Discoveries and disappearances in the world of science
By Lindsey KonkelPosted 06.07.2009 at 5:43 pm 2 Comments
This year, astronomers expect the fewest sunspots—magnetic storms on the sun's surface—in a century. Fewer spots indicates a cooler sun, which could cool the planet by a fraction of a degree.
A filmmaker documents his life using a homemade video camera implanted in his prosthetic eye
By Michael RosenwaldPosted 06.07.2009 at 5:32 pm 1 Comment
Rob Spence doesn't think it's odd that he replaced his false eye with a wireless video camera. "You look at the size of the camera on your cellphone and at a prosthetic eyeball, and it occurs to you almost immediately to just go ahead and stick a camera in there," says the Canadian filmmaker.
The charred remains of a multi-million-dollar mansion crumbled under Randall Griffin's work boots. "The entire neighborhood was burned to ashes," he says. "There was literally one home left." Now, less than two years after Griffin surveyed the aftermath of the wildfires that destroyed more than 3,000 homes in Southern California, his group at the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate is testing a deployable tent that could shield homes from the most ferocious fires.
Nanomotors hold the promise of one day powering tiny robots that could do everything from fighting viruses to cleaning up toxic waste. Thanks to some scientists at the University of Florida, that day is getting rapidly closer; and some of these robots might end up solar-powered.
A new paper published in the journal Nano Letters details how the researchers created the first light-powered nanomotor out of a photoreactive chemical and a short length -- only 31 base pairs -- of DNA.
The creator of the Segway is one of the most successful and admired inventors in the world. He leads a team of 300 scientists and engineers devoted to making things that better mankind. But he's not done
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 06.05.2009 at 10:18 am 20 Comments
"Let's run it through from the top. This is going downhill."
Dean Kamen is standing on a six-inch riser in an almost empty room in the basement of Westwind, his 32,000-square-foot house in Bedford, New Hampshire, trying to get this thing right. It's crunch time for FIRST, the high-school robotics competition Kamen founded two decades ago in an effort to get kids jazzed about engineering, to make science as sexy as sports. (FIRST = For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.)
In less than a month, 42,000 students on 1,700 teams will gather at 43 regional championships to showcase the ball-throwing 'bots that each team has spent six weeks assembling in novel ways from nearly identical boxes of parts. At stake -- besides glory -- is $9 million in scholarships.
Hand-washing: it seems easy enough, but for whatever reason, we constantly shirk this simplest of duties. These days we have swine flu to remind us, but what about when that becomes old news? Microbes don't disappear just because they're not in the news every day.
A few University of Florida professors have invented a solution -- HyGreen, a sensor system that can sniff your hands to detect telltale soap fumes -- or the lack thereof.
The world certainly isn't simple, and trying to express real-world dynamics in the form of an equation has long been a challenge. Realistic computer-simulated sound has been particularly tough to get right, and some of the hardest dynamics to recreate have been the movements and sound of water.
Scientists at Cornell have now announced a system that can look at a 3-D motion rendering of water--waves, drops, anything--and algorithmically create the dribbles, gurgles and plops it would be sounding, were it in fact real.
What you consider solid, liquid or gas depends entirely on where you live. For example, men from cold, cold Mars might build their houses out of ice. Women from Venus, where the average temperature is about 870°F, could bathe in liquid zinc.
We think mercury is a liquid metal, but it's all relative. At one temperature, the mercury atoms arrange themselves into a solid crystal; at another, they flow freely around each other as a liquid. Children from Pluto (like mine, for example) could happily cast their toy soldiers out of mercury, because on that frigid planet it is a solid, malleable metal a lot like tin. Here on temperate Earth, you need a stove to cast tin, but a tank of liquid nitrogen to make mercury figurines.
Surgical solutions for restoring lush locks have always involved a painful trade-off — transplanting hairs from the rear of your head to the top could leave you thin in the back. But Bessam Farjo, a hair-loss specialist at the British company Intercytex, has devised a less barbaric fix: cloning patients' hair cells. "The concept is to create a limitless supply of donor hair," Farjo says.