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Everyone knows that it’s possible to identify different species of birds by their vocalizations, but did you know that it’s also possible to differentiate between different types of bats based on their echolocation calls? Well, now you do. So far, however, there hasn’t been a standardized system of doing so – it’s been left up to individual human listeners to decide on the closest match. That may soon no longer be the case, though, as the new online iBatsID tool comes into use. Read More
Not even a month since researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) announced a 500 trillion watt laser shot, researchers at the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) have managed to deliver a record-breaking petawatt, that is, a quadrillion watts, in a pulse just 40 femtoseconds long at a rate of one pulse every second. To put that in perspective, a petawatt is more than the combined output of all electric power plants in the world at any given time and one femtosecond is a quadrillionth of a second. Read More
As well as being the third largest source of vegetable oil in the world – after soybean and oil palm – rapeseed (also known as rape, oilseed rape, rapa, rappi and rapeseed) is cultivated in Europe primarily for animal feed. But due to high levels of glucosinolates that are harmful to most animals (including humans) when consumed in large amounts, its use must be limited. Now researchers at the University of Copenhagen have found a way to stop unwanted toxins entering the edible parts of the plant, thereby increasing the potential of the plant to be used as a commercial animal feed. Read More
Despite their ability to generate clean, green electricity, solar panels aren't as commonplace as the could be. The main sticking point, of course, is price. Due to their need for relatively expensive semiconductor materials, conventional solar cells don't yet have a price-efficiency combination that can compete with other sources of electricity. Now Profs. Alex Zettl and Feng Wang of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley have developed seriously unconventional solar cell technology that allows virtually any semiconductor material to be used to create photovoltaic cells. Read More
Engineers at the University of Connecticut (UConn) have developed a fluorescent nanofibrous film capable of detecting ultra-trace levels of explosive vapors from landmines and other buried explosive devices. In the presence of explosive molecules, the film’s fluorescence is suppressed when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. In this way, the lightweight film, which is similar to paper, could be rolled out over suspect areas to mark the location of explosive devices. Read More

What could be better than a chocolate-covered ice cream bar on a hot summer day? Of course, the answer is a chocolate-covered ice cream bar eaten inside a high-tech, bio-interactive experiential sphere. The Magnum Infinity Pleasure Pod is exactly that ... and the ice cream is free. Read More

Last June, scientists from Harvard University announced the development of their new SLIPS (Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces) technology. When used to coat surfaces, it is highly effective at keeping ice, frost, or just about any type of liquid from accumulating on them. Now, it turns out that SLIPS is also very good at keeping something else from getting a toehold – biofilms. Read More
A team led by NASA's Maxim Markevitch is investigating the possibility of building bigger X-ray telescope mirrors – up to thirty times as large as today's – using a plastic tape coated with a reflective material and then, just like a roll of Scotch tape, tightly rolled on itself. By studying cosmic rays and distant galaxy clusters, such large and significantly cheaper mirrors would allow us to learn more about the birth and evolution of the universe. Read More
Take a look at all the Portal toys that are currently available, and you’ll realize just how much gamers like to own physical models of the digital characters that they know so well. When it comes to characters that are really physically “weird,” though, there can be a problem – goofy anatomy that works in a computer-generated world may not work in the real world. In other words, a physical model of a monster from a video game may be too top-heavy to stand up on its own, its arms may positioned in such a way that they can’t bend properly, or it may otherwise just be plain ol’ gimped. However, new software has been designed to solve those problems – it takes any three-dimensional computer character, and then uses a 3D printer to create a fully-assembled articulated figure based on it. Read More
A combined effort between researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Google provides users with easy access to 13 years of NASA Landsat imagery of the Earth’s surface. The new capability within Google Earth Engine lets users zoom in and out on any spot on the globe, moving back and forth in time between 1999 and 2011. Read More
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