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Nick Lavars

Nick Lavars

Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches.

Follow Nick:

— Automotive

Samsung's transparent Safety Truck hits the road en route to global rollout

Craning your neck to check for oncoming traffic can be a futile exercise when you're trailing a mammoth semi-trailer on a single lane highway. If only you could see through that huge mass of moving steel, right? After a trial last year, Samsung has again taken a "transparent" Safety Truck to the roads of Argentina for further testing, with a view to expanding the technology globally later in the year.

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— Energy

Germany's Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor produces its first flash of hydrogen plasma

Experimentation with Germany's newest fusion reactor is beginning to heat up, to temperatures of around 80 million degrees Celsius, to be precise. Having fired up the Wendelstein 7-X to produce helium plasma late last year, researchers have built on their early success to generate its first hydrogen plasma, an event they say begins the true scientific operation of the world's largest fusion stellarator.

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— Space

NASA details CubeSats to launch aboard SLS

As its 2018 maiden flight edges closer, NASA has provided further details on what exactly the Space Launch System (SLS) will be carrying deep into space. The agency has today revealed 13 CubeSats in total will be loaded onto the most powerful rocket it has ever built, some of which will be deployed to inspect asteroids, while others will gather data on the Moon.

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— Science

Sandcastle worms inspire strong, fast-acting underwater adhesive

Science has turned its torch to many corners of the animal kingdom in the pursuit of advanced adhesives. Immoveable mussels, grippy geckos and stubborn shellfish have helped nudged these efforts along in the past, and now another critter has emerged with a few sticky secrets of its own. Researchers have replicated the adhesive secreted by sandcastle worms to form a new kind of underwater glue, a substance they say could find use in a number of applications including tissue repair and dentistry.

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— Drones

Drone takes the lead in Antarctic icebreaking mission

Each year, the US military set outs on a resupply mission to McMurdo Station, the National Science Foundation's Antarctic research center. With swathes of sea ice standing in its way, the Polar Star icebreaker first plows channels for other ships loaded with food, fuel and other supplies to pass through. But this year it has received a helping hand, by way of an unmanned drone that flies out ahead of the ship to scout the safest path forward.

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— Robotics

Soft robotic gripper gets a grasp on fragile objects using electroadhesion

Building machines that replicate the delicate touch of a human hand is a complex undertaking that has seen the development of all kinds of soft robotic grippers, from squishy green blobs to boa constrictor-inspired claws. Scientists are now claiming an important advance in this area, demonstrating a robotic device that can better grasp fragile objects through the help of electroadhesion, the very same phenomenon that sees balloons cling to ceilings after being rubbed on your hair.

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— Drones

Dutch police train drone-hunting eagles

Drones are certainly getting smarter and more capable, but can they outwit one of nature's most menacing airborne predators? The Dutch National Police is banking on a bird of prey to come up trumps in a dogfight between new and old inhabitants of the sky, so it is training a fleet of eagles to help quell the risk of dangerous unmanned aircraft.

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— Health & Wellbeing

CrossOver motorized standing desk gives old workstations a powerlift

What goes up must come down, and standing desks operating at the mercy of indecisive office workers are no different. There's plenty of mechanically adjustable desks designed to lighten the load for tired typists, and now office furniture specialist NextDesk wants to give your standard cubicle the same versatility. The CrossOver can be plonked down on any old desk and transformed into a raised workstation with a push of a button.

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— Urban Transport

MIT engineers win Hyperloop pod competition, will test prototype in mid-2016

The Hyperloop's journey from audacious concept to a functional, superfast transport system went up a gear over the weekend with more than 115 engineering teams descending on Texas A&M University to present passenger capsule designs in SpaceX's Hyperloop Pod Competition. An MIT team took out first place in the contest, and along with 22 other top designs it will now build human-scale prototypes to test out at SpaceX HQ later in the year.

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— Medical

New pain-relief drug shapes as less addictive alternative to morphine

Opiates have brought pain relief to humankind for hundreds of years, but they don't come without consequences. Motor impairment and respiratory depression are a couple of potential side effects, but from opium-dependent Chinese of the mid-19th century to the morphine-riddled soldiers of the Vietnam War, the risk of addiction remains the biggest problem. Researchers have now developed a new painkiller they claim to be as strong as morphine, but without much of this unwanted baggage.

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