Richard is a freelance writer and journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. He’s contributed to Ars Technica, Edge Magazine, Polygon, and many other publications. When not writing or trying to read the entire internet, you’ll likely find him dancing, playing games, dabbling in creative stuff, or learning about whatever catches his eye.
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin may have found a solution to one of the key problems holding back flexible, bendable electronics and soft robotics from mass production. Electronic circuits tend to crack and break when repeatedly subjected to bending or flexing, but a new self-healing gel may automatically repair these flaws as they develop.
Nebulizers aren't anything new – I remember using a big, bulky electric one 25 years ago to help my tiny three-year-old body breathe during asthma attacks. But a new prototype nebulizer developed at RMIT in Melbourne is designed to fit comfortably in your hand and deliver much higher doses of medicine per minute than current nebulizers. The researchers behind the device say it could replace inhalers and injections for people with conditions such as asthma, cancer, cystic fibrosis, and diabetes.
While researchers around the world are making gradual gains in the monumental task
of developing artificial intelligences that can creatively solve
problems or produce art, IBM's Watson supercomputer has now learned how
to help people get more creative. Six student teams at Georgia Tech
trained Watson to chat with them about the many systems from nature
that we could mimic in solving big problems such as long-term space
travel and more efficient desalination processes.
Most medical devices come in standard sizes, but people – as you've probably noticed – vary widely in their shape and size. Sick or premature babies especially can run afoul of this system, as their tiny bodies leave much less room for error in inserting or attaching devices at the correct spot. But in the near future all biomedical equipment may be 3D printed at precise dimensions to suit each patient.
A new study suggests that the carbon-based waste material given off by burning candles could be suitable for use in larger, more powerful lithium ion batteries such as those used in electric cars. Two researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology found that as an anode material, candle soot compares favorably to existing commercial options because of its low cost of production and fractal-like nanoparticle structure.
Autopilot systems for yachts and inboard boats are a common backup that gives the captain an occasional rest. But these systems are designed to react to changes in conditions after they occur, which may be too late in certain circumstances, whereas the safest, most ideal system will preempt threats and react in anticipation of a coming danger. Google and others have been developing such systems for driverless cars for years, and now a startup spun out of the University at Buffalo hopes to sell preemptive marine autopilot systems to small and mid-size recreational boat owners.
Our brains are wondrous, incredible machines. They're slower than the earliest personal computers in terms of raw processing power, yet capable of leaps of intuition and able to store a lifetime of memories that are cross-referenced and instantly-accessible at the slightest prompting. We know so very little about how they do these things, however. But imagine for a moment if we could build a complete wiring diagram of a human brain – to map in detail every one of the hundred trillion or so synapses and roughly hundred billion neurons together with all the tiniest supporting mechanisms. What might that mean, and would it even be possible?
Just as drones have transformed wildlife conservation and illegal fishing patrols, they may soon make a big impression on forest conservation. Unmanned aerial vehicles could replace people in monitoring forest regeneration projects in the tropics, with consequent savings in time and money as well as much-improved data collection.
Different patients with the same type of cancer can have different
responses to the same medication, which leaves doctors in a tough spot:
how do they know which treatment will have the best response? If they
get it right, their patient may enter remission; but if they're wrong
the patient's health will deteriorate. Now researchers at Western
University might have the answer. They developed machine learning
algorithms – a branch of artificial intelligence – that crunch genetic
data to determine the most likely treatment response and allow more
personalized treatment regimens.
Brief bursts of radio waves arriving from far-off galaxies could help astronomers estimate cosmological distances and piece together a 3D map of matter in the universe. If everything checks out, a new technique proposed by two cosmologists from the University of British Columbia will offer an independent metric – set apart from the uncertainties and systemic biases of existing methods – in plotting the large structures of the cosmos.