By Dawn StoverPosted 07.17.2007 at 12:42 pm 1 Comment
Scientists marvel at the ability of geckos to walk up walls and even across ceilings, thanks to their sticky feet. Like Post-it notes, gecko feet can be lifted from surfaces again and again without losing their stickiness.
Scientists also admire the mussel, able to adhere firmly to underwater surfaces. Now two Northwestern University biomedical engineers have created the best of both worlds: "geckel," a strong but reversible adhesive that works in air or water.
Phillip B. Messersmith and Haeshin Lee created geckel by nanofabricating arrays of silicone pillars that resemble the super-fine hairs on the bottom of a gecko foot. Then they coated the pillars with a thin layer of synthetic polymer modeled after the "glue" proteins found in mussels.
One possible application is a geckel bandage that would remain firmly attached during bathing but could be easily removed after a wound has healed. It might replace stitches in some cases.—Dawn Stover
The old bulb is on its way out. Here's how we'll light the future
By Charlie WhitePosted 07.17.2007 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
Power-hungry incandescent bulbs have been glowing since 1879, and they still provide 90 percent of home lighting in the U.S. But with a measly average of 15 lumens per watt, or 5 percent energy efficiency, incandescents squander money and suck energy from carbon-dioxide-spewing power plants. To cap emissions, Australia and the European Union are phasing in bans on Edison's antiquated technology, and other governments are likely to follow—just as low-power alternatives are starting to shine.
A new optic promises better zoom capability for even the thinnest cameraphones
By Eric MikaPosted 07.17.2007 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
Cellphone designers strive for sleekness, a quality that makes it nearly impossible to include a quality zoom lens on your phone. The thin, wide-angle lenses found in today's phones work fine for panoramic shots, but forget about crisp close-ups. To zoom in, cellphone cams simply stretch pixels, which kills image quality.
Now researchers at the University of California at San Diego have borrowed a mirror trick from reflective-telescope makers to cram sharp telephoto capability into a package just a few millimeters thick.
By Gregory MonePosted 07.16.2007 at 12:53 pm 0 Comments
No. It cant be. Someone out there actually returned an iPhone? Someone was dissatisfied with the uber-gadget? Well, not exactly. In a very entertaining read, Farhad Manjoo, a blogger at Salon.com, chronicles what amounts to a two-week love affair with his iPhone. He gushes over its functionality, design and overall beauty, and cites several examples of why its more than just good technological fun. In the end, though, it proves too expensive, and he returns it, heartbroken, within the two week window, hoping that the price comes down soon. If youre not the gadget-loving sort, his essay should give you some insight into the strange breed. And if you are, it will probably echo your own thoughts about Apples latest gem.—Gregory Mone
By Gregory MonePosted 07.16.2007 at 12:48 pm 0 Comments
Blasting tumors with high-energy protons has become an increasingly popular and effective way of fighting cancer. Unlike the X rays normally used to fry the cancerous cells, proton beams can be tuned so that they deliver most of their energy to a specific target, without damaging the healthy tissue nearby. But the equipment required for proton therapy, which includes a particle accelerator, can take up an entire building and cost as much as $100 million. Now University of Wisconsin, Madison physicist Thomas Mackie says his company, TomoTherapy, is developing an effective, but smaller and less expensive proton generator in collaboration with scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and the University of California, Davis. This new beam generator would use a di-electric wall accelerator, which uses powerful electric fields to speed up protons in short distances. Best of all, it could fit in todays radiation treatment rooms, and would cost only about $20 million. Mackie guesses that clinical trials are still 5 years away.—Gregory Mone
(Image credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, TomoTherapy, and University of California, Davis)
By Gregory MonePosted 07.16.2007 at 12:47 pm 1 Comment
This is just good, plain, pricey summer fun. A dive company called Oceanic Worldwide has just released a computerized diving mask that acts a bit like Arnolds glasses in the first Terminator, though this one displays SCUBA-relevant data like current depth, elapsed dive time, cylinder pressure, and dive time remaining, instead of directives to kill Sarah Connor. Oceanic says the masks have long been indispensable to military special forces, but now the technology is available to leisurely divers, too at a price of $1,495. Diving can be an expensive habit, but that still seems a little steep to us.—Gregory Mone
By Gregory MonePosted 07.16.2007 at 12:39 pm 6 Comments
Twelve years ago Peng Shui-lins body was severed when he was hit by a truck it took a team of 20 doctors to treat him, but he survived. Doctors grafted skin from his head to seal his torso, leaving him alive but without legs. Then, last year, scientists at the China Rehabilitation Research Center in Beijing learned about his struggles, and outfitted him with a specially-designed pair of bionic legs, along with a modified walker. Now Peng is learning to walk again.—Gregory Mone
By Gregory MonePosted 07.16.2007 at 12:28 pm 2 Comments
Caught outside in a lightning storm? Listening to a few tunes might seem like a good way to wait it out, but a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that this is a very bad idea. The paper details several cases of electronic-device-related injuries, including a particularly harrowing account of lightning-meets-iPod. In this instance, an unnamed Vancouver man was running in a park when he took shelter, hoping to wait for a storm to pass. Lightning struck a nearby tree, and witnesses report that the man was thrown about eight feet. On top of that, his iPod and earphones, along with the layer of sweat covering his skin, conducted the bolt's charge. The mans injuries included a burn pattern that extended from his chest, where hed been holding the device, to his ears, plus a broken jaw and permanent hearing loss. He's not alone: There have been several other reports of this phenomenon. So, next time youre stuck in a storm, pocket your ear plugs and try belting out a few tunes of your own.—Gregory Mone
By Gregory MonePosted 07.16.2007 at 12:22 pm 0 Comments
Intel and the MIT-led One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative have finally stopped their squabble, and announced plans to work together. The goal of OLPC was to provide impoverished children with specially equipped, low-cost computers. Using chips from Intel rival AMD, OLPC hasnt cut the cost of the notebooks down to $100, its original goal, but the price tag is dropping. Intels own initiative, called Classmate PC, has been shipping notebooks priced at $225 for several months. Intel isnt exactly the bad guy in the fight; the company spends $100 million a year on education initiatives. But OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte reportedly has said that Intels rival laptop program was hurting its own efforts. Now Intel will join OLPC, and the two organizations will work together to get computers into the hands of poor children, so they, too, can learn, grow and watch Internet videos of people doing silly dances.—Gregory Mone
By Michael MoyerPosted 07.16.2007 at 11:13 am 2 Comments
Two good stories this morning—one in the Washington Post, the other in the Economist—analyze the various energy proposals working their way through congress. You can measure the complexity of the problem simply by counting the number of proposed piecemeal solutions—ethanol funding, oil industry subsidies, nuclear power, cap and trade, "NOPEC"—but as the Economist notes, the simplest, most effective solution is not even being considered: a straight tax on carbon. That's the easiest market-based way to make green technologies like the ones we profiled in our June 2006 cover story a reality, but it's also thought to be political suicide.
How would you wean the U.S. off fossil fuels? —Michael Moyer