Britain's electronic listening agency, GCHQ, quietly launched a cryptic Website last month featuring a box of code made up of numbers and letters. There is no branding on the site, only the phrase "Can you crack it?" and a box to type in an answer.
A strangely powerful, long-lasting gamma-ray burst on Christmas Day, 2010 has finally been analyzed to the satisfaction of a multinational research team. Called the Christmas Burst, GRB 101225A was freakishly lengthy and it produced radiation at unusually varying wavelengths.
The Harvard University laboratory of chemist George M. Whitesides, R&D Magazine ’s 2007 Scientist of the Year, has produced a new type of flexible robot that calls to mind the clay animation character Gumby. It can wiggle and squirm through tight spaces much like the squid and starfish that inspired researchers to design it.
University of Montreal researchers have created a recipe to consume petroleum and its smell. The method works where researchers take a Petri dish containing crude petroleum, which will release a strong odor distinctive of the toxins that make up the fossil fuel, and sprinkle the dish with mushroom spores. After sitting for two weeks in an incubator, the petroleum and its smell will disappear.
Every wine aficionado knows that wine has to be swirled in a glass in order for it to release its aroma. Applied to biotechnologies over some fifteen years, this ordinary gesture has made it possible to develop more efficient machines for culturing proteins in animal cells. The phenomenon has been studied in detail at EPFL.
At Washington University in St. Louis's Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center, scientists have succeeded in making a light-harvesting antenna from scratch. The new antenna, modeled on the chlorosome found in green bacteria, is a giant assembly of pigment molecules.
A new study by economists at Oregon State University questions the cost-effectiveness of biofuels and says they would barely reduce fossil fuel use and would likely increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Although they found that graphene makes very good chemical sensors, researchers at the University of Illinois have discovered an unexpected "twist"—that the sensors are better when the graphene is "worse"—more imperfections improved performance.
Pyrite, better known as "fool's gold," was familiar to the ancient Romans and has fooled prospectors for centuries—but has now helped researchers at Oregon State University discover related compounds that offer new, cheap, and promising options for solar energy.
Using a little side antenna rigged with a cone, technicians in Australia have received the first signal from an unmanned Russian spacecraft bound for a moon of Mars since it got stuck in Earth’s orbit two weeks ago. The signal raises hopes the mission might be saved.
Wrinkles and folds, common in nature, do something unusual at the nanoscale. Researchers at Brown University and in Korea have discovered that wrinkles on super-thin films have hidden long waves that produce nanochannels, like thousands of tiny subsurface pipes.
Conventional wisdom would say that blocking a hole would prevent light from going through it, but Princeton University engineers have discovered the opposite to be true. A research team has found that placing a metal cap over a small hole in a metal film does not stop the light at all, but rather enhances its transmission.
Kilobots scuttle around autonomously on three toothpick-like legs, but their real power is the ability to coordinate behavior and swarm with other Kilobots. Created by engineers at Harvard University, the quarter-sized bots have been licensed by a Swiss manufacturer, allowing researchers and robotics enthusiasts to build their own swarms.
When a skier rushes down a ski slope or a skater glides across an ice rink, a very thin melted layer of liquid water forms on the surface of the ice crystals, which allows for a smooth glide instead of a rough skid. In a recent experiment, scientists have discovered that the interface between the surface and bulk electronic structures of certain crystalline materials can act in much the same way.
Future astronauts spending Thanksgiving in space may not have to forgo one of the most traditional parts of the day's feast: fresh sweet potatoes. A Purdue University team developed methods for growing sweet potatoes that reduce the required growing space while not decreasing the amount of food that each plant produces.
Certain resins are valued for their lightness, strength, and resistance. But unlike glass, these resins can no longer be reshaped when cured. Researchers in France have invented a new material that acts like a resin, but can be shaped at will and in a reversible manner at high temperatures.
While the causes of the end-Permian extinction are unknown, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-led team of researchers has now established that the catastrophe was extremely rapid, triggering massive die-outs both in the oceans and on land in less than 20,000 years.
Scientists at the University of Virginia recently set up experiments to measure ozone produced by crushing or drilling into different igneous and metamorphic rocks. With the discovery that ozone is produced only in conditions that fracture rocks, the possibility exists that detecting ozone will serve as an early warning for earthquake activity.
A team of researchers from UC Irvine, HRL Laboratories and the California Institute of Technology have developed the world's lightest material—with a density of 0.9 mg/cc—about 100 times lighter than Styrofoam.
Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas are developing an anti-icing system that could make airport runways safer and less expensive to maintain during winter months. The approach uses a conventional photovoltaic system to supply energy to a conductive concrete slab that would function as a surface overlay on runways.
Made from 368,640 tubes of white PVC that will eventually be filled with 500 truckloads of mineral oil, the skeleton of the Department of Energy’s NOvA detector could be the largest structure ever to be built from plastic. A hydraulic system built to help assemble the 200-ton plastic blocks successfully passed a recent test run.
In a significant finding in the search for life beyond Earth, scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere have discovered what appears to be a body of liquid water the volume of the North American Great Lakes locked inside the icy shell of Jupiter's moon Europa.
The frogs jumping in Calaveras County, Calif., might be special, but even ordinary frogs can leap several times farther than their physiology would seem to allow. Using high-speed X-ray video technology, a Brown University research has determined that the frog’s tendons are what gives it the ability to soar.
Rice University chemists have found a way to load more than two million tiny gold particles called nanorods into a single cancer cell. The breakthrough could speed development of cancer treatments that would use nanorods like tiny heating elements to cook tumors from the inside.
Geologists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have unearthed rare, flask-shaped microfossils dating back 635 to 715 million years, representing the oldest known ciliates in the fossil record.