How You'll Die On MarsWe're on our way to Mars. NASA has a plan to land astronauts on its surface by the 2030s. Private spaceflight companies like SpaceX have also expressed interest in starting their own colonies ... More >
Could This Hydrogen-Powered Drone Work?The biggest physical constraint on small drones is their power supply. Batteries can only hold so much energy, and as adding more batteries to a drone also increase the weight of that drone, there ... More >
Brain-Controlled Bionic Legs Are Finally HereFor a full decade, Gudmundar Olaffson was unable to move his right ankle. That's because it wasn't there. Olafsson's amputated lower leg was the delayed casualty of an accident from his childhood ... More >
US Air Force Wants Planes With Laser CannonsAccording to the Air Force, the future of war in the sky is lasers. Lasers on new jet fighters are a future goal, but there's lower-hanging fruit in the world of science fiction weapons that the ... More >
Will This Be The Year 4K Catches Fire?People have a tendency to simplify things down to numerical comparisons. If you cast your mind back to the 1990s, you might remember the "Megahertz Wars," where PC manufacturers seemed to debut a ... More >
Travel to and from the International Space Station occurs with such regularity these days, it hardly seems worth remarking. The only exception is when things go wrong, as with the recent case of the errant Russian Soyuz cargo spacecraft (which fortunately had no people aboard). Indeed, it's easy to forget that every single voyage up to the 925,000-pound, football-field-sized station circling high above us in lower Earth orbit takes an extraordinary amount of mechanical precision and human skill.
If I hadn't worked in a fruit fly genetics lab in college, I might still be a scientist today. Our lab studied how sperm compete inside the female fruit fly's reproductive tract, which was cool, but the actual work was monotonous. I would get nosebleeds as I etherized the little buggers so they'd lie still. Then, squinting, we'd use a paintbrush to delicately sort them into groups of males and females based on the shade and shape of their tiny, tiny abdomens. From there, we sorted them by eye color—red, orange, or white. After a big experiment we'd have to do this for hours at a time. It was a headache, literally.
From sophisticated imaging tools to cancer-sniffing dogs, researchers are constantly seeking better ways to detect disease, which could lead to earlier and more effective treatment. In recent years, genetically manipulated bacteria seemed like promising indicators, but they never made it to the clinical setting because they couldn't reliably distinguish important chemical signals in complex samples. Now, two research teams have engineered E. coli bacteria to accurately detect the telltale chemical signs of diabetes and liver cancer in urine. The two studies were published today in Science Translational Medicine.
"Air Force" is becoming an increasingly inaccurate name for the flying branch of America's armed forces. Responsible for some but not all of its aerial machines, the Air Force is also in charge of domains beyond the reach of ocean-bound navies or ground-hugging armies; it wants to guarantee American military superiority in both cyberspace and actual space, and to that end, they're now letting a second venture carry their projects into the vacuum beyond our planet.
The newest outbreak of canine influenza has almost reached epidemic proportions; last month, more than 1,000 dogs in the Chicago area were infected, and cases have popped up in a dozen states around the country. Viruses like the flu often move between animal species, and humans are no exception, especially because we live in such close quarters with our canine companions.
Let's say you and your friends like to get together to build outrageously tough and seriously fast off-road vehicles and race them in far-off-the-grid places, like the Baja 1000. Now let's say that some component of your beast of a race vehicle fails or just plain falls off, and your chase vehicle is a hundred miles away. As IT specialist and off-road enthusiast Bud Gaston put it, “A phone is useless out there.” Which is why Gaston built DesertTrax.
Robots don't feel pain, which is good, because what this six-legged robot does would be almost impossible with anything even resembling a human nervous system. Published today in Nature, “Robots that can adapt like animals,” looks at a robot that can relearn how to walk after losing multiple limbs. It's a fascinating study into machine adaptation, and easy fuel for countless terrifying pulpy sci-fi plots.
Long before rapid analysis of bacterial cultures, the most common way to quickly determine the nature of a bacterial culture was to smell it. Just open up the petri dish or the test tube, inhale and the odors would provide some clues as to which species were growing inside. Pseudomonas aeruginosa has a distinct grape smell. Escherichia coli has a distinct fecal odor. Then there are the staphylococci. Staphylococcus aureus smells like decomposition while S. epidermis smells like old sweat.
People have a tendency to simplify things down to numerical comparisons. If you cast your mind back to the 1990s, you might remember the "Megahertz Wars," where PC manufacturers seemed to debut a machine every few months with an ever faster processor. A similar war has been waged—and continues to this day—in digital cameras, where every successive generation of device boasts more megapixels, despite the fact that other factors—such as the lens or size of the sensor—now bear much more heavily on the ultimate quality of the image.
Last week, a swarm of 150 bats was released near a cave complex in Hannibal, Missouri. Each of the furry fliers was a medical marvel--they were survivors of the devastating fungal infection known as White-Nose Syndrome, which has killed millions of bats since it emerged 10 years ago.
Armored sarcophagi crawling over road and ruin, impervious to the slings and arrows of their foes, tanks are defined by their weight. Aircraft, by the very necessity of flight, are lighter affairs, balancing the need for powerful engines with a body that can get off the ground. Still, that hasn't stopped people from dreaming of flying tanks. Now, thanks to a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, tank-bodied quadcopters exist.
At the beginning of the year, NASA got some exciting news from the Obama Administration: The space agency is finally getting funding to send a probe to Jupiter's moon Europa by the mid-2020s. With a subsurface ocean suspected to be lingering underneath its icy crust, Europa is one of the top candidates in our solar system for finding extraterrestrial life. And NASA hopes its probe can figure out if conditions are right for little aliens to exist.