes, a team at Princeton Univ. has found that water's weird behaviors may arise from a sort of split personality: At very cold temperatures and above a certain pressure, water may spontaneously split into two liquid forms.

Breakthrough provides picture of underground water

June 18, 2014 10:52 am | by Rob Jordan, Stanford Woods Institute for the Evironment | News | Comments

Superman isn't the only one who can see through solid surfaces. In a development that could revolutionize the management of precious groundwater around the world, Stanford Univ. researchers have pioneered the use of satellites to accurately measure levels of water stored hundreds of feet below ground.

Few, if any, big impact craters remain to be discovered on Earth

June 18, 2014 8:02 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

It’s likely that most of the large impact craters on Earth have already been discovered and that others have been erased, according to a new calculation by a pair of Purdue Univ. graduate students. Although it's known that natural processes erase craters fairly quickly from the Earth's surface, this model was the first to quantify how many craters have likely been erased.

Nanofibers for quantum computing

June 17, 2014 4:12 pm | News | Comments

A proposed hybrid quantum processor for a future quantum computer uses trapped atoms as the memory and superconducting qubits as the processor. The concept requires, however, an optical trap that is able to work well with superconductors, which don’t like magnetic fields or high optical power. Joint Quantum Institute scientists believe they’ve developed an effective method for creating these ultra-high transmission optical nanofibers.

Researchers “cage” water to see it change form

June 17, 2014 12:14 pm | News | Comments

Scientists are using a pioneering method of “caging” and cooling water molecules to study the change in orientation of the magnetic nuclei at the center of each hydrogen atom in the molecule. This process transforms the molecule from one form of water to another. The results of this work may one day help to enhance the diagnostic power of magnetic resonance imaging scans.

NIST technique could make sub-wavelength images at radio frequencies

June 17, 2014 11:14 am | by Laura Ost, NIST | News | Comments

Imaging and mapping of electric fields at radio frequencies (RF) currently requires the use of metallic structures such as dipoles, probes and reference antennas. To make such measurements efficiently, the size of these structures needs to be on the order of the wavelength of the RF fields to be mapped. This poses practical limitations on the smallest features that can be measured.

Strange physics turns off laser

June 17, 2014 10:59 am | News | Comments

Inspired by anomalies that arise in certain mathematical equations, researchers have demonstrated a laser system that paradoxically turns off when more power is added rather than becoming continuously brighter. The finding could lead to new ways to manipulate the interaction of electronics and light, an important tool in modern communications networks and high-speed information processing.

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