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Astronomers make real-time, 3-D movies of plasma tubes drifting overhead

June 1, 2015 8:27 am | by Univ. of Sydney | Comments

By creatively using a radio telescope to see in 3-D, astronomers have detected the existence of tubular plasma structures in the inner layers of the magnetosphere surrounding the Earth. For over 60 years, scientists believed these structures existed, and by imaging them for the first time a Univ. of Sydney team provided visual evidence they are really there.

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Cheetah robot lands the running jump

May 29, 2015 10:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

In a leap for robot development, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs, making this the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously. To get a running jump, the robot plans out its path, much like a human runner: As it detects an approaching obstacle, it estimates that object’s height and distance.

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Helping robots put it all together

May 27, 2015 9:28 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Comments

Today’s industrial robots are remarkably efficient, as long as they’re in a controlled environment where everything is exactly where they expect it to be. But put them in an unfamiliar setting, where they have to think for themselves, and their efficiency plummets. And the difficulty of on-the-fly motion planning increases exponentially with the number of robots involved.

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Robot masters new skills through trial-and-error

May 22, 2015 10:04 am | by Sarah Yang, Univ. of California, Berkeley | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley researchers have developed algorithms that enable robots to learn motor tasks through trial and error using a process that more closely approximates the way humans learn, marking a major milestone in the field of artificial intelligence. They demonstrated their technique, a type of reinforcement learning, by having a robot complete various tasks without pre-programmed details about its surroundings.

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Mission possible: This device will self-destruct when heated

May 21, 2015 3:06 pm | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Comments

Where do electronics go when they die? Most devices are laid to eternal rest in landfills. But what if they just dissolved away, or broke down to their molecular components so that the material could be recycled? Univ. of Illinois researchers have developed heat-triggered self-destructing electronic devices, a step toward greatly reducing electronic waste and boosting sustainability in device manufacturing.

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Shape-shifting plastic

May 21, 2015 8:18 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Comments

Not all plastics are created equal. Malleable thermoplastics can be easily melted and reused in products such as food containers. Other plastics, called thermosets, are essentially stuck in their final form because of cross-linking chemical bonds that give them their strength for applications such as golf balls and car tires.

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Device captures rare circulating tumor cell clusters

May 21, 2015 7:41 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | Comments

The latest version of a microfluidic device for capturing rare circulating tumor cells is the first designed specifically to capture clusters of two or more cells, rather than single cells. The new device, called the Cluster-Chip, was developed by the same Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) research team that created previous microchip-based devices.

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Cancer drugs may hold key to treating Down syndrome

May 20, 2015 7:51 am | by Ian Demsky, Univ. of Michigan | Comments

A class of FDA-approved cancer drugs may be able to prevent problems with brain cell development associated with disorders including Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan Life Sciences Institute have found. The researchers' proof-of-concept study using fruit fly models of brain dysfunction was published in eLife.

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Bats sonar secrets could make for better drones

May 19, 2015 8:21 am | by Virginia Tech | Comments

The U.S. Navy has found that it pays to listen to Rolf Mueller carry on about his bat research. From unmanned aerial systems to undersea communications, practical applications flow from the team headed by Mueller, an associate professor of mechanical engineering.

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Liquid-crystal-based compound lenses work like insect eyes

May 18, 2015 10:37 am | by Evan Lerner, Univ. of Pennsylvania | Comments

The compound eyes found in insects and some sea creatures are marvels of evolution. There, thousands of lenses work together to provide sophisticated information without the need for a sophisticated brain. Human artifice can only begin to approximate these naturally self-assembled structures, and, even then, they require painstaking manufacturing techniques.

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Quantum physics on tap

May 18, 2015 7:40 am | by McGill Univ. | Comments

We all know intuitively that normal liquids flow more quickly as the channel containing them tightens. Think of a river flowing through narrow rapids. But what if a pipe were so amazingly tiny that only a few atoms of superfluid helium could squeeze through its opening at once?

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Geologists fine-tune search for life on Mars

May 14, 2015 2:23 pm | by Brendan Lynch, KU News Service | Comments

For centuries, people have imagined the possibility of life on Mars. But long-held dreams that Martians could be invaders of Earth, or little green men, or civilized superbeings, all have been undercut by missions to our neighboring planet that have, so far, uncovered no life at all.

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A new way to manufacture nanofibers

May 13, 2015 8:51 am | by James Hataway, Univ. of Georgia | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have developed an inexpensive way to manufacture extraordinarily thin polymer strings commonly known as nanofibers. These polymers can be made from natural materials like proteins or from human-made substances to make plastic, rubber or fiber, including biodegradable materials.

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Materials crystallize with surprising properties

May 13, 2015 8:20 am | by American Chemical Society | Comments

Think about your favorite toys as a child. Did they light up or make funny noises when you touched them? Maybe they changed shape or texture. In ACS Central Science, researchers report a new material that combines many of these characteristics. Beyond being fun, these materials, called organic “supercooled” liquids, may be useful for optical storage systems and biomedical sensors.

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Controlling swarms of robots with a finger

May 13, 2015 8:05 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | Comments

Using a smart tablet and a red beam of light, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have created a system that allows people to control a fleet of robots with the swipe of a finger. A person taps the tablet to control where the beam of light appears on a floor. The swarm robots then roll toward the illumination, constantly communicating with each other and deciding how to evenly cover the lit area.

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