February 18, 2019

    Antbot, the first walking robot that moves without GPS. Image: Julien Dupeyroux, ISM (CNRS/AMU)
    A robot that finds its way like a desert ant - technology short science news

    While moving robots find their way in their environment by GPS, researchers have now constructed one that navigates like a desert ant.

    Desert ants use the polarized pattern of skylight and combine this with an estimation of the distance traveled based on how many steps they took and to the rate at which the ground moves across the eye. The newly developed robot uses these principles successfully, as indicated by the mean homing error of only 0.67%.

    Thus, it seems possible to use the strategies found in ants for robotics, and could be combined with already existing techniques, researchers say.

    Read the full story: CNRS
    Scientific publication: Science Robotics


    Tiny, modular robots, powered by small muscles could have important applications in medicine. Credit: Microbiorobotic Systems Laboratory (MICROBS), EPFL
    Microscopic, soft robots might keep you healthy in the near future - science news articles

    A team of researchers reports the development of microscopic, soft micromachines, able to travel inside the body and mechanically stimulate cells and tissues. The tiny robots are powered by artificial muscles, the size of a cell and are wirelessly activated by laser beams.

    Inside the human body, there is a variety of mechanical stimuli that act on tissues affecting their ability to carry on physiological functions. The scientists aim to control and reproduce these types of stimuli using the micromachines.

    For the moment the discovery is used for fundamental research, but the technology has practical applications too. Soon, these devices could be used as medical implants with the aim of improving the health of human beings.

    Read the full story: EPFL
    Scientific publication: Lab on a Chip


    This material can adapt to stretch and pressure, and repair itself
    New hydrogel material works like human muscle - Science and technology news articles

    A new material made from a double-network of hydrogels has the ability to increase its strength in response to mechanical stress, similar to the human muscles. This ability allows the material to repair the damage induced by tensile forces.

    The material contains two intertwined networks of polymer strands, with one network rigid and the other one flexible. The rigid component breaks down when mechanical stress is applied, but this triggers a local polymerization process that creates new bounds within the material, making it strong again. The soft component helps maintain its shape and the gel appearance.

    This process is pretty similar to what happens inside muscles during intense exercise. The new self-growing fatigue-free material could be used for various applications, from soft robots to medicine.

    Read the full story: Physics World
    Scientific publication: Science


    Bacteria help scientists grow thermoelectric paper. A researcher holding a sample of the new thermoelectric cellulose produced by bacteria. Credit: ICMAB
    Thermoelectric paper produced through sustainable and environmentally friendly process - Science and technology news articles

    Researchers announced the development of a new method to produce thermoelectric paper that is both sustainable and environmentally friendly. Thermoelectric paper is a material made of cellulose, containing small amounts of conductive nanomaterials that enable it to convert heat into electricity.

    The scientists used bacteria to produce the nanocellulose fibers that end up forming the device. The new material has high thermal stability (it can reach up to 250 Celsius degrees) and it doesn’t use any toxic elements. Moreover, it can be easily recycled since it can be degraded by an enzymatic process converting it into glucose.

    The thermoelectric paper could be used to generate electricity from residual heat, with many potential applications in technology, medicine, and even sports.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Energy and Environmental Science


    For the first time, scientists decoded the genome of mosquitos using DNA from one single individual
    Major advancement in sequencing the genome of small species - short science news

    Decoding the genome of small organisms has proven difficult due to the challenges associated with extracting enough DNA to achieve a quality analysis from a single specimen. To overcome this scientists pool DNA from different individuals or inbreed them to produce genetically related organisms, both approaches having disadvantages.

    Now, a team of scientists managed to decode the entire genome of one single mosquito. This achievement was facilitated by using a new sequencing technology that reduces the amount of starting DNA needed.

    The discovery will facilitate the understanding of the genetic diversity of insects and other small organisms. Moreover, it could be useful for humans, for example, it could allow the analysis of the whole genetic code of a patient’s cancer, from a single biopsy.

    Read the full story: Wellcome Sanger Institute
    Scientific publication: Genes


    An image of capillaries taken with spectral contrast optical coherence tomography angiography, which is the first technology to capture blood flow and oxygen exchange. Image: Vadim Backman/Northwestern University
    Studying blood capillaries in 3D with a new technique - technology short science news

    By combining spectroscopy and tomography techniques, scientists are able for the first time to study the over 40 billion tiny, hair-like blood vessels in our body. This is an important step forward, as these blood vessels mediate the oxygen exchange between blood and cells.

