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.
In the field of exotic new materials, we've examined one of the strongest ones
declared to be impossible; scientists now report creating "forbidden" materials, out of ordinary table salt, that violate classical rules of chemistry. Not only does the development challenge the theoretical foundation of known chemistry, but it is also expected to lead to the discovery of new exotic chemical compounds with practical uses and shed light on the composition of early planetary cores.
Scientists have developed a special DNA clamp to act as a diagnostic nano machine. It's capable of detecting genetic mutations responsible for causing cancers, hemophilia, sickle cell anemia and other diseases, more efficiently than existing techniques. Not only can the clamp be used to develop more advanced screening tests, but it could also help create more efficient DNA-based nano machines for targeted drug delivery.
Who wouldn't want to slip into Iron Man's armor or try out the gigantic Jaegers that saved the world in the movie Pacific Rim
? Wearable exoskeletons currently being built, from the military-based TALOS
, XOS 2
to rehabilitative models like the ReWalk
, all have one thing in common; they are all robotic automated body suits designed to enhance or assist people. Is there a place for a skill-oriented, non-robotic walking exoskeleton, that a person would have to master physically by feel, much like how one might master riding a bicycle or using a skateboard? Jonathan Tippet thinks so. He and his team of volunteers are building Prosthesis, claimed to be the world's first human-piloted racing robot. It's a 5-meter (16-ft) tall behemoth that will rely entirely on the pilot's skill to balance itself or walk or run.
Hijacking sperm cells to create little robots might seem far out, but that's exactly what researchers from the Dresden Institute for Integrative Nanosciences have done. Their "spermbots" consist of live sperm cells in little tubes, that can be magnetically controlled to move in a desired direction until they reach their destination and do their job – they're currently robust enough to even guide a specific sperm cell to an egg cell. The scientists hope that further development will allow the technology to offer a viable alternative to parents trying to have a child through in-vitro fertilization. When perfected, the spermbots could also be used as a safe means for drug delivery and gene manipulation.
The TIWAL 3.2 is an inflatable sailing dinghy that can be assembled or packed down into two bags in a little under 20 minutes. According to its creators, the dinghy is a "high performance" sailing vessel with a multi-purpose design that not only allows families and first time sailors to experience the joys of sailing in calm weather, but also lets expert sailors test their limits.
Ever wanted to gauge how much power you can pack into a right hook? If you could wear a sensor network, capable of recording, replaying and analyzing how you moved, it would be a simple thing to figure out. That's what Stepan Boltalin set out to create with Notch, a sensor that you can attach to your clothes at specific points to capture your body's movement data in 3D.
The C-Walker is a high-tech walking device that aims to safely guide people with cognitive impairments through public spaces like airports and shopping centers, reducing their reliance on visual signboards and avoiding obstacles in their way. Using onboard sensors, this "cognitive navigation prosthesis" monitors its environment in real time to figure out a path that poses little risk, actively re-planning it when it encounters problems like wet floors, or people dashing about. Aside from aiding senior citizens, the technology is expected to come in handy in factory settings, helping workers avoid danger zones and accidental collisions with machines.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a digital house elf that handles the operation of all your various electronic devices? That's what the Ninja Sphere aims to be, a one stop intelligent hub designed to add your various household devices to the Internet of Things. Like other home automation systems, such as Revolv
, Ninja Sphere can monitor and allow the remote control of connected devices, but offers expanded capabilities with its gesture control interface and the ability to map the location of devices in the home in real time.
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have grown liquid crystal flowers, making it possible to create lenses as complex as the compound eye of a dragonfly. When perfected, the technology could allow the growth of lenses on curved surfaces, and structures to be assembled out of liquid crystals to build new materials, smart surfaces, microlens arrays and advanced sensors.
Figuring out whether the fries on your plate contain traces of trans-fat, or if those celery sticks are truly pesticide-free can be tricky, if not impossible. That's why Isabel Hoffmann along with mathematician Stephen Watson set out to create TellSpec, a hand-held device that you can simply point at a food item, to identify what's in it. Not only does the device warn you about chemicals, allergens and ingredients you'd rather avoid, it'll also help you figure out food sensitivities and track your vitamin intake. The goal, the company says, is to help people make clean food choices by letting them "check their food as easily as they check their mail."