Rendering complex objects realistically requires a whole new kind of geometry
By Ryan BradleyPosted 10.12.2011 at 10:06 am 7 Comments
When Eitan Grinspun's adviser at the California Institute of Technology asked him to help develop a better way to model how cans bend when crushed, the young mathematician did not think it would be a major project. "He lured me into something that took years and years," says Grinspun, now at Columbia University. But the journey to model a crushed Coke can ended with an entirely new field of geometry.
Differential geometry can describe how the curves and surfaces of a given object will bend and crease.
Using metal chips and light, clinicians will be able to detect viruses in even rural medical clinics
By Katie PeekPosted 10.11.2011 at 10:56 am 5 Comments
One of the many challenges of practicing medicine in developing countries is performing quick, reliable diagnosis of infectious disease. To bring rapid virus diagnostics to underserved populations, engineer Hatice Altug and her research team at Boston University have created and tested a biosensor that detects disease-causing organisms with precisely directed light.
Watching how insects use plants shows that self-medication isn’t just for complex animals
By Sarah FechtPosted 10.10.2011 at 10:09 am 5 Comments
"I didn't start working with monarchs because I liked them," says evolutionary biologist Jaap de Roode of Emory University. "I came to them because they have a really cool parasite." That parasite, called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, normally pokes holes in the butterflies' skin, causing them to leak bodily fluids. But de Roode noticed that monarchs that ate the tropical milkweed plant did not suffer from parasitic infections as much as monarchs eating swamp milkweed did. This led him to suggest to his colleagues that the monarchs were self-medicating.
Running down the far-left column of the periodic table, the readily available alkali metals: lithium, sodium, potassium, rubidium and cesium—all generate potentially explosive hydrogen gas when they touch water. The strength with which they react with H2O goes up steadily in the order listed. Lithium just sizzles, whereas cesium explodes powerfully and instantly. You’d expect that to mean that cesium makes the biggest explosion, but it’s not the case.
When design student Markus Kayser wanted to test his sun-powered, sand-fed 3-D printer, he knew the gray skies outside his London apartment wouldn't do. So he shipped the 200-plus-pound contraption to Cairo, Egypt, flew there himself, and haggled with officials for two days to get it out of customs. A few small "tips" and 11 hours of driving later, he finally made it to the Sahara.
By Nick StattPosted 10.03.2011 at 10:00 am 9 Comments
The 190-foot-tall whirling aerial swing in the Wunderland Kalkar amusement park, near the German-Dutch border, claims an unusual distinction: It's the only ride in the world constructed in a decommissioned nuclear cooling tower. (You can read our primer on nuclear power plants here.) In 1995, Dutch developer Hennie van der Most bought the defunct nuclear power plant from the German government.
Last December, Felisa Wolfe-Simon announced the discovery of a microbe that could change the way we understand life in the universe. Soon she found herself plunged into a maelstrom of bitter backlash and intemperate criticism. A dispatch from the frontiers of the new peer review
This should have been Felisa Wolfe-Simon’s moment in the sun. But as the television crew takes positions, the 34-year-old scientist glances at the gray, churned-up lake behind her and gathers her collar around her neck. On cue, she begins her explanation of this lake’s unique chemistry, her voice rising in volume and pitch above the wind.
Keeping wildlife baby-free is a hazardous business
By Katharine GammonPosted 09.22.2011 at 11:13 am 16 Comments
In 1989, researchers at the University of California at Davis invented PZP, the first birth-control vaccine for animals other than humans. When injected, PZP causes a female’s immune system to block sperm from her eggs, offering a humane method of keeping populations in check. The compound worked in elephants, donkeys and deer, but it had a troubling side effect: the animals stayed in heat longer than normal. In one trial, deer were fertile for six months instead of one.
By Lana BirbrairPosted 09.19.2011 at 10:01 am 32 Comments
The design of the hypodermic needle has changed little since 1853, when French surgeon Charles Gabriel Pravaz first attached a hollow, skinpiercing cylinder to a syringe. today, medical-device designers are using micro-scale materials to make the needles shorter and thinner, which makes for less painful shots.
By Sarah ParsonsPosted 09.16.2011 at 2:30 pm 45 Comments
Among homeowners, wind energy has never caught on, in large part because personal turbines are often noisy and inefficient. Most turbines need strong winds to turn a heavy central generator and create current, a design with two main disadvantages. First, the gears make a lot of noise. Plus, the generator is positioned at the blades’ center, which moves at one tenth the speed of the periphery. And less speed translates to less power.