    The technique is non-invasive, does not need a contrast dye, and, unlike conventional methods, can image even if the blood is not flowing.

    The new imaging technique makes it possible to see the small vessel in 3D, and can indicate subtle changes in vascularization for early diagnosis of disease.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University
    Scientific publication: Light: Science and Applications


    You are on Facebook, even if you aren't?
    Privacy at risk even if you don’t have a social media account - interesting science news

    A new study has shown that privacy on our favourite social media is like second-hand smoke, meaning that it is dependent on people surrounding us.

    The study found that even if a person leaves social media platform or never had an account, the online posts and accounts of their friends can still provide predictive accuracy to the tune of 95%. All this can happen even without having a person’s data.

    We all have that friend, lets say Andrew who hates social media and doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account. Andrew needs to know that a company or a government theoretically can glean information about him such as favourite political party, religious commitments and liked products from his friends. Apparently, there is nowhere to hide.

    Read the full story: University of Vermont
    Scientific publication: Nature Human Behavior


    Feathers provide insight for developing next gen aerospace materials
    Bird feathers inspiring next generation adhesives and aerospace materials - interesting science news

    We all have played with bird feathers and watched with amazement how the feather unzips and zips effortlessly and pulls itself back together. In a major scientific discovery, researchers for the first time in two decades looked at the detailed structure of the feather and found that regardless of the species, the barbules (structures that connect feather barbs) are spaced 8-16 micrometre apart.

    This indicates that this spacing is important in flight since it is conserved across different bird species.

    The scientists also built prototype new materials based on this structure which could have aerospace applications and new adhesives like Velcro.

    Read the full story: University of California San Diego
    Scientific publication: Science Advances


    A fundus image of a retina, with damaged areas highlighted by the image-processing algorithm. Image: RMIT University
    Early detection of diabetic retinopathy with artificial intelligence - technology short science news

    Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults, and early detection has remained difficult, until now.

    Scientists have developed a deep learning algorithm that detects fluid on the retina with 98% accuracy. Fluid on the retina is one of the earliest symptoms of retinopathy, when eyesight per se is still intact.

    The algorithm relies on retinal images that can be obtained with ordinary optometry equipment. This new method is thus cost-effective, and quick to detect the disease.

    Read the full story: RMIT University
    Scientific publication: Computers in Biology and Medicine


    Giving up Facebook is an expensive affair
    How much would you charge for giving up Facebook; apparently its $1921 dollars - short science news and articles

    Facebook for all its fallacies is an interesting experience. Researchers have found out that Facebook users would need an average of $1000 to deactivate their accounts for a year.

    They used a series of auctions in which people were paid to close their accounts. While the average bid to turn off their Facebook account for one day was $4.17 that for one week was $37.

    Interestingly, with a market capitalization of $400 billion and with 2.2 billion users, the market value of one Facebook user is $180. This shows that Facebook users indeed consider the social media giant of higher value in their life.

    Read the full story: Tuft University
    Scientific publication: PLOS one


    Researchers have made a microscopic Tic-Tac-Toe board with self-assembling DNA tiles.

    To play the game, they have developed tiles that are dynamic, so that they could be reshaped after had been built. This new technique makes use of swapping in and out hundreds to DNA strands at once. While the Tic-Tac-Toe play might be amusing, it is just a first try to use technology to develop nanomachines that can be modified or repaired after they have already been built.

    By the way, “X” won the Tic-Tac-Toe game in the testtube after six days of play…..

    Read the full story: Caltech
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Fluoride based batteries might be the answer to longer lasting batteries
    Just imagine charging your phone only two times per month - short science news and articles

    Researchers have developed Fluoride-based batteries which could potentially last eight times longer effectively reducing the number of times you need to charge your devices. They have developed the first rechargeable fluoride batteries using liquid components that work at room temperatures.

    Batteries drive electric currents by shuttling ions between positive and negative electrodes. While, the current lithium-based batteries use positive lithium ions for this, the new fluoride-based batteries use negatively charged ions for the same.

    Importantly, it’s more difficult to move the lithium positive ion as compared to the single charged fluoride ion, thereby needing recharging less frequently.

    Read the full story: Caltech
    Scientific publication: Science


    A technology that can potentially mimic the human brain
    Nanowires used to create artificial synapses - short science news and articles

    In a major breakthrough, scientists have produced a memristive element from nanowire which functions similar to a neuron. This element can both process and save information and also receive several signals in parallel.

