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Science


— Biology Feature

Can we build a complete wiring diagram of the human brain?

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?

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— Electronics

Breakthrough rectenna converts light into DC current

Rectifying antennas – "rectennas" – are used as parasitic power capture devices that absorb radio frequency (RF) energy and convert it into usable electrical power. Constructing such devices to absorb and rectify at optical wavelengths has proved impractical in the past, but the advent of carbon nanotubes and advances in microscopic manufacturing technology have allowed engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology to create rectennas that capture and convert light to direct electrical current. The researchers believe that their creation may eventually help double the efficiency of solar energy harvesting.

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— Biology

Scientists develop unique tag for tracking jellyfish and squid

How do you tag a jellyfish? It may sound like a metaphor for frustration, but it's a question that's occupying a team of scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The team has developed a new technology called Integrated Tracking of Aquatic orGanisms (ITAG), which is designed to place instruments on squid, jellyfish, and other small invertebrates as a way to provide detailed information about the animals and their habitat.

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— Electronics

Portobella mushrooms improve battery recipe

The number of electric vehicles and mobile devices is expected to surge over the coming decade, which would place considerable strain on our environment and resources as far as battery technology currently stands. In an effort to find more sustainable alternatives for battery materials, researchers from the University of California, Riverside have created a battery incorporating the skins of portabella mushrooms. The move not only has the potential to reduce the economic and environmental cost of battery production, but may also result in batteries whose capacity increases over time.


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— Environment

Hungry mealworms could keep Styrofoam out of landfills

If you've ever kept mealworms as food for a pet reptile or frog, then you probably fed them fruits or vegetables. What you likely didn't know, however, was that the insects can also survive quite nicely on a diet of Styrofoam. With that in mind, scientists at Stanford University have now determined that mealworms can break the difficult-to-recycle plastic foam down into a biodegradable waste product.

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— Electronics

"Designless" brain-like chips created through artificial evolution

Scientists at the University of Twente in the Netherlands have devised a new type of electronic chip that takes after the human brain. Their device is highly power-conscious, massively parallel, and can manipulate data in arbitrary ways even though it doesn't need to be explicitely designed to perform any task. The advance could pave the way for computers that think more like we do.

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