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Researchers at the University of Dundee have created an acoustic tractor beam that uses ul...

The tractor beam is a staple of science fiction. Aliens use them to haul up unwilling earthlings onto flying saucers, and spacecraft use them to seize enemy ships or tow captured objects around in space. Now a group of researchers working at the University of Dundee actually claim to have built one. But instead of lasers, it uses ultrasonic waves to pull macroscopic objects in.  Read More

U.K. and U.S. researchers are developing a tiny disease detecting robot based on the sea l...

Could tiny robots one day swim through our bodies to detect disease? That's the vision of scientists in the U.K. and U.S. who have turned to the sea lamprey for inspiration in an effort to design a micro-robot capable of doing just that. While not the prettiest of sea creatures, the jawless, blood-sucking lamprey finds itself the subject of this biomimicry project not only because of its ability to swim, but because of its primitive nervous system, which researchers believe can be reproduced as part of a micro, or even nano-scale robot.  Read More

Scientists have created a 3D printer that makes chocolates in shapes determined by the use...

If you’re trying to woo that special someone, instead of just bringing them a box of ordinary chocolates, how about a box of chocolates that look like you? You’re right, that would just be creepy, but chocolates formed into user-defined shapes are nonetheless now a possibility, thanks to a 3D chocolate printer developed at the University of Exeter.  Read More

A soldier in a fictitious but realistic urban, desert environment, with superimposed numbe...

If you’ve ever removed the battery from a laptop, then you will know that it constitutes quite a large percentage of the total weight of the computer. Well, if you think you’ve got it tough lugging that laptop battery around, consider the plight of infantry soldiers – they have to carry multiple batteries to power devices such as weapons, radios, and GPS equipment, and they have to do so for hours at a time, often under very harsh conditions. Attempts to lighten the 45 to 70 kg (99 to 154 lb) loads typically carried by soldiers currently include the use of fuel cells, li-ion batteries woven into their clothing, and autonomous pack horse-like vehicles. Now, UK researchers are adding their two pence-worth, by developing wearable solar and thermoelectric power systems.  Read More

Slices of a Fano variety

Mathematicians are creating their own version of the periodic table that will provide a vast directory of all the possible shapes in the universe across three, four and five dimensions, linking shapes together in the same way as the periodic table links groups of chemical elements. The three-year project, announced today, should provide a resource that mathematicians, physicists and other scientists can use for calculations and research in a range of areas, including computer vision, number theory, and theoretical physics. For some mental exercise, check out these animations that have already been analyzed in the project.  Read More

Food packaging is just one of the potential applications of the compostable sugar-based po...

Traditional environmental enemies food packaging and other disposable plastic items could soon be composted at home along with organic waste and not collected for landfill thanks to a new sugar-based polymer being developed at Imperial College London. The degradable polymer is made from sugars known as lignocellulosic biomass, which come from non-food crops like fast-growing trees and grasses, or renewable biomass from agricultural or food waste.  Read More

The proposed design of the Wattbox showing clearly the water heating control unit and corr...

The adage “less is more” rings true when discussing energy usage - as energy costs rise, using less saves you more money each year. And studies have shown that householders who know how much energy they use on a daily basis tend to use significantly less. A new device called the Wattbox - a smart control unit for central heating and hot water heaters that learns householders' energy habits and provide immediate feedback on consumption - could deliver home energy savings of up to 20 percent without compromising comfort say UK researchers. A great feature of the Wattbox is that it is retrofittable, meaning it’s suitable for all houses, not just new ones.  Read More

A prototype of the portable magnetometer being developed at the University of Leeds

A portable magnetometer being developed at the University of Leeds could dramatically simplify and improve the process of diagnosing heart conditions. Its creators say its unprecedented sensitivity to magnetic fluctuations will allow the innovative cardiac scanner to detect a number of conditions, including heart problems in fetuses, earlier than currently available diagnostic techniques such as ultrasound, ECG (electrocardiogram) and existing cardiac magnetometers. It will also be smaller, simpler to operate, able to gather more information and significantly cheaper than other devices currently available.  Read More

Researchers in the UK hope to deploy a smarter CCTV system that helps to actively prevent ...

The negative impact surrounding terrorism, crime and anti-social behavior has resulted in an escalation in the amount of remote surveillance undertaken around the world, but especially in the UK, which, according to the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), has deployed more than 4 million CCTV cameras. Putting aside privacy issues for another article, the increase in CCTV usage has had very little success in preventing crime. The main problem seems to lie in the amount of video captured versus the amount that can be viewed and interpreted by trained staff. To overcome these shortcomings, UK researchers are investigating the use of computer technology that recognizes suspicious behavior in live Internet-enabled CCTV feeds from buses and trains, allowing control room staff to intervene and protect drivers and passengers from assaults, thefts and other incidents.  Read More

A robotic 'ferret' will help customs find drugs, weapons and people hidden in freight cont...

It won’t be cuddly, but it’ll certainly be efficient. The University of Sheffield is developing what it calls a cargo-screening ferret that uses a combination of laser and fiber-optic technology to sniff out the tiniest traces of drugs, weapons, explosives and even illegal immigrants.  Read More

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