A notoriously imperfect standard of measurement gets a modern makeover
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.16.2008 at 10:57 am 0 Comments
The science of defining measurements is a strange pursuit, and very much a quest to pin down those things which refuse to be immutably static. We have come exceedingly close to exact on a number of the important basics, like time and distance. We do that with methods and materials that can be recreated in laboratories anywhere on Earth, just the same as any published research should be replicable by a group of scientific peers. We have the second bound to the predictable radiation patterns of a caesium atom. The meter is a fixed interval of laser light traveling in a vacuum.
Nano-sized "popcorn balls" could be used to boost the efficiency of solar panels
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.16.2008 at 8:44 am 2 Comments
Hardly a week goes by these days without a new solar panel technology development in the news. You would think the country was plastered in solar sheets with all the work currently being done. Let's hope the stories soon turn to how we're going to make this all affordable enough to support widespread installations. In the meantime, today's innovation.
If you've been following our recent series of articles on solar cells, you've likely noticed the focus falls roughly into two categories: how to make the panels thinner, lighter and more flexible; and how to make the cells more efficient.
Scientists find two gas giants orbiting a star, and with it up the chances of our discovering another Earth
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.14.2008 at 12:34 pm 11 Comments
Less than fifteen years ago, the concept of an extrasolar planet orbiting a star much like our own was only a theory. Since that time, we've discovered nearly 300 extrasolar planets in all, but have consistently failed to find systems which orbit around stars resembling the sun. Today, the BBC is reporting on a find by astronomers from St. Andrews University of two gas giants on par with Saturn and Jupiter in orbit around a star half the size of our sun. While the finding is not a direct link to a system similar to ours, it does present an increased likelihood that our system is not unique.
Scientists run a computational model of evolution and discover the originator of animal life is far more complex than previously thought
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.14.2008 at 12:10 pm 1 Comment
Much like the way cosmologists and physicists theorize about the origins of the universe by making extrapolations about the past with data from today, so too do evolutionary biologists about the origins of life. And a new study funded by the National Science Foundation has turned up a surprising result about one of the earliest origins. The relatively simple sponge has long been thought to have been the first divergence on the animal tree of life. But by feeding a tremendous amount of data on fossils and living organisms into a high-powered computational model, the authors of the study discovered an even earlier split: that of the comb jelly.
The DIYer extraordinaire presents his latest Wiimote hack: a dirt-cheap, interactive white board
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.14.2008 at 8:22 am 3 Comments
Nintendo Wii devotees are likely already familiar with Johnny Chung Lee as the guy who appeared one day last year on YouTube with a mind-bender of a demo on how to use the Wii remote and sensor bar to do head tracking. By placing the Wii remote at the base of a TV and attaching the sensor bar to a pair of glasses (and in conjunction with a bit of custom software), Lee made the three-dimensional images on screen respond to his position in space, appearing to float off in front of the screen. As it turns out, Lee is more than just a guy with a knack for understanding the Wii remote; he's currently a graduate Ph.D. candidate in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. And he's so impressed the gaming world with his developments that EA is bringing a Wii game to market this spring with a head tracking Easter egg.
By bonding special viruses to polymers, scientists may have found an effective way to battle MRSA and more
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.10.2008 at 12:25 pm 3 Comments
Using living organisms to combat human disease is nothing new to medicine. The Greeks used leeches to balance the humors (didn't work). Civil war medics used maggots to clean dead tissue from wounds (did work, and is still selectively used today). The next step in fighting infection with outside help looks to come from the bacteriophages, which are viruses that only infect bacteria.
If Google's newest project is a success, you'll never again be led astray
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.10.2008 at 12:17 pm 0 Comments
Google is slowly turning its Maps application into a wiki and that looks to be a very good thing. Sidewalk—and later Citysearch—only ever had enough staffing resources to scrape the surface of any particular city. Google Maps, on the other hand, has the entire online populace at the ready. While Citysearch in recent years has opened its site to community reviews, it has not given users control over all the data. That's where Google Maps is headed.
The bacteria that gives feta cheese its delicious flavor could also be the key to preventing food poisoning
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.10.2008 at 11:51 am 0 Comments
In a surprising twist of nature, a particular strain of bacteria could hold the key to keeping perishables free from food poisoning. Isolated from lactic acid in raw Macedonian sheep's milk, these particular enterococci bacteria produce a handful of compounds deadly to related bacterial strains, such as listeria, which happens to be quite bad for humans and a frequent source of food poisoning. The compounds, called bacteriocins, work like a narrow spectrum antibiotic to keep listeria at bay.
A modular solar panel system has one eye on aesthetics and the other on pragmatics
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.09.2008 at 3:12 pm 0 Comments
We've been talking a lot lately about new designs in solar panel technology. Today's panels divide into two groups: the old-school silicon and glass box and the newly emerging thin film solar sheets, now being offered by several companies. What we haven't yet looked at is how the thin film technology can be used to make a solar installation that isn't staid and wholly utilitarian. Enter Teresita Cochran, a graduate of both Rhode Island School of Design and New York University's Interactive Telecommunication Program.
A unique engine prototype cuts emissions and consumption without sacrificing power
By Matt RansfordPosted 04.09.2008 at 2:48 pm 3 Comments
Earlier this month, we told you about an alternative oil for 2-stroke engines made from beef tallow. As you may remember, 2-stroke engines are tiny and powerful, but inefficient and heavy polluters. For years, engineers have tried to combine the efficiency of a 4-stroke engine with the power of a 2-stroke, only to come up short because the technology was simply not yet advanced enough. A team of UK researchers have finally solved that puzzle with a prototype they call the 2/4SIGHT.