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Three of the Raven II surgical robots (Photo: UW)

A couple of years ago, the Willow Garage robotics company gave ten of its PR2 robots away to deserving research groups. The idea behind the project was that these groups would use the PR2s for robotics research, then share their discoveries with each other, thus advancing the field farther than would be possible if they each had to build their own unique robots from scratch. Now, a similar but unrelated project is underway, and this time the robots are designed specifically to perform surgery.  Read More

The 'smart' material breaks down into non-toxic particles in response to NIR light (Image:...

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have conducted initial testing of a new “smart” plastic material which may bring about new uses in medicine for near-infrared light (NIR). According to early experiments, the plastic material will break down into non-toxic particles in response to lower-power NIR. This may lead to improved treatment of, for example, tumors, or improvements in the release of tracing compounds and imaging agents for improved medical diagnostics applications.  Read More

An African Agama lizard, and Tailbot

For some time now, scientists have assumed that dinosaurs’ tails didn’t simply drag on the group behind them, but were instead held out to serve as a counterweight for the giant reptiles’ heavy front ends when running. More recently, however, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered that modern-day lizards also use their tails to control the orientation of their bodies when leaping through the air. It’s a discovery that could be applied to devices such as search-and-rescue robots, and in fact already has been. Based on their observations, the UC Berkeley team created a small, tailed robot known as Tailbot.  Read More

Bioluminescent bacteria fluorescing in sync within a biopixel

By making colonies of bacteria periodically fluoresce, a team of researchers at the University of California San Diego may have hit upon a significant breakthrough in the field of bioluminescence. Though the development has the potential to unplug the neon sign, it may also usher in a new generation of hazard-detecting biological sensors.  Read More

The even distribution of different cell types seen in the intestinal tissues of young frui...

Caloric restriction has been shown to slow the signs of aging and delay the development of age-related diseases in a wide range of animals. However, scientists have been unable to explain just why limiting daily food intake has such a beneficial effect on health and the biological mechanisms that underlie the phenomenon. Researchers in Sweden recently claimed to have unlocked a piece of the puzzle by identifying one of the enzymes that appears to play a major role in the process and now another group in the U.S. has provided another clue by tweaking a gene in fruit flies and extending their lifespan by as much as 50 percent.  Read More

The new micro-lattice material is so light that it can sit atop dandelion fluff without da...

Researchers have created a new metallic material that they claim is the world’s lightest solid material. With a density of just 0.9 mg/cm3 the material is around 100 times lighter than Styrofoam and lighter than the "multiwalled carbon nanotube (MCNT) aerogel" - also dubbed "frozen smoke" – with a density of 4 mg/cm3 that we looked at earlier this year. Despite being 99.99 percent open volume, the new material boasts impressive strength and energy absorption, making it potentially useful for a range of applications.  Read More

Scientists have used viruses to help create thin-film biomaterials, which may someday have...

It’s one of those enduring mysteries of nature – how can one biological substance end up becoming several different types of material? One example is collagen, a fibrous protein that can be made into body parts such as corneal tissue, cartilage, bone, and skin. In an effort to better understand such processes, scientists at the University of California at Berkeley decided to see if they could manipulate another biological building block into forming itself into different materials. They succeeded, using viruses known as M13 phages.  Read More

Stained samples of pollen (left images) and plant stems (right two images). Top row: comme...

A team from the University of California at Davis has developed an affordable way to give the iPhone surprisingly capable chemical detection and imaging powers. We've reported on cellphone microscopes before, but this version claims to be simpler in concept and less expensive, plus it adds spectroscopy to its list of abilities  Read More

Professor Roland Winston and his student team, with an array of External Compound Paraboli...

Given that it typically gets hottest outside when the sunlight is most direct, it would make sense to have air conditioners that were powered by the thermal energy from solar rays. Unfortunately, collecting enough of that energy in a cost-effective manner can be challenging. Now, however, a team of University of California, Merced students have created a solar thermal collection system that is said to be significantly simpler, cheaper and more efficient than anything that’s come before.  Read More

A high resolution slice of the whole 250Mpc box of Bolshoi (Made by Stefan Gottlober (AIP)...

The Bolshoi cosmological simulation is by far the most ambitious project of its kind. It harnesses the power of supercomputing to bring cosmology into the realm of experimental sciences. Based on observable input data, the Bolshoi simulation allows scientists to see what the higher structure of our universe might have looked like at particular points in time throughout its formation, arming them with tools that should make cracking the mysteries of dark matter, dark energy and galaxy formation much more feasible.  Read More

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