Highlights from the 2015 Geneva Motor Show

Science

Three Sandia neutrister neutron generators mounted in a test box under vacuum

Neutron generators provide materials analysis and non-destructive testing tools to many industries, including oilfield operations, heavy mechanical construction, art conservancy, detective work, and medicine. Many of these applications have been limited by the rather large size of current industrial and medical neutron sources. Now Sandia National Laboratories, the lab that develops and supports the non-nuclear parts (including neutron generators) of nuclear weapons, has developed a new approach toward building tiny neutron generators.  Read More

A professor of genetics has broken a record by storing 70 billion copies of his book using...

George Church is a professor of genetics at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and also co-author of the book Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves in DNA. With a title like that, it’s only fitting that the book was used to break the record that it recently did – Church led a team that encoded 70 billion html copies of the book in DNA. That’s 1,000 times more data than the previous record.  Read More

A disc of highly enriched uranium from the Y-12 National Security Complex Plant

The world’s estimated reserves of uranium are only 6 million tons and with the growing demand for reliable energy free of greenhouse emissions leading to more and more nuclear plants being built, that supply may not last very long. Some estimates place the time before all the uranium is gone at between 50 and 200 years. However, the oceans of the world contain 4.5 billion tons of uranium dissolved in seawater. That’s enough to last something on the order of 6,500 years. The tricky bit is getting it out, but a team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee has come a step closer to economically extracting uranium from seawater with a new material that is much more efficient than previous methods.  Read More

Scientists have cracked the code that the brain uses to vocalize vowels (Image: Shuttersto...

Recently, scientists unlocked the code used by neurons in the retina for sending visual data to the brain. This allowed them to create a device that restored almost-normal vision to blind mice. Now, another group of scientists has announced that they have determined the brain’s code for pronouncing vowels, and they believe that their discovery could lead to machines that speak for people who are physically unable to do so.  Read More

Left shows galaxies from AREPO simulation, right shows actual galaxies from Hubble image (...

A new approach for simulating the birth and evolution of galaxies and cosmic filaments within the Universe has been developed by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics together with their colleagues at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies. It's called AREPO, and has been used to simulate the evolution of our Universe from only 380,000 years after the Big Bang to the present. The full variety of spiral, elliptical, peculiar, and dwarf galaxies appear in the simulated Universe.  Read More

Using an off-the-shelf Emotiv BCI, researchers have shown that it's possible to 'hack' a h...

Once the preserve of science fiction, brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) have advanced to the point where they can even be found in novelty headwear, which only makes an achievement of an international team of scientists more frightening. Using an off-the-shelf Emotiv BCI costing only a few hundred dollars, the team has shown that it's possible to "hack" a human brain and pull things like bank details straight out of your skull.  Read More

Simulated structure of buckyballs and new super-hard material (Image: Lin Wang, Carnegie I...

Diamonds may be forever, but they aren’t what they were. True, they shine just as brightly and they’re as hard as ever, but scientists from the Carnegie Institution of Washington are giving them some competition. An international team led by Carnegie’s Lin Wang have discovered a new substance that is not quite crystalline and not quite non-crystalline, yet is hard enough to dent diamonds.  Read More

Wave Glider robots are being deployed as part of an extensive marine life tracking network...

If you’ve ever sat in a beach-side coffee house wondered if there was a white shark in the vicinity, then wonder no more because now there’s an app for that. A team of Stanford University researchers lead by Prof. Barbara Block is deploying a fleet of static buoys and Wave Glider robots to turn the waters off the coast of San Francisco into a huge Wi-Fi network to track tagged fish and animals. This will allow scientists to better understand sea life movements, but the project also includes offering a free app to the public that will allow them to track northern California white sharks on their tablets and smartphones.  Read More

The core of the new solid state maser (Photo: National Physics Laboratory)

Everyone has heard of lasers, but hardly anyone outside of a physics lab or a science fiction novel has heard of a maser. Despite the fact that it was the precursor of the laser, the maser has been something of a technological backwater because masers are difficult to build and expensive to operate. That, however, may be changing. In the August 16 issue of Nature, a team of scientists from Britain’s National Physics Laboratory and Imperial College, London led by Dr. Mark Oxborrow report that they have created the first solid state maser that operates at room temperature, paving the way toward the widespread practical application of the technology.  Read More

Why do small helpless things – babies, kittens, puppies, pandas in baby form – turn even t...

Why do small helpless things – babies, kittens, puppies, pandas in baby form – turn even the most cynical human into a helpless wreck? Why don’t we have the same reaction to a baby lizard or fish or bird? What, in short, is this cuteness thing all about? It turns out that the science of cute is far more interesting than you’d think.  Read More

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