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World’s most efficient thermoelectric material developed

By - September 20, 2012
Approximately 90 percent of the world’s electricity is generated by heat energy. Unfortunately, electricity generation systems operate at around 30 to 40 percent efficiency, meaning around two thirds of the energy input is lost as waste heat. Despite this, the inefficiency of current thermoelectric materials that can convert waste heat to electricity has meant their commercial use has been limited. Now researchers have developed a thermoelectric material they claim is the best in the world at converting waste heat into electricity, potentially providing a practical way to capture some of the energy that is currently lost. Read More

The magnetic sands of Normandy

Sandy beaches are a delight for swimmers, surfers, sailors, and people strolling down the boardwalk. A horde of beautiful shells and buried coins (not to mention the occasional dropped ring) awaits the skilled beachcomber. Beach sand also carries within it a variety of traces of the history of that beach. A prime example is the magnetic sands of Normandy. Read More
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Who ordered that? An unexpected new particle shakes the Standard Model

By - September 19, 2012 2 Pictures
In the mid-1930s, physicists thought they knew all the subatomic particles of nature - the proton, neutron, and electron of the atom. However, in 1936 the muon was discovered - a new particle having such surprising properties that Nobel laureate I.I. Rabi quipped "Who ordered that?" when informed of the discovery. Evidence that a new light boson may exist has recently been published. If the discovery is confirmed, such a boson is not part of the Standard Model of Particle Physics - potentially leading to another "Who ordered that?" moment for physicists. Read More
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Neural prosthesis restores decision-making ability in monkeys

By - September 17, 2012
We may sometimes joke that we lack the ability to make decisions, but the fact is that for people with certain types of brain damage, proper decision-making is indeed impossible. This isn’t so much about things like choosing between vanilla and chocolate, however. Instead, these individuals simply can’t decide on how to respond to everyday situations, so they either don’t respond, or they respond inappropriately. Help may be on the way, though, in the form of a brain-stimulating device that has been shown to work on monkeys. Read More
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Australian study backs major assumption of cosmology

By - September 16, 2012 10 Pictures
In mankind's attempts to gain some understanding of this marvelous place in which we live, we have slowly come to accept some principles to help guide our search. One such principle is that the Universe, on a large enough scale, is homogeneous, meaning that one part looks pretty much like another. Recent studies by a group of Australian researchers have established that, on sizes greater than about 250 million light years (Mly), the Universe is indeed statistically homogeneous, thereby reinforcing this cosmological principle. Read More
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Curiosity finishes self-inspection, photographs Phobos

By - September 16, 2012 21 Pictures
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has limbered up its robotic arm, taken a good look at itself and has been given a clean bill of health. It’s now on the move as it starts its two-year mission of discovery on the Red Planet. On Thursday, it traveled 105 feet (32 m) as it seeks out its first rock for serious investigation. Meanwhile, the nuclear-powered explorer sent back images of Mars’s moon Phobos as it passed in front of the Sun. Read More
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World's shortest laser pulse to shed new light on quantum mechanics

By - September 15, 2012 6 Pictures
Since first invented, the effort to make lasers that can produce shorter and more powerful pulses of light has been a very active one. One driving force is that if you want to take a picture of something occurring very rapidly, you need a very short pulse of light to prevent the image from blurring. The first ruby laser produced microsecond pulses of light, but more recently femtosecond optical pulses a billion times shorter have become common. Still shorter pulses belong to the attosecond regime - the regime wherein a University of Central Florida research team is creating optical pulses sufficiently brief to stop quantum mechanics in its tracks. Read More
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Computer program is able to match rough sketches to real objects

By - September 14, 2012 3 Pictures
Currently, using Google’s “Search by Image” function, it’s possible to search the internet for information on something if you already have an image of that thing. Also, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are developing a system that allows computers to match up users’ drawings of objects with photographs of those same items – the drawings have to be reasonably good, though. Now, however, a team from Rhode Island’s Brown University and the Technical University of Berlin have created software that analyzes users’ crude, cartoony sketches, and figures out what it is that they’re trying to draw. Read More
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Laser-based system promises to take the "ouch" out of injections

By - September 14, 2012 3 Pictures
Nobody likes getting their shots, but whether childhood immunization, annual flu vaccination, or whatever else, we're required to undergo the uncomfortable sensation of needle piercing skin multiple times throughout our lives. However, a new laser-based system promises to take the “ouch” out of injections by delivering shots as painlessly as being struck by a puff of air. Read More
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