Photokina 2014 highlights

Science

A Harvard computer scientist has created a digital 'face transplant' system, that could be...

If you've seen the film The Social Network, then you might have wondered about the identical Winklevoss twins - were a real-life pair of twins cast for the roles, or was it a bit of Hollywood magic? Well, it was magic. Although two different actors' bodies were used, their faces both belonged to actor Armie Hammer. After the movie was shot, the body double's face was digitally replaced with Armie's. While such computer-enabled face-swapping trickery has so far been available only to feature film-makers with deep pockets, that could be about to change, thanks to research being conducted at Harvard University.  Read More

Virtual photons bounce off a 'mirror' that vibrates at almost the speed of light. The roun...

A perfect vacuum is impossible to achieve, at least in theory. As anyone with any interest in quantum physics would know, the vacuum is full of various particles that fluctuate in and out of existence. These "virtual" particles have been the focus of scientist, Christopher Wilson. Working with his team at Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology, Wilson has succeeded in producing real photons from these virtual photons. Which, in layman's terms, means that they have created measurable light ... from nothing.  Read More

The Lightning Foundry's 1:12 scale prototype in action

Calling all Tesla fans! Electrical engineer Greg Leyh and his team at the Lightning on Demand organization (LOD) in California are raising the funds necessary to build the world's largest twin Tesla coils (ten stories high, about 120 ft/37 m) that will be capable of generating electric arcs more than 200 feet (60 m) long. Dubbed the "Lightning Foundry," the project currently consists of a working 1:12 scale prototype. When complete, a towering pair of coils will fill a football field-sized area with massive electric bolts that researchers hope will reveal some of the mysteries of this beautiful but deadly force.  Read More

Norwegian scientists are developing a capsule that they say will be able to transmit live ...

Although we may not yet have reached the stage where manned submarines can be shrunken down and placed inside the body, à la the movie Fantastic Voyage, current technology does allow us to do something almost as impressive – it is now possible to obtain images of the inside of the intestinal tract, by getting patients to swallow a camera-equipped capsule. Japanese company RF System Lab reported success using its Norika 3 RF Endoscopic Robot Capsule to transmit live video from inside test subjects back in 2004, while just last year Olympus announced the creation of a similar device. Now, Norwegian researchers are stating that they are in the process of developing the “next generation” of camera pill.  Read More

The graphene foam is macroscopic in total size (left), yet has nanoscopic internal structu...

For some time now, scientists have known that certain nanostructures are very sensitive to the presence of various chemicals and gases, making them good candidates for use in explosives-detecting devices. Unfortunately, because they're so small, mounting a single nanostructure within such a device would be an extremely fiddly and costly process. They would also be quite fragile, plus it would be difficult to clean the detected gas from them, so they could be reused. Recently, however, scientists from New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have figured out a solution to those problems. They have created a postage stamp-sized piece of foam made from one continuous piece of graphene, that is easy to manipulate, flexible, rugged, simple to neutralize after each use ... and is ten times more sensitive than traditional polymer sensors.  Read More

An image of the new computer chip, that mimics the activity of neurons in the brain (Photo...

The human brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons, and each one of those communicates with many others by releasing neurotransmitters. Those neurotransmitters cross a gap – properly known as a synapse – between the sending (presynaptic) and receiving (postsynaptic) neurons. Ion channels on the membranes of the postsynaptic neurons open or close in response to the arrival of the neurotransmitters, changing the neurons’ electrical potential. Should that potential change to a sufficient degree, the neuron will produce an electrical impulse known as an action potential. It’s a very complex process ... and scientists from MIT have now recreated it on a silicon computer chip.  Read More

Instant Wild is a conservation app that sends photos of wild animals to users' iPhones, as...

Why do ecotourists travel thousands of miles to catch glimpses of rare, exotic animals, when they could get long, lingering looks at them just by turning on their TV? Well, partly because it’s fun to travel. Also, however, it’s a lot more exciting when you never know what you’re going to see, or when, or where. While it’s not quite as epic as trekking through the African Savannah, the Zoological Society of London’s Instant Wild App is bringing that same sort of wilderness-lottery-like excitement to the iPhone. Users can subscribe to feeds from camera traps located in several areas of the world, and will receive photos of the animals that trigger those traps, as they’re triggered. While that might be neat enough in and of itself, users can then proceed to help conservationists protect those creatures.  Read More

Scientists have created a contact lens that can can project an image onto the wearer's ret...

Fans of the original film in the Terminator franchise will recall how various bits of data were shown to be overlaid on the cyborg's vision - in particular, they might remember the list of possible responses that could be used when someone was angrily knocking on its door (for those who don't remember, its chosen response wasn't very polite). Such augmented vision systems are now a little closer to reality, thanks to work being done by a team of scientists at the University of Washington and Aalto University, in Finland. They have created a contact lens that displays information, which is visible to the wearer.  Read More

Samples of the new resin shaped with high heat  (Image: CNRS)

Synthetic resins start out as viscous liquids that eventually solidify or "cure" into clear or translucent solids. These materials, which combine the desirable properties of strength, durability and light weight, are so useful that you can find them in thousands of applications, particularly aircraft, automobiles and electronic circuits. But for all that versatility, there's one thing that's remained elusive: once cured, resins can not be reshaped. Now, a team from France's National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS), led by award-winning physicist Ludwik Leibler, has developed an inexpensive and easily-produced material that is not only reshapable (like glass), but also repairable and recyclable, again, like glass. That's a potential boon for the auto body industry alone, and the possibilities for other uses are seemingly endless.  Read More

Scientists from the OPERA project are reporting that new experiments confirm their earlier...

On September 23rd, researchers from the European OPERA project made the now-famous announcement that they had observed neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. Given that Einstein's special theory of relativity states that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, their proclamation was naturally met with some skepticism – various physicists stated that there was likely a flaw in the design, implementation or calculations involved the experiment. To their credit, the OPERA collaborative made a point of inviting other scientists to try to replicate their results. In the meantime, however, they’ve replicated those results themselves, and announced today that neutrinos still appear to be the speediest particles in the universe.  Read More

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