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Science

Whether you're growing wine grapes or mixing cement, there are some situations in which it's vitally important to monitor moisture content. Normally water sensors are used, although these can be both large and expensive. Now, however, a team from Cornell University has created a water-sensing silicon chip that's not only tiny, but is also reportedly "a hundred times more sensitive than current devices." What's more, the chips might be possible to mass-produce for just $5 a pop. Read More
Living remote-control cockroaches are now a thing. They actually exist. Besides wowing people and sparking ethics debates, however, the cyborg insects may ultimately have some very worthwhile applications. A team led by North Carolina State University's Dr. Edgar Lobaton has brought one of those applications a step closer to reality, by developing software that would allow "swarms" of the cockroaches to map hazardous environments such as collapsed buildings. Read More
It's something most of us take for granted, but our sense of touch is every bit as useful to us as our sight and hearing. Though it seems simple, picking up and holding an object requires nearly instantaneous sensation in the parts of our hands and fingers in contact with the desired object, as well as a sense of the pressure we're applying. Many experimental efforts to simulate a sense of touch in amputees fitted with prosthetics require the subject to learn new associations between touching an object and some abstract sensation. But new research at the University of Chicago suggests that it is possible to map the individual finger pads of a prosthetic hand to the corresponding parts of the brain. In other words, prosthetic hands which offer a realistic sense of touch may theoretically be possible. Read More
Researchers at Rice University have used a computer simulation to calculate that carbyne, a monodimensional chain of carbon atoms, is twice as strong as carbon nanotubes and three times stiffer than diamond. If their findings are correct and the challenges posed by manufacturing it can be overcome, then carbyne could prove an incredibly useful material for a wide range of applications. Read More
If Angus MacGyver was a particle physicist, he might face a challenge like this: Take a femtosecond laser and a fused quartz grating and make the world's most powerful particle accelerator. Despite the apparent incongruity of the resources and the goal, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have fabricated a proof-of-principle electron accelerator using just such equipment. In the demonstration, electrons from a 60 MeV beam saw a force of acceleration about ten times greater than possible in a conventional accelerator. Read More
Holodeck, anyone? Researchers at Bristol University are developing a system known as UltraHaptics that uses ultrasonic force fields to project the tactile sensations of objects in midair. Currently used for a haptic computer interface, the system might eventually enable touchable holograms. Read More

We typically see photovoltaic panels up on roofs, as they're broad, open surfaces that receive a lot of sunlight. You know what else spends a lot of time in the scorching sun, though? Sidewalks. With that in mind, a team at Washington DC's The George Washington University has created what is claimed to be "the first walkable solar-paneled pathway in the world." Read More

Our smartphones and tablets may be able to show us what things look and sound like, but with their flat glass screens, there's no way that they could indicate what something feels like ... right? Actually, they may soon be able to do that, too. Researchers at Disney Research, Pittsburgh have developed a system that lets users' fingertips feel a simulated bump through a flat screen, that corresponds to a bump in the displayed image. Read More
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt, and Arieh Warshel for the development of multi-scale computer models of chemical reactions. Such computational chemical models are now the foundation for protein, enzyme, and pharmaceutical research, and combine a classical description of the motion and structure of large molecules with a quantum description of the regions within the molecule where a reaction takes place. Read More