massachusetts institute of technology

MIT Redesigns Natural Gas Power Plant For Near-Zero Carbon Emissions

New technology produces energy from fuel without burning it

With the conference in Copenhagen swiftly approaching, and the Senate analog to the Waxman-Markey "American Clean Energy and Security Act" struggling towards the floor, little doubt remains that fossil fuel-burning power plants will soon face either fines for, or mandatory reduction of, carbon emissions. Luckily, a team at MIT has devised a power plant set up that generates power from fossil fuels, but does so with almost none of the carbon emissions.

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First-Ever Transition Contact Lenses May Replace Sunglasses

I wear glasses, but don't own contact lenses. And while this normally doesn't make a difference, staring into the midday sun often leads me to think about switching to contacts simply so I can wear sunglasses.

Well, just as I all but convinced myself to switch, the Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore goes ahead and makes sunglasses all but useless for contact lens wearers. Behold, the first ever transition contacts.

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You Built What?! The Shopping Go-Kart

A grocery basket that can blaze down the aisles at 48km/h

Who needs brakes? When you’re converting a junk-stuffed shopping cart into an electric joy-ride-mobile, they’re the last thing you worry about. MIT undergrad Charles Guan’s LOLriokart—the name is a mash-up of Web and videogame-speak—grew out of his membership in the MIT Electronics Society, a student engineering club. With no plans to build a vehicle, he looked around the club’s shop and spotted the shopping cart, some discarded wheels and an electric engine normally used in high-performance golf carts.

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Video: MIT Scientist Explains How OLEDs Work, Using a Glowing Pickle

No, that glowing pickle isn't a promotion for rave night at Katz's, it's a demonstration for how your TV works. In this ingenious twist on the classic potato clock, MIT professor Vladimir Bulovic transforms a humble full sour into a giant OLED pixel for our learning pleasure.

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Retinal Microchip Puts Images Directly Into Brain

Blindness is the most debilitating of sensory impairments, and also the most vexing to cure. Now, MIT scientists have created a new kind of retinal implant that might help reverse the effects of two common forms of blindness. Drawing on the same principles as the cochlear implants that help the deaf, this implant wouldn't restore vision, but could help the blind navigate through everyday situations.

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Boing! Elastic Energy-Storage Systems Could Challenge Li-ion Batteries

MIT Researchers say carbon nanotubes could provide a more durable, reliable energy-storage alternative to traditional batteries. And best of all, no leakage to speak of.

It's one of the simplest energy-storage devices known to man: The spring. Think of how a jack-in-the-box keeps hold of the mechanical energy it takes to compress that clown into the box, releasing it only when the weasel song reaches its climax. And that energy storage is a long-term proposition. The clown could likely sit, poised in that box in grandma's attic for 100 years, until some joker comes along, cranks the handle and, POP!

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Scientists Create First Ever Magnetic Gas

For decades, scientists have debated whether or not gasses could display the same magnetic properties as solids. Now, thanks to some MIT scientists, they know the answer is a freezing cold yes.

MIT researchers have observed magnetism in an atomic gas of lithium cooled down to 150 millionths of a degree above absolute zero. This experiment represents a point of unification between condensed matter research and the field of atomic science and lasers, and could influence areas such as data storage and medical diagnostics.

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Mind Tricks Explained

The latest research on dj vu, out-of-body experiences and other head games

Dj Vu
What It Is: Wait, haven't you read this before? I swear, it was in some magazine last week. No, really.

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Google and IBM to Enable Cloud Computing for Students

The New York Times reports today that Google and IBM are sinking $30 million into a two-year project to build remote data centers that can handle sophisticated computing research remotely. No World of Warcraft player will again be safe now that students can crunch probabilities with the 1600+ processors Google is installing in an undisclosed location.

But seriously: the two companies—along with six universities (Carnegie Mellon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Maryland and the University of Washington)—are cooperating to get an inadequately funded area of research off the ground. The Times succinctly defines "cloud-computing" as a "new kind of data-intensive supercomputing" that "often involves scouring the
Web and other data sources in seconds or minutes for patterns and
insights." It's typically used by major corporations to analyze web traffic and refine big systems, but now any university kid with a password will be able to create programs and software that can take advantage of the horsepower Google and IBM are providing. —Jacob Ward

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Rappel up a wall at an astonishing 10 feet per second with the Atlas Powered Rope Ascender

How do you prevent insurgents from shooting down choppers? How do you keep a cast from itching? How do you reinvent the brick? You sketch. And then you work: nights, weekends-for years, if you have to. You blow all your money, then beg for more. You build prototypes, and when they fail, you build more. Why? Because inventing is about solving problems, and not stopping until your solution becomes real.

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Nessie's Neighbor

Deep Toad

Every so often, news of a mysterious creature at Loch Ness comes trickling out of Scotland. Usually these Nessie sightings come in the form of an odd blurry shape in the background of a tourists family photo, disappointing monster hunters everywhere when yet another floating hunk of twigs and lake kelp, or perhaps a runaway inflatable raft, is pulled from the deep. Its not often, however, that irrefutable evidence of life in Loch Ness comes from a source as highly esteemed as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A team from MIT was conducting a sonar scan to map the lake floor recently when it ran across an unexpected beast: a common toad. Rather than the toad itself being mysterious, though, scientists were more in awe of its diving abilities. It was spotted crawling around in the mud 324 feet below the surface, which apparently is pretty deep for an amphibian and well below the depth at which the researchers were expecting to find anything other than your standard bottom-dwelling fish, mollusks and supersized swimming dinosaur-lizard hybrids. Maybe the MIT team should ask the toad if its seen anything suspicious lately . . . —Bjorn Carey

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All Wing, No Noise

Engineers design a futuristic airliner that´s easy on the environment-and your eardrums

How would you design an aircraft if your main aim were to keep its roar from waking up the entire neighborhood during takeoffs and landings?

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The Modern Robot

The do-it-all robot of the future will descend from the do-one-thing-well robots of today. Take a look at the world's most advanced humanoid precursors


It knows its own strength

Though it may not look it, Domo is the first robot built to give a hug.

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Foiling the Man

Can tinfoil hats actually prevent the government from reading your thoughts?

Conspiracy theorists, beware: That aluminum foil beanie-headwear believed, since at least the 1950s, to stop brain-control rays-may make it easier for The Man to read your mind, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad students. Inspired by fringe beliefs that invasive radio signals can probe citizens´ thoughts and that wearing foil on your head may fend them off, an experiment by four Ph.D. candidates found that certain key frequencies-owned by the Feds, naturally-are actually enhanced by such â€protection.â€

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Can We Stop Storms?

With brutal hurricanes on the rise, scientists turn to far-out technologies to fight them off

Back in the 1960s and '70s, legions of scientists explored technologies to zap strength from hurricanes. Those efforts were scrapped both because experiments were inconclusive and because the cost of deploying a full-scale system to regularly battle the cyclones would have been staggering. In light of
Katrina and Rita's $200-billion-plus swath of destruction-and a forecast of even more violent and catastrophic hurricanes to come-that steep price tag now seems like a bargain, and
scientists are once again entertaining schemes to mitigate monster storms.

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