If sustainability is key to the new energy economy, a team of University of Pennsylvania researchers has just taken a big step toward the future by developing the first photovoltaic circuit that powers itself. The circuits could eventually be packed into touchscreens and other consumer devices that would run without a battery or any other source of power, as long as they have a beam of sunlight to harvest.
Good news for those of us that are into biomimicry. UAVs modeled after maple seeds, bone glue modeled after sea worms, shoes that let humans walk up walls like spiders -- our long wait for artificial insect silk could be nearing the end.
Bringing a new connotation to the term "verbal contract," researchers at the Secure Information Technology wing over at Fraunhofer in Darmstadt, Germany have developed a means of creating secure, legally-binding phone archives, meaning two parties can "sign" a contract without ever putting ink to paper.
After stirring controversy in medical circles for more than a decade, the inflammatory findings that a routine childhood immunization is linked to gastrointestinal disease and autism has been formally retracted. The Lancet -- the esteemed British medical journal that published the findings -- has pulled the case study from its published record, its editor calling the paper "the most appalling catalog and litany of some the most terrible behavior in any research."
Boldly taking turtles where few turtles have gone before, Iran launched its satellite carrier Kavoshgar-3 rocket skyward earlier today as part of the Islamic Republic's National Day of Space and Technology. The rocket was sans satellite for the test firing, but crewing the 10-foot launch vehicle were two turtles, a mouse, and a dozen or so worms.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, it wasn’t uncommon to see X-shaped bodies dashing about a solar system. But in this era, in this neck of the universe, it is decidedly strange. Yet the Hubble Space Telescope picked up just such an X-shaped debris pattern trailing a tail of dust and gravel last month that has NASA’s brain trust excited: We may have witnessed two asteroids colliding head-on for the very first time.
Think that 9.7-inch iPad display is all the touchscreen you need? Portuguese company Displax would like to challenge that notion. The company says it is bringing to market a multitouch capable, super-thin polymer "skin" that can be applied to any material -- flat, curved, opaque, transparent, you name it -- creating a digital muli-touch surface virtually anywhere, from a wristband to a desktop to a pane of clear glass.
It wouldn't be the Olympics without distractions; the 2006 Winter Games in Turin had their Austrian doping scandals, and the most recent Summer Games in Beijing were punctuated by an epic opening ceremony followed by rampant media censorship. Not to be outdone, Canada's Bright Ideas installation will allow visitors to the upcoming Vancouver Games the chance to control lighting installations at major landmarks in faraway Ontario using only their thoughts.
Leaping tall buildings, punching through solid concrete walls and using public phone booths as ersatz changing rooms without anyone noticing are still beyond human capacity, but a development at Cornell University might allow us to walk on walls like Spider Man, or even dance on the ceiling like Lionel Richie.
It's the saving grace of every slow news day: you flip on the cable news networks during the mid-day reporting lull to find live video from news choppers tailing a perp as he tries to out-maneuver local law enforcement. But the privileged vantage point that allows you to see said perp ditch his ride and leap the fence behind an apartment complex is not shared by the cops on the ground.
President Obama made it clear in his State of the Union Address last week that he fears the American economy is on the brink of missing out on a green tech boom that could propel us out of our current financial mess and into the coming century, and it appears his concern is well-placed. China leapfrogged Denmark, Germany, Spain and the U.S. to become the world's largest maker of wind turbines last year, and 2010 is shaping up to be another banner year.
Rumors circulated last week, but now it’s official: NASA won’t be sending manned missions back to the moon any time soon. But in what may seem like a gutting of NASA moon- and Mars-based ambitions there is a silver lining: a $6 billion investment in helping private industry bring their space launch vehicles up to human-rated capacity and a smattering of modest robotic precursor missions to the moon, Mars, Martian moons or the Lagrange points that should set the stage for later manned missions far beyond low-earth orbit.
Much as it did for hair styling products and fake tans, spray-on technology now stands to revolutionize everything from locomotives to winemaking to textile design, thanks to a versatile new spray known as "liquid glass." Applied to nearly any surface, an invisible non-toxic layer of silicon just one millionth of a millimeter thick can protect underlying matter from water, bacteria, dirt and even UV radiation.
We know how to convert biomass to biodiesel, but the economics of doing so makes many prevailing methods of doing so expensive and unfeasible, keeping an alternative-fueled future just out of reach. But a collaboration between the DOE and private firm LS9 has found a way to coax a strain of E. coli bacteria to produce biodiesel from biomass without further chemical processes, a breakthrough that could pave the way for cheaper, more abundant biofuels.
From a tactical military standpoint, land mines have a certain set-it-and-forget-it appeal; you blanket an area in munitions and move on, secure in the fact that if the enemy tries to cross that terrain they'll find an automated resistance waiting for them. But we all know that land mines are also one of modern warfare's most indiscriminate and devastating developments, with the capacity to kill and maim innocent people even decades after hostilities have ceased.
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.