2014 Paris Motor Show highlights

Science

LLNL researchers are working to improve 3D metal printing using higher-powered lasers

To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, there was a time when 3D metal printing was like a dog walking on his hind legs – it wasn't done well; but you were surprised to find it done at all. Now that laser sintering or Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is used for everything from printing rocket engine components to semi-automatic pistols, the time for surprise may b long past, but the technology still has plenty of room for improvement. That's why researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are working on simulations to improve the speed of 3D laser printing and the quality of the final product by using higher-powered lasers.  Read More

The Brazuca World Cup match ball being tested in a wind tunnel (Photo: NASA's Ames Researc...

Under the guise of World Cup fever, scientists across the globe are seizing the opportunity to examine the aerodynamic properties of what will in all likelihood be the most talked-about object on a global scale over the coming weeks, the 2014 World Cup match ball. The ball, lovingly named Brazuca by the Brazilian people, is the product of a significant amount of research and money aimed at creating the ultimate centerpiece for one of the greatest sporting competitions on Earth.  Read More

The super bananas are yellow on the outside (like the regular bananas seen here), but thei...

According to the Queensland University of Technology's Prof. James Dale, 650,000 to 700,000 children die worldwide every year due to pro-vitamin A deficiency. Many of those children live in East African nations such as Uganda. Dale's proposed solution? Take something that's already grown and eaten there, and genetically modify it to produce the needed vitamin. That's what he's done with the Highland cooking banana. The resulting "super bananas" are about to be the subject of human nutritional trials in the US.  Read More

Rod photoreceptors (in green) within a 'mini retina' derived from human iPS cells in the l...

The eye is often compared to a camera, but although its basic design is as simple as an old-fashioned box Brownie, its detailed structure is more complex than the most advanced electronics. This means that, unlike simpler organs, studies of retinal disease rely heavily on animal studies, and treating such illnesses is extremely difficult. One ray of hope in the field comes from researchers at Johns Hopkins, who have constructed a functioning segment of a human retina out of stem cells that is able to respond to light.  Read More

A climber uses the Z-Man paddles to climb up a glass surface

Geckos are likely better climbers than any other animal, so it's no surprise that a number of researchers have tried to copy that ability via man-made technology. One group, from Stanford University, was particularly successful with a small climbing robot known as the Stickybot. Four years ago, we heard about how they were also looking into applying the Stickybot tech to a system that would allow humans to climb up vertical surfaces. Now, DARPA has announced the first successful demonstration of that system, known as Z-Man.  Read More

According to a survey conducted by astronomers at Cornell University, the Milky Way may be...

A survey conducted by astronomers at Cornell University has taken into account the characteristics of 637 known exoplanets and elaborated a Biological Complexity Index (BCI) to assess the relative probability of finding complex life on them. Their data supports the view that as many as one hundred million planets scattered around the Milky Way, and perhaps more, could support life beyond the microbial stage.  Read More

Fiber made from cellulose claimed to be as strong as steel

A team of researchers working at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology claim to have developed a way to make cellulose fibers stronger than steel on a strength-to-weight basis. In what is touted as a world first, the team from the institute's Wallenberg Wood Science Center claim that the new fiber could be used as a biodegradable replacement for many filament materials made today from imperishable substances such as fiberglass, plastic, and metal. And all this from a substance that requires only water, wood cellulose, and common table salt to create it.  Read More

From left, supercapacitor developers Mihrimah Ozkan, Cengiz Ozkan and Zachary Favors (Phot...

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed a new graphene-based supercapacitor that uses a nanoscale architecture to double its energy and power performance compared to commercially-available alternatives. This breakthrough is another important step toward making supercapacitors viable for use in fast-charging, high-performance electric cars and personal electronics.  Read More

A sheet of clear polymer treated with the new electrode coating

Chances are that the touchscreen on your smartphone or tablet incorporates a coating of indium tin oxide, also known as ITO or tin-doped indium oxide. Although it's electrically conductive and optically transparent, it's also brittle and thus easily-shattered. Scientists at Ohio's University of Akron, however, are developing something that could ultimately replace the material. They've created an electrode coating that's not only as transparent and more conductive than ITO, but is also far tougher.  Read More

The Hubble Space Telescope has taken a long-exposure picture of space in the ultraviolet, ...

A newly-released picture taken by the Hubble Telescope is adding more color to the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) image by detecting thousands of galaxies in the ultraviolet spectrum. The study, called the Ultraviolet Coverage of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (UVUDF), directly imaged stars and other celestial bodies that would have been impossible to observe on the ground, and gives astronomers critical information that will prove useful as the launch of the more powerful James Webb Space Telescope approaches.  Read More

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