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Top Stories


— Children

Hands-on with the 3Doodler Start, a 3D pen for kids

So far it's mostly been adults who've had the fun of using 3D pens, which is ironic given how drawing in mid-air can release your inner doodling child. However, the 3Doodler Start is a 3D pen from WobbleWorks designed specifically for kids. It uses a new eco-plastic, features no hot parts, and is compliant with toy safety standards. We recently got to play with one ahead of its launch.

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— Energy

China's experimental fusion reactor maintains superheated hydrogen plasma for 102 seconds

A bit of friendly competition never hurt anyone. China's EAST tokamak and Germany's Wendelstein 7-X aren't exactly fusion energy's answer to Messi and Ronaldo, but through their own flashes of individual brilliance the reactors might one day command the world's attention in a much more important way. Wendelstein 7-X made headlines last week after generating a quarter-of-a-second pulse of hydrogen plasma, and now scientists at China's Institute of Physical Science have flexed their fusion muscle to sustain the gas for an impressive 102 seconds.

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— Aircraft

Drone flight powered by lightweight hydrogen-producing pellets

At first glance, hydrogen fuel cells sound like a great power source for fixed-wing drones making long flights – they have much longer run times than batteries, and they emit no emissions other than water vapor. Unfortunately, the hydrogen typically has to be stored in large heavy pressurized tanks. Last month, however, a Raptor E1 electric drone made a successful test flight running on a unique new system that's actually lighter than the lithium-ion battery it replaced.

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— Electronics

"Unhackable" RFID chip to keep your credit cards safe

Radio frequency identification (RFID) chips have made cashless payments commonplace and opened the way to automatic inventory control. However, they've also made it possible for credit card details and other private information to be stolen wirelessly. To make things a bit more secure, MIT and Texas Instruments are developing an "unhackable" RFID chip that's designed to fend off information-stealing attacks.

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— Physics

Secrets of water-skipping revealed

Skipping stones across water may seem like an innocent children's pastime, but the science behind it has helped to win more than one war. Now, researchers at Utah State University's (USU) College of Engineering are uncovering new insights into the physics of these kinds of water impacts that could have wide applications in the fields of naval, maritime, and ocean engineering.

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— Energy

Carbon dioxide from the air converted into methanol

The danger posed by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide has seen many schemes proposed to remove a proportion it from the air. Rather than simply capture this greenhouse gas and bury it in the ground, though, many experiments have managed to transform CO2 into useful things like carbon nanofibers or even fuels, such as diesel. Unfortunately, the over-arching problem with many of these conversions is the particularly high operating temperatures that require almost counterproductive amounts of energy to produce relatively low yields of fuel. Now researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) claim to have devised a way to take CO2 directly from the air and convert it into methanol using much lower temperatures and in a correspondingly simpler way.

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— Biology

Bedbug genome decoded in hopes of destroying the tiny blood suckers

"Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite." The relevance of that little bedtime rhyme is growing, with every continent except Antarctica having experienced a resurgence of the critters during the past two decades. Combine that with the fact that bedbugs are becoming more and more resistant to insecticides meant to destroy them, and you can see how serious the issue is becoming. Fortunately scientists have just taken a key step in stopping the bitty blood suckers in their tracks – they've decoded the entire bedbug genome.

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— VR

The story of Job Simulator – the absurdly fun VR sandbox for Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive

Sometimes all virtual reality needs to do to blow your mind is put you in a well-polished sandbox and let you screw around. Owlchemy Labs has mastered this art, with the upcoming title Job Simulator that will launch later this year alongside the Oculus Touch controllers, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. We sat down with CEO Alex Schwartz and CTO Devin Reimer to chat about the game's origins and striking a balance between progression and free-for-all mayhem.

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