As we upload more and more videos to the Internet—one hour of new video every second to YouTube alone—experts are finding new ways to mine them. A team led by Igor Curcio of Nokia’s Research Center, for example, has developed an algorithm that stitches concertgoers’ cellphone footage into a single, synchronized multi-angle film. The concept is relatively simple: the audio track serves as a guide to sync up the footage, and the software chooses the best shots.
By Katharine Gammon
Posted 06.27.2012 at 12:00 pm 1 Comment
Since 2001, planners at NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) program have been sending people to live in Aquarius, an underwater laboratory three and a half miles south of Key Largo, Florida. Last month, during NEEMO’s 16th mission, three astronauts lived there for 12 days, testing strategies for future asteroid expeditions, evaluating the best spacewalking techniques, and planning how to sample rocks and soil.
By Evgeny Katz as told to Flora Lichtman
Posted 06.26.2012 at 3:30 pm 8 Comments
Our biofuel cell generates power from glucose sugar in a snail’s body. We drill holes through the shell and implant enzyme-coated electrodes in the hemolymph, or snail blood, that naturally collects between the snail’s body and shell. Like any battery, ours is based on chemical reactions that create a flow of electrons. One electrode grabs electrons from glucose in the hemolymph. The electrons then travel through an external circuit—including any device we want to power—and end up at the opposing electrode. There, the electrons react with oxygen in the hemolymph to form water.
By Spencer Woodman
Posted 06.21.2012 at 3:35 pm 0 Comments
One of the most vexing problems that confronted surgeons after they completed the first successful human organ transplant, in 1954, was: Where would they get more organs? Medical researchers have since figured out how to transplant hearts, eyes and even entire faces. But half a century later, they still struggle to keep up with the demand for parts. For example, in the U.S., every year 1,400 people die awaiting livers and 4,500 more awaiting kidneys.
“Our .50-caliber bullet can guide itself to a hit half a mile away”
By Larry Shipers, as told to Flora Lichtman
Posted 06.07.2012 at 1:08 pm 28 Comments
For years, people have tried to come up with ways to steer bullets, and everyone has consistently said you can’t do it. And you couldn’t—if the bullet was spinning. A spinning bullet is too stable; you can’t apply enough force to turn it off its axis of revolution. The secret sauce is that our bullet doesn’t spin. It’s kind of like a musket ball, which doesn’t rotate, but with technology added to let us control where it goes.
By Stephanie Warren
Posted 05.24.2012 at 10:08 am 4 Comments
The problem: Although scientists have been studying deep-sea animals since the 1860s, they still don’t know much about them. That’s in large part because the fish, octopuses and other creatures that thrive at the bottom of the ocean die quickly at the surface. In some cases, the lower pressure and higher temperature melt the lipids in their cell membranes. Even hardier animals, such as crabs, can survive at sea level for no more than a few weeks.
Sometimes, in the name of progress, doctors have nobody to test their medical theories on but themselves. And in these five cases--though several of them perished from the self-inflicted experiments--that testing was warranted, leading to key advances in the treatment of yellow fever, blunt force impact, ulcers, and more.
Last year, Nature and Science prepared to publish research describing how to mutate H5N1, a deadly bird flu, into more-contagious forms. The papers could help scientists create a treatment should a similar mutation occur in nature. But according to the U.S. government, the papers could also help terrorists create a weapon.
Barb Stuckey hands me a plastic tray of mashed potatoes sealed with an opaque layer of film. “We packaged these up over a year ago,” she says. The United States Potato Board has asked Stuckey and her colleagues at Mattson, a commercial food lab in Foster City, California, to devise a way to put fresh, ready-to-eat mashed potatoes into a package that can sit unrefrigerated on a supermarket shelf for months. Just open, warm, and serve.
By Vijay Kumar as told to Flora Lichtman
Posted 04.30.2012 at 5:12 pm 3 Comments
If you want a robot to maneuver aggressively, it has to be small. As you scale things down, the “moment of inertia”—the resistance to angular motion—drops dramatically. Our nano-quadrotor robots are made to be as lightweight as possible: less than a fifth of a pound and palm-sized.
Society must make two big leaps in order to enable truly self-driving cars. The first is technological. Engineers need to improve today’s cars (which can warn a driver that he’s drifting out of his lane) beyond current Google and Darpa prototypes (which maintain the lane on their own) to the point where automobiles can edge forward through a construction zone while their owners sleep inside.
By Ryan Bradley
Posted 04.20.2012 at 10:25 am 20 Comments
At London’s Heathrow, which moves more international passengers than any other airport, the fuel jockeys of the Aircraft Service International Group oversee refueling. Filling an Airbus A380 can take two hours, at a rate of about 1,000 gallons per minute.
By Ryan Bradley
Posted 04.17.2012 at 4:45 pm 4 Comments
Neri Oxman, the director of the Mediated Matter research group at the MIT Media Lab, designs skins and body armors inspired by human tissue. “Most patterns in nature—whether scales or spiderwebs—have some kind of logic that can be computationally modeled,” she says.
By Tim Newcomb
Posted 01.31.2012 at 12:19 pm 19 Comments
In 2010, engineers in the U.S. dismantled 60 dams, helping to reclaim rivers for wildlife. Most of these dams were small, though; removing large ones poses a much bigger challenge. In September, the National Park Service started the largest-ever dam-removal project in the U.S., on the 210-foot (the tallest ever removed) and 108-foot dams on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park in Washington State.
By Juliet Lapidos
Posted 01.30.2012 at 6:29 pm 29 Comments
On March 31, 2009, a panel of scientists and civil servants met to assess the risk presented by a recent series of tremors in the Abruzzo region of Italy. They concluded that a major seismic event was unlikely. Soon thereafter, Bernardo De Bernardinis, the vice-director of Italy’s Department of Civil Protection, the organization that put together the panel, told reporters that citizens should not worry, and even agreed with a journalist who suggested that people should relax with a glass of wine.
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.