A robot that can walk on water: such a miracle is one step closer to reality, thanks to some new research that learns from the work nature has done with water striders. Walking on water may seem like a superpower and the name scientists have give the property of the striders' legs is fitting: super-hydrophobia.
Like it or not, the day is coming when we’ll live side by side with humanoids. But although most modern robots can grip objects and avoid walls, they lack a vital quality in any companion: feeling. They don’t need to get your jokes or sense that you had a bad day, but without all-over sensors that can detect things like motion and body heat, there’s nothing to tell them that, for instance, they’re stepping on the baby.
Scientists look to worm jaws, tougher than human teeth, for the next class of super-strong aerospace and construction material
By Jaya Jiwatram
Posted 07.18.2008 at 12:55 pm 1 Comment
It's well known that scientists commonly look to nature to create super-strong materials. Diamond powder, for instance, is used for oil drills and road machinery, and soon spider silk could be use in bullet-proof vests.
Recently, researchers have turned their attention to the fang-like jaws of marine worms, which they believe could lead to a new cutting-edge, lightweight material so strong that it could be used for construction and as repair material for spacecraft and airplanes.
Scientists find the stuff that makes bread oh-so-tasty also may cure everything from Lou Gehrig's disease to aging
By Dan Smith
Posted 06.19.2008 at 2:29 pm 3 Comments
You know that humans have used yeast for thousands of years for baking and brewing, but did you know that it’s also prized for its applications in medical research?
The metabolic processes of yeast cells are similar to mammal cells, and since yeast reproduces quickly, experimental results can be obtained much faster than they would using animals. Yeast’s rapid reaction time has allowed scientists to put all sorts of research in fast-forward, with the aim of efficiently developing new disease treatments.
Cloning the green goo's factories for producing light-sensitive proteins could lead to more effective treatments for certain types of blindness
By Dan Smith
Posted 05.23.2008 at 1:23 pm 3 Comments
What if the key to curing blindness was found in unicellular algae?
In a recent study published in the journal Nature, a group of scientists were able to restore light sensitivity to formerly blind mice using a protein extracted from algaes of the genus Chlamydomonas. The Chlamydomonas are of particular interest because they exhibit phototaxis—an ability to orient themselves toward light sources to aid in photosynthesis. Eager to understand what caused this phenomenon on a genetic level, scientists at the Max Planck institute in 2003 isolated a sequence of genes that stored the blueprints for generating light-sensitive proteins. And now, a joint team of researchers from the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Switzerland and the Harvard Medical School have recently developed a therapy that introduces these genes into the eyes of blind mice. What they observed was a dramatic behavioral change that proved the mice had regained their sensitivity to light.
Pigs not only inspire scientists via delicious, brain-sustaining pork products. See the latest pig-influenced developments in medicine and tech, from diabetes treatments to pig-urine-flavored cigarettes
By Dan Smith
Posted 05.01.2008 at 5:36 pm 2 Comments
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We've got pork on the brain here this week at PopSci. Earlier today we told you about how cells from a pig's bladder helped a man regenerate part of his severed finger, and if you're a PPX player, you know we just rolled out an IPO regarding PETA's recent offering of a million dollar prize for anyone who can grow meat sans-animal in a lab, hoping to negate the necessity for livestock. However, it will probably be a while before anything created in the lab will rival the one food that we can't ever manage to stop thinking about, even for dessert—bacon.
As it turns out, pigs have been the inspiration for several other recent medical and technological innovations in the last few months.
See how scientists are learning from the most common form of life on Earth to fight cancer, produce ethanol and maybe even grow crops on the moon
By Dan Smith
Posted 04.17.2008 at 4:08 pm 3 Comments
Germophobes and OCDers may want to stop reading now, or at least seriously consider only continuing with a bottle of Purell on hand—for today, were talking about bacteria, those squirmy no-see-‘ems that densely cover just about every surface imaginable here on Earth, including your own skin. However much hypochondriacal hatred the mention of them can bring about, as with other quasi-oxymorons like good cholesterol, wed be in a lot of trouble if it werent for bacteria.
The amazing lizard uses its hairy toes to defy gravity and its dynamic tail to always land on its feet if it falls. See how scientists are using the gecko's tricks to design better robots, spacesuits and—just maybe—Spiderman gloves
By Dan Smith
Posted 04.04.2008 at 6:10 pm 5 Comments
Most people's knowledge of geckos doesn't extend much beyond the Cockney-tongued lizard hawking car insurance on TV. I wont go into the implausibility of these ads, the least of which being that a gecko wouldnt have a chance to survive Britains cold climate long enough to pick up an accent. They do, however, thrive abundantly in warm, tropical climates, and in total compose nearly 15% of all reptile species on Earth. If you're fortunate enough to live in gecko country, you've probably seen them climbing and crawling over just about every surface imaginable, including the ceiling.
Scientists studying the oft-maligned undersea creature are finding more than meets the eye
By Dan Smith
Posted 03.27.2008 at 4:37 pm 2 Comments
Though its one of the most perfectly named living things on this planet, the sea cucumber, on first glance, isn't among the most exciting aquatic species. Distantly related to starfish and sea urchins, the sea cucumber in appearance lacks the brio and allure of its cousins, and except for a few variations among subspecies, the general body plan of the cucumber basically resembles a large, leathery sausage crawling along the ocean floor. Yum.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.