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One of Xinwei Wang's golden silk orbweaver spiders

Over the years, we’ve seen Spiderman use his webbing to catch villains, swing between buildings, and even parachute from great heights. In all that time, however, the opportunity never came up for him to use it to conduct heat. As it turns out, it would have been perfect for the job. Although materials from living things generally don’t conduct heat well, a team of scientists from Iowa State University have discovered that spider silk does so 800 times better than any other organic material ever tested. Because the silk is also very strong and stretchable, it could have a number of applications in human technology.  Read More

The AutoTutor computerized tutorial system is able to adjust its teaching style, according...

As proposed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “flow” is an ideal psychological state in which we are engaged enough by a task not to find it boring, and yet not so challenged by it that we get discouraged. When learning new subjects, however, students often end up falling at one end or the other of that scale. Now, a new computerized tutoring system has been developed to keep students in the “flow” zone. It does so by monitoring their emotional state, then adjusting its teaching method to steer them away from boredom or frustration.  Read More

Scientists have developed a vortex gun that delivers electrically-charged rings of gas, an...

While something called a “vortex gun” might sound like a device from science fiction, the fact is that they have been available as novelties for years – if you’ve ever used a toy gun that shot out a smoke ring, then you’ve used a vortex gun. Lately, however, scientists from the Ohio-based Battelle R & D group have developed one that could have practical uses for people such as firefighters, exterminators and riot cops.  Read More

University of Tennessee researchers have invented a device that instantly detects diseases...

Infectious diseases these days seem to have gotten a lot of attention, with media hype and threats of pandemics often being portrayed in apocalyptic sci-fi movies. We all know that several types of these diseases can spread rapidly, and it is crucial that doctors be able to identify them quickly in order to prevent an epidemic. Unfortunately, current testing methods can take hours and even days, delaying the process of adequate prevention. It should then ease your mind to hear that researchers at the University of Tennessee have invented a device that can rapidly detect these unwanted afflictions.  Read More

Top half of 3D printed Thomas Jefferson statue (Photo: RedEye on Demand/Smithsonian/Studio...

What do you do when you're the world's largest museum but can display only 2 percent of the 137 million items in your collection (a mere 2.75 million) at any given time? In an effort to get more of their treasures into the public eye, specialists at the Smithsonian Institution's nineteen collective museums and galleries hit upon the solution of digitizing their collection and 3D printing key models and displays suitable for traveling exhibitions. It's a tall order, but one that's sure to give the rapidly blooming business of additive manufacturing a huge boost.  Read More

Koji Usami holding the semiconductor nanomembrane inside its holder

Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute have succeeded in using a new form of laser cooling method to cool a two and a half square millimeter semiconducting gallium arsenide (GaAs) membrane with a thickness of 160 nm from room temperature to four degrees above absolute zero - the temperature of liquid helium.  Read More

Streptococcus pyogenes has inspired a super-strong and selective instant adhesive (Image: ...

A strong and highly selective instant adhesive inspired by the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes has been developed by Oxford University researchers. S. pyogenes is a common resident of human throats that is normally kept in check by the body's defenses, but when it gets out of control it can cause diseases ranging from strep throat to toxic shock syndrome or flesh-eating disease. By engineering a protein that is central to S. pyogenes' infectious arsenal, the researchers have developed a new superglue that can't be matched for sticking molecules together and not letting go.  Read More

After the laser beam hits the sample, the scattered light is collected by a telescope and ...

Contrary to what some cartoons might have led you to believe, explosives aren’t always emblazoned with the letters TNT making them easy to identify. Some people will actually go to the trouble of disguising explosives by placing them in nondescript containers. This means that to analyze them, some close quarter examination that puts someone at risk is usually required. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) have developed a detection method using laser light that allows explosives to be detected not only from distances of over 100 meters (328 ft), but works even when the explosives are hidden inside an opaque container.  Read More

Piezoelectric devices are able to convert mechanical stress caused by movement (such as wa...

Of all the energy-harvesting technologies presently in development, piezoelectric devices offer some of the most intriguing possibilities. They work by converting mechanical stress, which can take the form of movement-caused vibrations, into an electrical charge. This means that things such as shoes, roads, keyboards – or anything else that moves or is subjected to movement – could be outfitted with piezoelectrics, which would produce power. Unfortunately, the range of vibrations that any one device can harness is presently quite limited. Research being conducted at North Carolina’s Duke University, however, could change that.  Read More

Scientists have determined that graphene could be put to use as the world's thinnest anti-...

It seems like the uses for graphene just won’t stop coming. The ultra-strong sheet material, made from bonded carbon atoms, has so far shown promise for use in transistors, computer chips, DNA sequencing, and batteries ... just to name a few possibilities. Now, scientists have discovered that it can also be used as a very effective anti-corrosion coating – and at just one atom in thickness, it’s thinner than any of the alternatives.  Read More

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