Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Science

The newly-launched Microryza website brings crowd-funding to scientific research

Crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter have proven popular for groups and individuals looking to get a consumer product, movie, music or video game project off the ground. Now a group of researchers and scientists is adopting a similar crowd-funding model to raise money for scientific research projects. The Microryza website, which launched this week, lets the public get behind research they care about and maybe help it get out of the lab.  Read More

'Smart pebbles' are cubes about 10 millimeters to an edge, with processors and magnets bui...

Research currently underway at MIT’s Distributed Robotic Laboratory (DRL) could lead to an innovative replicative manufacturing technique with the disruptive potential equal to that of 3D printing. Imagine a sand-like material that could autonomously assemble itself into a replica of any object encased within. Incredible though this may sound, the DRL researchers have already managed to build a large scale proof-of-concept, with 10-mm cubes acting as the grains.  Read More

'Hydrate-phobic' surface coatings could prevent blockages on deep-sea gas and oil wells (P...

As the world’s appetite for oil and gas continues to increase while access to easily accessible reserves decreases, deep-sea oil and gas wells are being positioned in ever-deeper waters. The dangers and difficulties faced in such operations were highlighted in 2010 with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While placing a containment dome over a leak and piping the oil to a surface storage vessel had worked on leaks in shallower water, the attempt to do the same on the Deepwater Horizon’s largest leak failed when the formation of methane hydrate crystals blocked the opening at the top of the dome. Now researchers at MIT have developed surface coatings that can inhibit the buildup of these methane hydrates and keep the gas and oil flowing.  Read More

Newly-developed earplug-sized air samplers are said to offer several advantages over tradi...

The monitoring of air quality can be a tricky business. Gases may be blown into the sampling site from another area, they may leak out of an air sample before it can be analyzed, or the sampling container itself may introduce compounds, emitted through off-gassing. If samples are being gathered in remote areas, it can also be difficult getting bulky equipment to and from the sampling site. Now, scientists from Sandia National Laboratories have announced a tiny new type of air sampler, that addresses these and other challenges.  Read More

Volunteers are being sought to try out the Dream:ON iPhone app, which may allow users to d...

In what is being touted as “the world's largest dream experiment,” a psychologist from Britain’s University of Hertfordshire is inviting volunteers to try using an iPhone app to control their dreams. Prof. Richard Wiseman teamed up with the developers at software company YUZA to create Dream:ON, an app that plays soundscapes while its user sleeps, intended to shape what sort of dreams they have. The project comes in response to a UK survey conducted by Wiseman, in which 15% of respondents claimed that they frequently suffered from unpleasant dreams.  Read More

One of the robosquirrels used in the rattlesnake study (Photo: Andy Fell, UC Davis)

Rattlesnakes, beware! The next time you spot a succulent-looking squirrel, it might actually be a cold-hearted robot. More specifically, it might be a “robosquirrel,” created by UC Davis professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Sanjay Joshi. He built the robot squirrels as part of a study on rattlesnake behavior – a study which yielded some interesting results.  Read More

A graphene sensor effectively tattooed onto a tooth can be used to detect bacteria and so ...

A graphene sensor effectively tattooed onto a tooth can be used to detect bacteria and so wirelessly monitor oral health, research has shown. Graphene printed onto water-soluble silk can be "bio-transferred" onto organic materials such as tooth enamel. By incorporating antimicrobial peptides and a resonant coil, individual bacteria cells can be detected without need of an onboard power supply or wired connections.  Read More

IBM and ASTRON (the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy) are working to develop tech...

When completed in 2024, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be the largest, most sensitive radio telescope ever created. It will consist of 3,000 individual ground-based dish antennas, linked to act as one big telescope – an arrangement known as an interferometer. While their combined total surface area will be about one square kilometer (0.39 sq mile), they will be spread out across a geographical area approximately 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) in width. They will be gathering about one exabyte of astronomical data per day, which is twice the amount of data that is handled by the World Wide Web on a daily basis. Today, IBM announced that it has partnered with ASTRON (the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy), in an effort to develop computer systems that will be able read, analyze and store all of that data, and do so in an energy-efficient manner.  Read More

NASA's stunning Perpetual Ocean animation visualizes ocean currents (Image: NASA/Goddard S...

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is an unlikely entrant in the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival. Its “Perpetual World” animation may have failed to appeal to the judging committee of the 2011 edition of the competition, but it sure succeeded in catching our eye. The jaw-dropping animation visualizes the flow of surface ocean currents around the world. The raw data regarding the currents from June 2005 through to December 2007 has been turned into a work of art reminiscent of van Gogh.  Read More

Researches have successfully resuscitated non-oscillating BZ gel in a development that cou...

Researchers at MIT and the University of Pittsburgh have successfully resuscitated non-oscillating Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) gel by exerting a mechanical stimulus: a process akin to the resuscitation of a human heart. By exhibiting a chemical response to a mechanical stimulus (a rare feat for non-living matter), it's claimed the material could lead to the development of artificial skin that would enable robots to feel.  Read More

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