When Lakshmi first encountered pig's wings in a petri dish, she realized that writing about scientists and imagineers was the perfect way to live in an expanding mind bubble. Articles for Wired, BBC Online, New Scientist, The Economist and Fast Company soon followed. She's currently pursuing her dream of traveling from country to country to not only ferret out cool stories but also indulge outrageously in local street foods. When not working, you'll find her either buried nose deep in a fantasy novel or trying her hand at improvisational comedy.
Two years ago, researchers at
MIT used Wi-Fi signals to see through walls
and track a person's movements. The same team has now come up with a
new technology that's not only able to discern a person's silhouette
through walls, but can also make out different individuals.
Last year, researchers at the University of Dundee revealed an acoustic tractor beam that used ultrasonic energy to pull macroscopic objects in. Now researchers in the UK have developed a sonic tractor beam that generates acoustic holograms through the manipulation of high-amplitude sound waves. These acoustic holograms, which can take various shapes, such as fingers, cages and vortexes, are able to pick up and move small objects like polystyrene beads.
What if it were possible to squeeze the diagnostic ability of a lab into a single needle? Scientists have come up with a self-contained lab in a needle-like device which is claimed capable of delivering results to common lab tests instantly. The device could potentially allow doctors to diagnose and treat conditions faster and make it easier to conduct diagnostic tests anywhere.
Envision a nanoscale wrench, capable of controlling shapes at the nanoscale level to create customized molecules. That's what Severin Schneebeli, a University of Vermont chemist and his team have developed. The opening on this mini wrench is only 1.7 nanometers, roughly a hundred-thousand-times smaller than the width of human hair.
What if the light in the room could sense you waving your hand as you enter? And what if it responded by introducing minute light changes that instructed your smart coffee machine to switch on? Researchers at Dartmouth College have developed a sensing system called LiSense that aims to make the light around us "smart." Not only does it use light to sense people’s movements, but it also allows them to control devices in their environment with simple gestures, using light to transmit information.
Although the ability tends to wane as we get older, the human auditory system is pretty good at filtering out background noise and making a single voice able to be understood above the general hubbub of a crowded room. But electronic devices, such as smartphones, aren't quite as gifted, which is why getting Siri or Google Now to understand you in crowded environments can be an exercise in futility. But now researchers have developed a prototype sensor that’s not only able to figure out the direction of a particular sound, but can also extract it from background noise.
Researchers have created printable solid-state batteries that can be printed in any conceivable shape and can be seamlessly embedded into a variety of surfaces. To demonstrate the technology, the scientists printed a working heart-shaped battery onto a cup, another onto a paper eyeglass and even one in the form of the letters "PRISS", all of which were capable of powering LEDs.
Scientists have developed a new hydrogel that stretches and contracts just like an artificial muscle. The team created an L-shaped object made out of the hydrogel and immersed it in a water bath. When the water’s temperature was varied, it slowly "walked" forward.
What do you do after you've 3D-printed the world's tiniest functional power drill?
If you're Lance Abernethy, you go on to add another miniature power
tool to your Lilliputian toolbox. Abernethy's latest creation is a
working 3D-printed circular saw that fits in a briefcase slightly bigger
than a thumbnail.
Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have grown underwater chimney-like structures capable of generating enough electricity to power a light bulb. The team linked several of these chimneys to get the required electricity. Their findings indicate that the seafloor equivalents of these chemical gardens might just have contributed the electricity needed for the Earth's first organisms to develop.