    These elements are made of a single zinc oxide nanowire, which is approximately a thousand times thinner than a human hair. This nanowire is attached to silver and platinum metals which function as electrodes that can release ions at an appropriate current.

    This paves the way to develop neuromorphic chips which can imitate the human brain functioning, at the same time being small and energy efficient

    Read the full story: Forschungszentrum Juelich
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Artificial Intelligence used now to curate and deliver audio news on mobile phones and speakers
    AI to deliver audio news feed - daily short science news headlines

    Google has just announced the launch of its Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven audio news feed. The service is similar to radio news journals; however, the content will be personalized by AI algorithms.

    The news feed will be managed and personalized by Google Assistant, the AI program developed by the company. The project is part of the efforts to deliver content through Google’s speakers and smartphones.

    The service will first be available to a small number of people in the United States. It will be interesting to see if this way of following the news will be embraced by the public.

    Read the full story: TechXplore


    Finger pricking for glucose monitoring might be a thing of the past soon
    3D-printed glucose biosensors as a replacement for finger pricking - health technology short science news

    Scientists have succeeded to make a glucose biosensor by 3D printing that can be used in wearable monitors.

    While alternatives for glucose meters that require constant finger printing already exist, the new device is cheaper, uses less material, is much more stable and is much more sensitive. Also, 3D-printing offers the possibility to adapt the biosensor to the biology of each individual for optimal results.

    For large-scale use, the new biosensor has to be integrated with electronic components on a wearable platform. Thus, the 3-D printed glucose biosensor might be a replacement for finger pricking in the not too distant future.

    Read the full story: Washington State University
    Scientific publication: Analytica Chimica Acta


    Influential tech people might have different political views compare to other elites. Credit: Brian Solis [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
    Tech entrepreneurs have their own unique political views  - science news

    A new study suggests tech entrepreneurs have different political views compared to other mainstream economic categories.

    Technology innovators tend to support liberal social and redistributive policies, but they have a more conservative approach when it comes to regulation and labor unions. Technology entrepreneurs scored low on measures of authoritarianism and racial resentment, but high on cosmopolitanism.

    As previous generations of economic elites did, it is likely that tech entrepreneurs will try to use their power to influence political decisions. Therefore, this study is important because it allows us to get insight into what the entrepreneurs might actually want to change.

    Read the full story: PsyPost
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Political Science


    New computer chips, using photons instead of electrons might greatly speed up machine learning
    Faster artificial intelligence with light-powered chips - daily science news  - technology

    Researchers are developing a new radical way to accelerate artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. The new approach involves an optical chip that uses light (instead of electrons) to transfer information.

    This can greatly increase the speed of computers and allow AI software to perform much faster than today. How quickly the new chip will perform, depends in practice on how fast it can interact with conventional computer components.

    Previous attempts to produce optical computer chips have failed. However, now the scientists may be close to obtaining the first working prototype. The startup Lightelligence, behind this study, claims they have already started manufacturing the chips.

    Read the full story: Scientific American
    Scientific publication: Science


    Scientists developed better electrochemical systems composed of organic materials and bacteria
    Better organic electrodes with bacteria - science news in brief - technology

    Electrochemical systems containing bacteria have been described before, but in practice, they are difficult to use because of their large size. To improve them, miniaturization is necessary. Now, scientists developed a new technique to create fine organic electrodes of up to 80 micrometers thick.

    The researchers used an electrically conducting polymer (PEDOT:PSS) and the electroactive bacterium Shewanella oneidensis to obtain the new electrodes. When the resulting system is used as the anode in microbial electrochemical cells, the current was 20 times higher compared to using regular anodes.

    The discovery has several applications from water purification to biosensors. Moreover, electrical systems based on bacteria represent an environmentally friendly mean to convert chemical energy to electricity.

    Read the full story: Linkoping University
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    Mercury ions (light purple) are attracted to an electrode's surface where they get reduced to metallic mercury. Mercury (dark purple) and platinum (grey) atoms form an alloy, and the mercury is thus removed from the water. Image: B. Wickman and A. Arvidsson/Chalmers University of Technology
    New technique to remove toxic mercury from contaminated water - technology short science news

    Researchers have established a new technique to remove the highly toxic mercury from contaminated water. The new method is based on electrochemistry. Mercury ions are attracted to a metal plate, an electrode of platinum, get reduced to metallic mercury and together, mercury and platinum form a stable alloy. Each platinum atom can bond four mercury atoms, and do not bond with other ions in the water. Mercury can then be safely removed from the electrode, which can thus be reused.

