Despite what TV shows like CSI
would have us believe, a lot of lab work tends to be highly monotonous. It’s the type of work that could be assigned to robots, were it not for the fact that many facilities can’t afford the things, or can’t rationalize bringing one in for a single project. When scientists at Cambridge University were recently faced with a very mindless, repetitive task that was part of their research into creating artificial bone, one of them got creative, and built a couple of robots out of LEGO.
If you’re concerned about deforestation, you likely blue-bin the no-longer-needed sheets of paper that have been run through your printer. You should keep in mind, however, that even though the recycling of that paper saves trees, the process still requires considerable energy, and most recycled paper still contains some virgin wood pulp. What would be better is if there were an “un-printer” that took the toner off
of the used paper, so you would be left with a blank sheet that you could reuse. Well, thanks to research being conducted at the University of Cambridge, there soon may be.
It's a meme that's been doing the rounds on the internet in recent years: multi-word pass-phrases are as secure as long strings of gibberish but with the added benefit of being easy to remember. But research from Cambridge University suggests that this may not be the case. Pass-phrases comprised of dictionary words may not be as
vulnerable as individual passwords, but they may still succumb to dictionary attacks, the research finds.
Budding computer hackers/scientists are about to get a welcome gift, albeit a bit late for Christmas 2011. The non-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation (RPF) is nearing the release date of its surprisingly powerful and remarkably affordable Raspberry Pi line of bare-bones machines that have been developed in an effort to broaden kids' access to computers in the UK and abroad. How affordable? The figure above was no typo. Read on to learn just what US$25 will get you when these nifty, fully-assembled, credit-card sized computers go on sale next month (sorry, case, monitor, keyboard and mouse not included ... we did say bare bones).
Chocolate lovers are unlikely ever to need encouragement to indulge, but just in case, here's some good news: researchers have found that higher levels of chocolate consumption have been associated with a 37% reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, 31% reduction in diabetes and a 29% reduction for stroke.
The continuing increase in gasoline prices around the world over the past decade has also seen an increase in the practice of hypermiling
– the act of driving using techniques that maximize fuel economy. One of the most effective hypermiling techniques is maintaining a steady speed while driving instead of constantly stopping and starting. Unfortunately, traffic lights all too often conspire to foil attempts at keeping the vehicle rolling. Researchers at MIT and Princeton have now devised a system that gathers visual data from the cameras of a network of dashboard-mounted smartphones and tells drivers the optimal speed to drive at to avoid waiting at the next set of lights.
The biennial World Solar Challenge
is the oldest and most high profile solar car race in the world, a grueling test of endurance and innovative engineering that sees teams take part in an epic 1800 mile race across the Australian outback. In 2009, the Cambridge University team placed 14th with its Bethany
solar powered vehicle after being let down by a bad battery. Now, they're almost ready to make their comeback for the October race with an updated version of Bethany
- the Endeavour
With consumers used to the convenience of refueling their vehicle at the gas station in a few minutes, one of the biggest disadvantages of electric vehicles is the time it takes to recharge their batteries. Now, by separating the energy storage and energy discharging functions of the battery into separate physical structures, researchers at MIT have achieved a breakthrough that could allow EVs to be recharged in the same time it takes to refuel a conventional car. The technology could also provide an inexpensive alternative for energy storage for intermittent, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
Of all the things that people traditionally discard, one that most of us likely think the least about repurposing is human feces and urine. Sure, we recycle our plastic and paper, and compost our fruits and veggies, but ... that stuff
? Actually, there are various worldwide projects aimed at using municipal raw sewage for things such as fertilizer
or a power source
. While those projects only come into play once the waste has been flushed, however, the UK’s Loowatt system gets users involved from the bottom up (sorry), collecting waste directly from the toilet and using it to create biogas and fertilizer.
Few things are as disconcerting, or as curious, as the sight of a gecko or spider skittering effortlessly upside down along the ceiling. This ability is known to be facilitated by microscopic hairs or "setae" on the footpads of insects and mammals and a better understanding of their function could lead to advances in synthetic adhesives, wall climbing robots
and yes, even the the holy-grail of the spiderman suit
. Now for the first time, scientists studying leaf beetles have been able to measure the adhesive force from single setae in a live animal and in the process expand our knowledge of the role they play in clinging to diverse surfaces.