In an ideal world, we'd use natural light to brighten every darkened nook that needs illumination. But in reality, skylights and windows can let only so much light into a structure, and the amount of light varies based on the time of day. The Sundolier robotic skylight from Boulder-based Sunflower aims to change all this by actively "pumping" natural light into interior spaces, illuminating areas of up to 2,500 square feet with a single unit.
The ability of matter to move light underpins such common phenomena as transparency, refraction, and reflection. But light moving matter? That's a bit rarer. So rare, in fact, that University of Michigan researchers refused to believe the results of their experiments for almost four years. As reported in the latest Science, they had discovered special nanoribbons so sensitive that light actually caused them to move.
Light is essential to vision, at least the kind we perform with our naked eyes. This is why we can see through a glass lens but not through a brick wall (though we're working on that). But what about materials that let some light pass while scattering it in seemingly chaotic ways?
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.
For scientists studying the smallest components of life, microscopes have always had frustrating limitations. Electron scanning microscopes can see very small object, but not in real time through the dynamic movement of cells. Fluorescent dyes identify microscopic objects, but the brightness of the emitted light greatly reduces the resolution.
The Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscope (STORM) solves both those problems. 100 times more powerful than a regular optical microscope, the STORM filters and adjusts light emitted from fluorescent dyes to produce a clean image of individual molecules, and thus allowing researchers to watch the behavior of proteins in real time.
Everyone loves a good road movie, whether it's Hope and Crosby or Fonda and Hopper. But the scope of those films pales in comparison to the ground covered by the Hayden Planetarium's new video, The Known Universe. The video starts in Tibet and zooms out through time and space until it shows well, the entire known universe.
While most of the world looked forward to the switch from analog to digital TV for the sharper picture and clearer sound, astronomers around the US anticipated the changeover period for a totally different reason: clarity. In the brief period between the removal of analog television signals and the assignment of those frequencies to other devices like cell phones, astronomers will get their first look at a time in the universe that has been obscured from telescopes since Wally and the Beav roamed the airwaves.
Neuroscientists have already spent the better part of a decade manipulating animal minds by using light signals to trigger genetically encoded switches. But a new study has now directly reprogrammed flies to fear and avoid certain smells, and all without the usual Pavlovian shock treatments.
Just because most black holes are solar-system-sized maelstroms with reality-warping gravitational pulls doesn't mean you can't have one in your pocket! That's right, just in time for the holidays comes the pocket black hole. Designed by scientists at the Southeast University in Nanjing, China, this eight-and-a-half-inch-wide disk absorbs all the electromagnetic radiation you throw at it, with none of the pesky time dilation and Hawking radiation associated with the larger, interstellar versions.
We live in a world designed by Charles K. Kao, Willard S. Boyle, and George E. Smith. Their work on the physics of light made possible the fiber optic cables carrying this web page to your phone, and the digital camera on the other side. And on December 10th, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden will award them the Nobel Prize in physics for their work.