    Read the full story: Chalmers University of Technology
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    A new plane prototype can fly without moving parts and without fossil fuel. Credit: Christine Y. He, MIT
    First-ever plane with no moving parts - science news technology

    Every know aircraft today has some moving parts such as propellers and fans, however, researchers from MIT just announced building the first plane with no moving parts. And it flies, too!

    The new design doesn’t use fossil fuel. Instead, it is powered by ions generated by electrically charged electrodes and lithium-polymer batteries. These parts produce “ionic wind” that enable the plane to lift off. Moreover, it is completely silent while flying.

    The team flew the plane over a distance of 60 meters. The flight was repeated 10 times with success. Maybe this is the first step towards a future with silent planes, without turbines and propellers, and without combustion emissions.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Atoms of a gold cone exposed to a strong electric field. Credit: Alexander Ericson
    Melting gold at room temperature - science news in brief

    Researchers have, for the first time, managed to melt gold at room temperature. There’s no need to rush and put your jewelry in the fridge! An intense electrical field is needed for the melting to occur.

    The scientists placed a small piece of gold in an electron microscope and gradually exposed it to an increasingly stronger electrical field. The electric field excited the gold atoms which lost their ordered structure and released almost all their connections to each other. In other words, the gold melted at room temperature.

    The discovery provides a new understanding of the physics of gold and opens the doors for new practical ways to use the precious metal for sensors, catalysts and transistors.

    Read the full story: Chalmers University of Technology
    Scientific publication: Physical Review Materials


    A temperature six time higher than the sun was achieved in the lab
    “Artificial sun” reaches 100 million degrees - a key step for fusion science - science news headlines in brief

    Scientists working with the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) nicknamed the “Chinese artificial sun” reported an amazing achievement: they reached a plasma central electron temperature of 100 million Celsius degrees, six times hotter than the Sun itself!

    This is a crucial step towards achieving the dream of fusion energy. For stable fusion, a temperature of 100 million C is one of the most fundamental elements. Nuclear fusion needs very high temperature and great pressure, and since the required pressure cannot be achieved on Earth, scientists can only raise the temperature.

    This result establishes an important foundation for the development of clean fusion energy.

    Read the full story: Hefei Institues of Physical Science Chinese Academy of Sciences


    Revolution in science: four fundamental units of measurements will be redefined. Credit: BIPM - International System of Units
    The kilogram and three other fundamental units of measurement redefined - daily science news in brief - metrology

    The kilogram is defined by a platinum cylinder, International Prototype Kilogram (informally Le Grand K or IPK), manufactured in 1889 and stored in Paris. Countries made copies of this reference cylinder and used them to measure the mass.

    However, this approach induces small variations in the results of metrological measurements. Not all copies are perfect replicas of the Le Grand K. Changes in the environment can also impact the mass. Similar issues apply to other units of measurement.

    To eliminate these issues and ensure precise and constant measurements all over the world, the International System of Units (SI) is redefining the kilogram together with other three fundamental units in terms of fundamental units, which are unchanging numbers. The changes will come into effect on 20 May 2019.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: BIPM - Bureau International des Poids et Mesures


    By using a polymer on the lithium interface in metal batteries, battery life is prolonged and recharge time reduced
    Use of a polymer increases lithium battery life - technology short science news

    Lithium batteries that run longer and charge faster can become a reality soon. Scientists have developed the next generation of such metal batteries by using a special polymer on the interface of the lithium metal. This material acts as a porous sponge that not only promotes ion transfer, but also stops deterioration of lithium, even when batteries are being charged fast. Scientists estimate that the life of lithium batteries can double this way, meaning less recharging of your mobile phone or increasing the autonomy of electric cars.

    Read the full story: Penn State
    Scientific publication: Nature Energy


    High-speed camera capabilities can be achieved for virtually any regular camera using new technology
    Researchers make any electronic camera shoot a million frames per second - technology news - science

    Did you know that the camera in your smartphone is actually an ultra-high-speed image capturing device? Well, it is now, with the development of a new technique that allows ordinary electronic cameras to acquire images at record speed (but only in black and white).

    The key idea is that one single image can be thought of as many black-and-white snapshots. The researchers developed a mathematical technique to extract these snapshots from a single image, an idea they call the virtual frame technique.

    The results were amazing and showed that even an iPhoneX could record up to a million frames per second using this technique. The virtual frame technology is a great step forward in photography and has many potential applications.

    Read the full story: MIT Technology Review
    Scientific publication: Arxiv


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