By Katharine GammonPosted 05.31.2011 at 6:00 pm 0 Comments
Three low-energy innovations to keep out the heat help scientists ship snowmen to Bahrain, chill beer with nanoparticles, and bring vaccines to developing areas.
Physicists led by Geoff Smith of the University of Technology– Sydney have created a coating that allows heat to escape all the way into space. When an object radiates heat, some of it bounces off nearby molecules in the air, ending up right back on the object itself.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics today to University of Manchester professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for their work isolating graphene from graphite and identifying its behavior. Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon, is the thinnest, strongest material ever discovered. It conducts heat and electricity, and despite being one atom thick, is so dense even helium cannot pass through it. As the Swedish Academy of Sciences said in the Nobel Prize announcement: "Carbon, the basis of all known life on earth, has surprised us once again."
To think Marco Polo didn’t even know what he had. Silk and gold, considered luxury items for as long as mankind has enjoyed shiny things, might now lead the way forward in the growing field of metamaterials. Turning flashy into inconspicuous, scientists from Tufts and Boston University have created an invisibility cloak from silk coated with gold.
Cellulose isn’t new – it’s been around as long as woody plants have – and aerogels aren’t either. But when researchers recently combined the two, they created something wholly new: a flexible, lightweight, super-absorbent sponge that can also be crushed down into a flat piece of magnetic “nanopaper” capable of supporting 400,000 pounds per square inch.
From the men who brought you bakelite, Tesla, and air brakes came Micarta: a super-tough fiber and resin composite that has been in use since the early 20th century. Micarta is used in a huge variety of applications, from power generation to countertops. In this writeup, two knifemakers show you how you can make your own generic version from epoxy and blue jeans that will stand up to a sledgehammer.
If pictures are worth a thousand words, then they must be worth at least a couple of hundred data points. Plenty of scientific concepts are better displayed with graphics than with texts, and every year the National Science Foundation and Science Magazine highlight the best science visualizations of the year.
The 2009 winners represent a diverse range of fields, from medicine to math to statistics. However, they all manage to distill highly technical scientific concepts into easily understandable pictures, films, and interactive creations.
The invention of plastics in the mid-1800s changed human civilization as profoundly as our earlier mastery of fire, bronze, and steel. Unfortunately, the environmental and health effects of plastic offer a significant downside to such a useful and affordable material. Now, scientists at the University of Tokyo, Japan, have developed a clay-based hydrogel that they hope will perform the same functions as plastic, but do so without endangering people or the planet.
We've all experienced the fluid-dynamics phenomenon known as the "teapot effect." Every time you pour out a nice relaxing cup of tea, a little of the elixir dribbles down the outside of the spout of the teapot, dampening your doily and your spirits.
It happens because liquid clings to the lip of the spout instead of exiting neatly, especially at low rates of flow.
Cyril Duez and his team of fluid dynamicists could not tolerate one more dribble. They have identified the root cause, a "hydro-capillary effect" that makes the tea fail to leave the spout material gracefully. Two techniques can be used to combat this.
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.
A new coating turns insects' sticky climbing feet into a slippery mess, and could be the future of pest repellent, according to a new research paper. You hear that, bugs? If you can't crawl up my kitchen counter from the floor, you can't go waving your disgusting antennae all over my pizza, you insects-who-shall-not-be-named of apartment horror.