She manipulates simple laws of physics to create “bullets” made of sound waves
By Bjorn CareyPosted 11.30.2010 at 10:58 am 4 Comments
Chiara Daraio loves the pick and roll. As a former member of Italy's junior national basketball team, she knows that although the effect of the play is complex and devastating, its parts are simple. It goes like this: Daraio blocks a defender’s path, her teammate darts past, Daraio rotates away from the pursuing defender and waits, unguarded, for her teammate's quick pass and an open shot. Pick. Roll. Pass. Shoot. It's a straightforward process with a sophisticated result.
What does an engineer do when he needs insight? “I don’t think,” says Maurizio Porfiri. “I watch an insane amount of movies.” He also tends listens to the Cure, devours novels, and tends to his tomatoes. That’s not to say Porfiri is a slacker. He works across several fields to build underwater devices and puts in 12-hour days at the lab, but his best thoughts come to him while he's relaxing.
Need to conduct multiple experiments on a single cell over time? Too bad. At the cellular level, we just have a wide-angle view, because the tools currently available to biologists show only whole cell populations at once. But much like people, individual cells behave differently, and each one can change the fate of many others. So Christopher Love, as a chemist-turned-immunologist, has developed a technique to zero in on an individual cell.
Ten years ago, even though he was on the fast track at Siemens in India, Santosh Kumar abruptly quit. Coming up with code for telecom switches was not how he wanted to spend his life. Instead he moved to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science. He had an idea for inexpensive, low-power wireless sensor technology and how it might solve serious real-world problems. His leap paid off. Now a professor at the University of Memphis, he develops tracking systems that can foil robbers and might even help cure drug addiction.
Raul Rabadan hunts deadly viruses, but he has no need for biohazard suits. His work does not bring him to far-flung jungles. He's neither medical doctor nor epidemiologist. He's a theoretical physicist with expertise in string theory and black holes, and he cracks microbial mysteries in much the same way he once tried to decode the secrets of the universe: He follows the numbers.
Subjects are screaming in Katherine Kuchenbecker’s lab; they feel as if they’ve been shot. Kuchenbecker is testing a vest that she and her students designed to make videogames and military training more immersive. To simulate a bullet impact, the vest launches an actuator-controlled plunger called a solenoid into the unlucky gamer’s skin where a bullet would have penetrated. “People jump out of their chairs,” she says. “Crossing that barrier from the screen to your body makes the experience so much more real.”
Why does the universe look the way it does? Sarah T. Stewart thinks she knows the answer. “It all comes down to big things running into each other,” she says. Space is a collection of battered rocks, and Stewart studies their scars and shapes. A planet’s pockmarks can be used to predict its age—if it has many, it’s probably been around for a while—and its dimensions can hint at what might lie beneath the ground. “I use the way craters look,” she explains, “to learn about the planet they’re on.”
Michael Bartl’s office is overrun with dead beetles. They’re not the remains of an infestation. The green corpses of Lamprocyphus augustus, native to Brazil, led Bartl to one of the most sought-after crystals in optical science.
His manipulation of atoms chilled to near-absolute zero could help create high-temperature superconductors
By Martha HarbisonPosted 11.02.2010 at 4:30 pm 4 Comments
This year's Brilliant 10 honorees join the illustrious ranks of Marie Curie, Werner Heisenberg, Francis Crick and James Watson in proving that youth isn't always wasted on the young. Whether by virtue of their fresh perspective, their youthful energy or the simple desire every kid has to mess with stuff, these researchers have always been the sort of minds that improve our world. After all, they'll inherit it. Check out the rest of the Brilliant 10 honorees here.
Outside his lab at the Maryland campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, physicist Ian Spielman is enthusiastically talking about his recently published breakthrough in atomic physics. I'm trying to keep up. His research solved a decade-old problem that had stumped the best minds in the field. He explains to me that through the creative use of radio-frequency radiation and laser light, he made neutral atoms move as if they held an electric charge, manipulated by a magnetic field that didn't actually exist. I nod, mouth slightly ajar. What?
Meet PopSci's annual Brilliant 10--a selection of the brightest young researchers in the country. They're helping to keep us healthy, prevent disasters, and make green energy cheaper than coal. Lucky for us, our future is in their capable hands
We have a credo around here: The future will be better. It may sound optimistic in light of our wheezing environment and limping economy, but then you haven't met the Brilliant 10, PopSci's annual selection of the nation's most promising young researchers.