A new satellite defence technology is about to get its first real-world test in orbit, and while we naturally don't get to know much about it just yet, the US Air Force has confirmed that a classified satellite launching sometime in the near future will carry the awkwardly named Self-Awareness Space Situational Awareness system, or SASSA. Like radar for satellites, the system will alert operators of potential space-borne threat to the satellite and perhaps even take kinetic action should a satellite become threatened.
Scientists at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks have successfully caused a group of arctic ground squirrels, naturally hibernating animals, to wake from and then go back into hibernation. It's the first time anyone has ever managed to induce hibernation, and it could have some pretty amazing medical benefits for humans as well.
Sitting back, chatting with your mates, watching the scenery pass you by - these pastimes are generally enjoyed by the passengers of a vehicle while the driver remains focused on bringing the carload to its destination. But a car designed by researchers from Berlin has successfully completed an 80 kilometre test run around the traffic-filled streets of Germany’s capital - without the driver lifting a finger.
America's drone fleet has become an increasingly relied-upon wing of its counter-insurgency strategy and plays a key role in its geopolitical policy, particularly in Pakistan where unmanned aircraft routinely venture into sovereign territory and deliver lethal payloads to targets on the ground. But the Washington Post asks: just exactly how far away are we from real "killer robots." The answer, in this morning's piece of recommended reading, is: we're already there.
In another step toward a cleaner energy future, scientists in the US have found a way to sustainably generate hydrogen using just water and bacteria. Using a process called reverse electro-dialysis, researchers an Penn State university have extracted the gas from water by breaking up its molecules.
Researchers at the National University of Singapore are enhancing robots' sense of touch by mimicking the ridged and contoured surfaces of human fingertips. Fingerprints, it turns out, don't just give humans better grip but also carry out a sensitive type of signal processing. By imparting that same kind of signal processing to robots, we could reduce the processing loads to robots' CPUs and help them better identify objects through their shapes.
More than ten years after the fact, a scientist based at the Norwegian research institute SINTEF is proposing that a well-documented chemical reaction spelled the ultimate demise of the Twin Towers after the attacks of September 11, 2001. This isn't another conspiracy theory, nor is it proven fact. But Christian Simensen theorises that a mix of molten aluminium from the aircraft bodies mixed with water from the sprinkler systems could have catalysed secondary blasts that brought the World Trade Center towers to the ground.
Human-machine interfaces are constantly improving, but our inability to fully integrate electronics into our bodies stems in part from the very nature of that word - electronics. For the most part, machines relay information using electrons, but living systems use protons and ions. Now a new proton-based transistor built partly from crab shells could open the gates to a new method of communication between machines and biological systems.
While the country bumpkin farmer stereotype might suggest otherwise, driving a tractor is difficult, requiring precision skills. Now Flemish engineers have announced a new self-driving tractor with precision that rivals a human driver. This could mean drastically lower operating costs for farmers, and a step towards automated agriculture.
Research at Nanjing University has found that strands of RNA from vegetables make it into our bloodstream after we eat them, and can regulate the expression of our genes once they're inside us.MicroRNAs, or miRNAs, are little strands of RNA that selectively bind to matching sequences of messenger RNA, resulting in repression of those genes.
Likely prompted in no small part by last month's Progress cargo ship crash in Russia, NASA has announced a US$1.6 billion contract running through 2014 to develop complete end-to-end cargo and crew transportation between Earth and the International Space Station. In other words, NASA is getting really serious about developing commercial space taxis that can do what the shuttle no longer can: get people and supplies to and from the space station without relying solely on Russian technology.
In the shadow of Launchpad 39A--where the Space Shuttle Atlantis once stood ready for orbit--a team of former NASA engineers laid off when the shuttle program ended are building a rocket-inspired street legal tricycle. And it's not just for kicks. Treycycle Gold--as the company building the bikes is now known--aims to employ more than 100 people within the year, breathing new life into the Space Coast's engineering economy.
Improvised explosive devices are far and away the single biggest killer of coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the ability to identify hidden explosive threats is key to keeping soldiers safe. A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed a tool that could detect roadside bombs from afar, using nothing more than a laser with an energy output of a presentation pointer.
The heart is a delicate instrument, relying on finely timed signals so it can pump blood in just the right fashion to keep you alive. When this process fails, artificial pacemakers, incorporating electrodes and microelectronics, have to step into the breach. As it turns out, scientists might just have arrived at a possible new alternative, and it's as simple as turning on a light.